All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the history books, all the political blunders, all the failures of the great leaders have arisen merely from a lack of skill at dancing. – Moliere
Born on Jan. 15 in 1622, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Moliere, was a French playwright and actor considered one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature. Among his best-known works are The Misanthrope, Tartuffe and The Miser. He was one of the first theatrical writers to combine his words with music and dance – a precursor to today’s musical theater if you will.
An actor first, Moliere died on stage, while performing the last play he had written – ironically titled The Imaginary Invalid. Playing the role of a hypochondriac, he had a severe coughing fit and collapsed during the last act; many in the audience thinking it was part of the script. True to the old saying of “The show must go on,” he insisted on finishing the performance and then died shortly afterward.
An equal favorite of nobility and the common man, he was hated by religious leaders for his criticism of religion, not unlike writers who satirize and criticize religion in today’s society. His works continue to resonate and are performed throughout the world. As his quote above notes, he was a patron of and supporter of the dance, which he said would keep people so preoccupied and in good spirits that they wouldn’t have time for mischief and misdeeds.
“The duty of comedy,” the playwright added, “is to correct men by amusing them.”
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