Celebrating 400 Years of Molière

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Celebrating 400 Years of Molière
Celebrating the 400th anniversary of the birth of Molière has been a major focus in Paris throughout 2022. The playwright’s legacy is huge in Paris, where he spent the most successful years of his career, and all over France too. His plays are performed to sell-out audiences and people pepper their sentences with references to the characters he created. He is the French equivalent of Shakespeare and the French language is often referred to as “la langue de Molière.” Molière and the poet Goudouli, Édouard Debat-Ponsan, 1907, Public Domain And yet, not all that much is known about him. His birthdate can only be estimated and is assumed to be a few days before the date of his baptism at Saint-Eustache church, listed in the parish records as January 15th, 1622. The houses he lived in have long disappeared, he left no personal papers and the only one of his four children who survived into adulthood lost the manuscripts of his plays. A chair he is known to have used during his last performance on stage can still be seen at the Comédie Française, but that’s about it. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t find traces of Molière – or Jean-Baptiste Poquelin as he was actually called – in Paris today. You just need to know where to look. Comédie Française © Marian Jones Molière began life in the Les Halles district of Paris, where two houses have plaques claiming to be his birthplace. Historians agree that the correct site is 96, Rue St Honoré (although the house now there dates from much later), and think that the plaque at 31, Rue du Pont Neuf was probably put up by someone keen to profit from a connection to Molière! The Rue St Honoré address is where the family lived and where, on the ground floor, Moliere’s father established his business as a chief upholsterer to King Louis XIII. Molière would have crossed the river to reach his school, the Collège Jésuite de Clermont, on a site which today houses the elite school, the Lycée Louis-Le-Grand, just a few minutes’ walk from the Sorbonne and the Panthéon. Lycée Louis-le-Grand, rue Saint-Jacques, Celette, Wikimedia Commons
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Lead photo credit : Portrait of Molière, 1500-1800, Austrian National Library, Public Domain

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Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.