La Princesse de Clèves, 1

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Madame de La Fayette (Wikipedia)

Madame de La Fayette, born Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, is the author of La Princesse de Clèves, published anonymously in 1678. Madame de La Fayette married an older gentleman, François Motier, Comte de La Fayette and bore him two sons. The Comte de La Fayette preferred to live at one of his country estates in Auvergne and the Bourbonnais, but Madame de La Fayette was born in Paris and remained her native city.

La Princesse de Clèves is Madame de La Fayette’s third novel. In 1662, she published La Princesse de Montpensier, anonymously, and is also believed to be the author of Zaïde which appeared under the name of Academician Jean Regnault de Segrais. Writing was not considered an appropriate occupation for a woman “of quality.” Yet, in Salons of the first half of the 17th century, love was forever discussed and writing was a favourite pastime.  

As we know, Mlle de Scudéry wrote lengthy novels, one of which, Clélie, histoire romaine, features the Carte de Tendre, a map of love engraved by François Chauveau. Tendre was Préciosité’s country of love. So, women wrote, but rank may have been problematical. Honnêteté was not necessarily aristocratic. At any rate, Madame de La Fayette’s teacher was Gilles Ménage, a grammarian.

Henry II of France, d’après François Clouet (Wikipedia)

Diane de Poitiers

A Historical Novel

  • the French Wars of Religion
  • the end of the House of Valois
  • the House of Bourbon will reign

The action of La Princesse de Clèves is set in 16th-century France, during the French Wars of Religion. It is considered a historical novel, a form of ailleurs (elsewhere), hence more fictional. We are at the court of Henri II, the second son of François 1er of France. François is married to Catherine de Médicis, but his mistress is Diane de Poitiers. Henri II died accidentally, jousting in 1559. His three sons would reign. Francis II reigned very briefly. He was King of France for a year and five months. He developed and ear abcess that killed him. He was sixteen and had reigned for about 17 months. Charles IX died of tuberculosis in 1574, and Henri III, King of Poland and King of France, who was assassinated, and had not produced a heir to the throne. The death of Henri II’s male children ended the House of Valois. Henri IV, King of Navarre and a Bourbon king, converted to Catholicism and became Henri IV, King of France and Navarre. He took an interest in New France and inspired Voltaire‘s Henriade. Henri IV is the father of Louis XIII.

Catherine de Médicis, her three sons, and Marguerite de Valois

A Psychological Novel

Madame de La Fayette’s Princesse de Clèves is also, and mainly, a psychological novel. There may have been a co-author, François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld. He and Madame de La Fayette met daily when she was writing her Princesse de Clèves. But François was writing his Maximes denouncing human behaviour which, in his opinion, was steeped in self-interest, including virtue. One suspects the influence of Jansenism, which suggests that if one cannot atone for the original sin during one’s life, one may expect a pitiless and eternal afterlife.  

Frontispice de La Princesse de Clèves de Mme de La Fayette, coll. Les Chefs-d’Œuvres illustrés, Éditions de la pléiade, J. Jiffrin 1929

La Princesse de Clèves was Madame de La Fayette’s third novel and it is about love, but love impossible. The main notion underlying Madame de La Fayette’s portrayal of love is that love is in no way possible if it is reciprocated. Madame de Clèves’ husband dies of jealousy. He loves her, but she does not love him. One therefore indulges in petits plaisirs.

Once Dom Juan has seduced a woman, he no longer loves her. If a father is killed avenging his daughter, God strikes.

Sources and Resources

La Princesse de Clèves is a Librivox and Internet Archive Publication FR
The Princess of Cleves is a Wikisource publication EN
La Princesse de Clèves is a Wikisource publication FR
La Princesse de Clèves is Gutenberg’s [eBook # 18797]FR
La Princesse de Clèves is Gutenberg’s [eBook # 467] EN
La Princesse de Clèves is a Librivox and Internet Archive Publication

© Micheline Walker
15 December 2020
WordPress

Cherchemidis and other Courtiers at Versailles

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Versailles (Google Images)

Ten thousand persons lived at Versailles in the days of Louis XIV. Nobles living away from Paris wanted to be noticed by Louis XIV. However, Louis could not house his country cousins who had difficulty finding lodging in Paris, which hasn’t changed. If they had a fortune, aristocrats owned a fine home in Paris as well as a horse and carriage. Blaise Pascal helped poorer courtiers by introducing the chaise à porteurs. It was the first public transit system. The chaises à porteurs were like taxis. One paid a fee.

Philippe de Courcillon, Marquis de Dangeau par Hyacinthe Rigault

As for the not so wealthy, they sometimes spent years courting Louis in the hope of living at Versailles. Louis could not help courtiers significantly because of the cost of Versailles. Louis XIV wanted the King of France to live in as grand a castle as Fouquet‘s Vaux-le-Vicomte, but Versailles cost a fortune.

