Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622–73) known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered the creator of modern French comedy.
Born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin in Paris, Molière declined to join his father’s carpet and upholstery business as a young man. He fled with an actress and her family’s wandering theater troupe. They toured all around the provinces with great success, but kept away from Paris; Molière had been previously imprisoned there for large debts he was responsible for. When they did return to Paris eventually, Molière tried to win the king’s favor by presenting a tragedy, but Molière received bad reviews for his acting.
Molière found success only when he put on a performance of his short farce, Love Is the Doctor. King Louis XIV became a champion of Molière’s work, and even performed as a ballet dancer in one of them.
Molière’s popular plays include the original stage comedies The School for Wives (1662,) Don Juan (1665,) Tartuffe (1666,) The Misanthrope (1666,) The Miser (1668,) The Bourgeois Gentleman (1670,) and The Imaginary Invalid (1673.)
Molière’s works gained widespread success with the public, even if they were criticized by conservative reviewers, the Catholic church, and medical professionals. Other playwrights and theater troupes copied his theatrical style in France and in England.
The French national theater, the Comédie-Française, has been popularly known as “La Maison de Molière” (The House of Molière.)