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, 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.
A favorite of both 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 still resonate and are performed throughout the world.
As noted above, he also was a lifelong patron and supporter of dance, which he said would keep people so preoccupied and in good spirits that they wouldn’t have time for mischief and misdeeds. As for his comedic plays, he noted, “The duty of comedy is to correct men . . . by amusing them.”
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