L’Impromptu de Versailles, 2
MOLIÈRE, marquis ridicule.
BRÉCOURT, homme de qualité.
DE LA GRANGE, marquis ridicule.
DU CROISY, poète.
LA THORILLIÈRE, marquis fâcheux.
BÉJART, homme qui fait le nécessaire.
MADEMOISELLE DU PARC, marquise façonnière.
MADEMOISELLE BÉJART, prude.
MADEMOISELLE DE BRIE, sage coquette.
MADEMOISELLE MOLIÈRE, satirique spirituelle.
MADEMOISELLE DU CROISY, peste doucereuse.
MADEMOISELLE HERVÉ, servante précieuse.
La scène est à Versailles dans la salle de la Comédie.
The scene is at Versailles in the room used for plays.
L’Impromptu de Versailles presents a problem. Scenes are uneven. I, therefore, consulted Jacques Schérer’s La Dramaturgie classique en France. Schérer’s book is the standard reference on form in seventeenth-century French drama and other dramatic works. One can combine short scenes and long scenes. First, a scene is not an act. There is no entr’acte or intermission in a one-act plays. Scene One is very long, but Scene Two is shorter. A bore, un fâcheux, whose name is La Thorillière wants to know everything about a play that is not ready. He wants to know the name of the play and if it was commissioned by Louis XIV. He knows the King has commissioned the play, but he asks. Bores will waist anyone’s time. He tells Mademoiselle du Croisy that she is lovely and that without her the comedy would be worthless:
Sans vous la comédie ne vaudrait pas grand’chose.
[Without you, the comedy would not be worth much.]
La Thorillière to Mademoiselle du Croisy (I. ii, p. 8) (I. 2, p. 200)
Molière then asks his actresses to chase away La Thorillière
Monsieur nous avons ici quelque chose à répéter ensemble.
Mademoiselle de Brie à La Thorillière
Mademoiselle de Brie to La Thorillière (I. 2, p. 200)
Before leaving La Thorillière says that he will tell the King that Molière and his comedians are ready.
If we return to Scene One, where Mademoiselle Béjart reminds Molière that he once wanted to write a comedy about comedians. Why didn’t he? He could have mocked actors from l’Hôtel de Bourgogne at that time. Molière had something else in mind:
J’avais songé une comédie, où il y aurait eu un poète que j’aurais représenté moi…
I thought of a comedy in which there should have been a poet, whose part I would have taken myself,
Molière à ses comédiens ( I. i, p. 4) (I. 1, p. 194)
What Molière had in mind was being asked if he had comedians who could do justice to a script, which is what he has done his entire life as chef de troupe. As of this comment, we know that much of the comedy will be about Molière who will again be pressed, as he has always been.
Molière is then asked to imitate the actors of l’Hôtel de Bourgogne, his rivals. Their schedule is the same, so he has not seen them sufficiently to imitate them, which he goes on to do: Montfleury, Mademoiselle Beauchâteau, Hauteroche, Villiers …
In Sc. iii, Molière tells Molière tells La Grange that he does not want to play Molière.
Cela est bon pour toi, mais pour moi je ne veux pas être joué par Molière.
[That may do for you; but I do not wish Moliere to take me off.]
Molière à La Grange (iii, p.10) (3, p. 202)
He claims he did not play the Marquis ridicule in La Critique, which he did according to La Grange.
Quoi! tu veux soutenir que ce n’est pas toi qu’on joue dans le marquis de La Critique
[Yet I think, Marquis, that it is you he takes off in The School for Wives criticised.]
La Grange à Molière (iii, p.10/) (3, p. 202)
In the end, he admits that he indeed played the marquis ridicule. A large group of marquis ridicule are featured in Molière’s plays. They are the courtiers depicted in the Misanthrope. Climène is Arsinoé who was Célimène earlier in life.
Il est vrai c’est moi. Détestable, morbleu, détestable! Tarte à la crème. C’est moi, c’est moi, assurément, c’est moi.
[Just so; it is I. ‘Detestable; egad! detestable! Cream tart!’ Oh, it is I, it is I, assuredly it is I!]
Molière à La Grange (iii, p.10) (3, p. 202)
Je gage cent pistoles que c’est toi.