Hundreds of country cousins praised Louis in the hope of being given a room at Versailles. Therefore, what Molière wrote about “hangers-on” is true. In his remarkable Splendid Century, W. H. Lewis writes the following:

So a new courtier has arrived at Versailles. Not of course to live in the château, for many weary years will have to pass before he is even considered for a vacant attic; unless some lucky accident befall him such as happened to the Marquis de Dangeau when impromptu verse making was in fashion. The King one day jokingly offered him a room if he could fill in a set of verses on the spot; Dangeau did so, and Louis, who never broke a promise, gave him the coveted room.

The Splendid Century by W. H. Lewis (New York: Double Day Anchor Books, 1957) p. 38.

W. H. Lewis also tells about the cherchemidis, courtiers who searched for a place to dine. Dinner was at noon (midi), and the evening meal was supper, le souper.

If he had no luck in town there was always his patron’s table to fall back on, or he may insinuate himself into a seat at that of the King’s gentleman-servitors, who were among the five-hundred-odd people who ate at Versailles daily at the King’s expense, and for whom he kept a special kitchen, the cuisine de commun.


The Splendid Century by W. H. Lewis (New York: Double Day Anchor Books, 1957) p. 49.

W. H. Lewis was a soldier and an historian. However, he was also C. S. Lewis‘ brother, the author of fantasy literature, such as The Chronicles of Narnia. Both were fine writers, but C. S. Lewis’ fantasy books were so popular that he needed help and found a colleague in his brother, W. H. Lewis. They lived at Oxford.

Resource

The Splendid Century is an Internet Archive publication. The book was first published by William Sloane Associates, in 1953.

Love to everyone 💕

Jean Rondeau plays Jean-Philippe Rameau (Ici Radio-Canada)
Rameau, Portrait par Carmontelle (1760)
Chantilly, Musée Condé

© Micheline Walker
12 December 2020
WordPress

L’Impromptu de Versailles, Sc. iv

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Moliere (French playwright and actor) statue in Paris, France (Getty Images)

In L’Impromptu de Versailles, 3, I included a quotation that prefigures Le Misanthrope. Alceste, the Misanthrope, depicts the court. A courtier swears he will do everything for another courtier, but it is mere politeness. Minutes later, he will be backbiting.

I suggested skipping this quotation because of its length. However, I decided to shorten the quotation and include it in full in a separate post. In this quotation, Molière, the director, le metteur en scène, is giving directions to the actor who will play Molière in the comedy the King commissioned, but he denigrates court as Alceste would. The fictitious Molière speaks as will Alceste two years later. The material of this post is the full quotation and its translation by Henri van Laun. Molière’s words as director are coloured.

Molière (Bing)