[I bet a hundred pistoles that it is you.]
La Grange à Molière (iii, p. 10) (3, p. 202)
Et moi cent pistoles que c’est toi.
[And I bet a hundred it is you.]
Molière à La Grange (iii, p. 10) (3, p. 202)
However, La Grange wants to ask an umpire to tell whether Molière played a marquis ridicule in La Critique. Brécourt will be the judge.
Brécourt tells La Grange and Molière that they are fools. He has heard Molière himself say that he did not depict individuals. Such is Uranie’s explanation in La Critique de l’École des femmes. Molière’s portraits are « miroirs publics » (sc. vi, near footnote 22).
Il disait que rien ne lui donnait du déplaisir, comme d’être accusé de regarder quelqu’un dans les portraits qu’il fait. Que son dessein est de peindre les mœurs sans vouloir toucher aux personnes; et que tous les personnages qu’il représente sont des personnages en l’air, et des fantômes proprement qu’il habille à sa fantaisie pour réjouir les spectateurs.
[He said that nothing annoyed him so much as to be accused of animadverting upon anyone in the portraits he drew; that his design is to paint manners without striking at individuals, and that all the characters whom he introduces are imaginary phantoms, so to speak, which he clothes according to his fancy in order to please his audience …]
Brécourt à La Grange et Molière (iv, p. 11 ) (I. 3, p. 203)
The above is a reiteration of Uranie’s thèse générale (sc vi, before footnote 24).
Molière then asks if perhaps Molière has not run of subject matter (la matière). There follows a litany of hypocritical exchanges worthy of a bilious Alceste (The Misanthrope). I will have to provide the tirade in a separate post. Molière (sc. iv, pp. 17-18) (sc. 3, pp. 204-205)
As Scene v begins, Mademoiselle de Brie introduces Lysidas (the pedant in La Critique) who will tell that a play has been written which les grands comédiens, actors working for l’Hôtel de Bourgogne, will perform. Molière knew, but he cannot remember the full name of the playwright. The name is Boursaut, says Du Croisy, but others have lent a hand. Since authors considered Molière their greatest enemy all have got together, including Lysidas I presume. Tout le Parnasse. Several authors have written the play, but they have hidden behind the name of yet unknown author.
In Scenes vi, vii, viii, ix and x, the nécessaire/Béjart/busybody ask Molière to begin the play. In Scene xi, Béjart tells all that Louis XIV has delayed the performance and that the comedians can play a comedy they know. He is a deus ex machina, which is an acceptable way of creating a happy ending.
Tiberio Fiorilli, a note
When Molière shared the Petit-Bourbon with the Italians, he took lessons from Tiberio Fiorilli, portrayed above, Tiberio was Scaramuccia (Scaramouche). Both les Italiens (commedia dell’arte) were protégés of Monsieur Frère Unique du Roi (Philippe 1er, duc d’Orléans). The Petit-Bourbon was demolished to make room for the colonnade du Louvre, a masterpiece by architect Claude Perrault, Charles Perrault‘s brother, the author of Histoires ou contes du temps passé, or Mother Goose Tales. La Troupe du Roi, Molière’s troupe, moved to the Palais-Royal, with les Italiens. (See Tiberio Fiorilli, Wikipedia.)
In the third and final post on l’Impromptu, I will fill in a few gaps and make a few comments.
Page on Molière
L’Impromptu de Versailles, 1 (30 November 2020)
La Critique de l’École des femmes: pleasure (20 November 2020)
La Critique de l’École des femmes: details (15 November 2020)
La Critique de l’École des femmes (10 November 2020)
Destiny in L’École des femmes (1st November 2020) (no 62)
Sources and Resources
L’Impromptu de Versailles is a toutmolière.net publication.
L’Impromptu de Versailles is an Internet Archive publication.
La Critique de l’École des femmes is a toutmolière.net publication.
The School for Wives criticised is an Internet Archive publication.
Our translator is Henri van Laun.
Images belong to théâtre-documentation.com (BnF).
Wikipedia: various entries.
The Encyclopædia Britannica: various entries.
 There were several theatres in Paris. The grands comédiens performed à l’Hôtel de Bourgogne.
Love to everyone 💕
© Micheline Walker
8 December 2020