Attendez, il faut marquer davantage tout cet endroit, écoutez-le-moi dire un peu. « Et qu’il ne trouvera plus de matière pour… — Plus de matière! Hé, mon pauvre Marquis, nous lui en fournirons toujours assez, et nous ne prenons guère le chemin de nous rendre sages pour tout ce qu’il fait et tout ce qu’il dit. Crois-tu qu’il ait épuisé dans ses comédies tout le ridicule des hommes? Et sans sortir de la cour, n’a-t-il pas encore vingt caractères de gens où il n’a point touché? N’a-t-il pas, par exemple, ceux qui se font les plus grandes amitiés du monde, et qui le dos tourné font galanterie de se déchirer l’un l’autre? N’a-t-il pas ces adulateurs à outrance, ces flatteurs insipides qui n’assaisonnent d’aucun sel les louanges qu’ils donnent, et dont toutes les flatteries ont une douceur fade qui fait mal au cœur à ceux qui les écoutent? N’a-t-il pas ces lâches courtisans de la faveur, ces perfides adorateurs de la fortune, qui vous encensent dans la prospérité, et vous accablent dans la disgrâce? N’a-t-il pas ceux qui sont toujours mécontents de la cour, ces suivants inutiles, ces incommodes assidus, ces gens, dis-je, qui pour services ne peuvent compter que des importunités, et qui veulent que l’on les récompense d’avoir obsédé le prince dix ans durant? N’a-t-il pas ceux qui caressent également tout le monde, qui promènent leurs civilités à droite et à gauche, et courent à tous ceux qu’ils voient avec les mêmes embrassades, et les mêmes protestations d’amitié? “Monsieur votre très humble serviteur. — Monsieur je suis tout à votre service. — Tenez-moi des vôtres, mon cher. — Faites état de moi, Monsieur, comme du plus chaud de vos amis. — Monsieur, je suis ravi de vous embrasser. — Ah! Monsieur, je ne vous voyais pas. Faites-moi la grâce de m’employer, soyez persuadé que je suis entièrement à vous. Vous êtes l’homme du monde que je révère le plus; il n’y a personne que j’honore à l’égal de vous. Je vous conjure de le croire; je vous supplie de n’en point douter. — Serviteur. — Très humble valet”. Va, va, Marquis, Molière aura toujours plus de sujets qu’il n’en voudra, et tout ce qu’il a touché jusqu’ici n’est rien que bagatelle, au prix de ce qui reste. » Voilà à peu près comme cela doit être joué.
Molière (Sc. iv)
[You must be more emphatic with this passage. Just listen to me for a moment. “And that he will find no more subjects for . . . No more subjects? Ah, dear Marquis, we shall always go on providing him with plenty, and we are scarcely taking the course to grow wise, for all that he can do or say. Do you imagine that he has exhausted in his comedies all the follies of men; and without leaving the Court, are there not a score of characters which he has not yet touched upon? For instance, has he, not those who profess the greatest friendship possible, and who, when they turn their backs, think it a piece of gallantry to tear each other to pieces? Has he not those unmitigated sycophants, those vapid flatterers, who never give a pinch of salt with their praises, and whose flatteries have a sickly sweetness which nauseate those who hear them? Has he not the craven courtiers of favourites, the treacherous worshippers of fortune, who praise you in prosperity, and run you down in adversity? Has he not those who are always discontented with the Court, those useless hangers on, those troublesome, officious creatures, those people who can count up no services except importunities, and who expect to be rewarded for having laid a ten years’ siege to the King? Has he not doubt Molière had much ado to keep himself out of an endless series of those who fawn on all the world alike, who hand their civilities from left to right, who run after all whom they see, with the same salutations, and the same professions of friendship? ‘Sir, your most obedient. Sir, I am entirely at your service. Consider me wholly yours, dear sir. Reckon me, sir, as the warmest of your friends. Sir, I am enchanted to embrace you. Ah! sir, I did not see you. Oblige me by making use of me; be assured I am wholly yours. You are the one man in the world whom I most esteem. There is no one whom I honour like you. I entreat you to believe it. I beg of you not to doubt it. Your servant. Your humble slave.’ Oh, Marquis, Marquis, Moliere will always have more subjects than he needs; and all that he has aimed at as yet is but a trifle to the treasure which is within his reach.”]
Molière (Sc. 3, pp. 204-205)

back to: L’Impromptu de Versailles, 3

Ballet de la Merlaison par Louis XIII
Molière (Bing)

© Micheline Walker
11 December 2020
WordPress

L’Impromptu de Versailles, 3

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FRANCE – JANUARY 01: Moliere (Jean- Baptiste Poquelin). Oil on Canvas. By Pierre Mignard (1612-1695). (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images) [Jean- Baptiste Moliere. oel/Lw. Von Pierre Mignard (1612-1695).]

L’Impromptu de Versailles, 3

DRAMATIS PERSONSÆ
MOLIERE, a ridiculous Marquis,
BRECOURT, a man of Quality.
LA GRANGE, a ridiculous Marquis.
Du CROISY, a poet.
LA THORILLIERE, a fidgety Marquis.
BEJART, a busybody.
FOUR BUSYBODIES.
Mademoiselle DUPARC, 6 a ceremonious Marchioness. Mademoiselle BEJART, a prude. Mademoiselle DEBRIE, a sage coquette. Mademoiselle MOLIERE, a satirical wit. Mademoiselle Du CROISY, a whining plague. Mademoiselle HERVE, a conceited chambermaid.
Scene. VERSAILLES, IN THE KING’ S ANTECHAMBER

L’Impromptu de Versailles features Molière playing Molière and his troupe playing their role. They are characters in a play within a play, le théâtre dans le théâtre. Louis XIV has commissioned this short play because he wants Molière to defend himself against his accusers.

In Scene One, after his actors oppose performing a play, they have yet to rehearse and tell Molière that he is fortunate. He knows the play. But Molière bemoans his role, not to mention the power of a king. The play was performed on 14 October 1663, at Versailles. Molière and his actors knew the play Molière had written despite a script, L’Impromptu, according to which Molière knew the play, but his actors did not. L’Impromptu was performed at the Palais-Royal on 4 November 1663.

We know that Molière wanted to please an audience, but he also had to please, or not earn a living, or money to support his actors. So, they often rehearsed very quickly a play Molière had written in a matter of days. Louis XIV was aware of Molière’s self-ambition and named Lully “director of the Académie Royale de Musique” (1873-1887). (See Lully, Wikipedia.) Molière fell out with Jean-Baptiste Lully in 1672. His composer would be Marc-Antoine Charpentier. History would prove Molière the more remarkable genius. Moreover, Molière, not Lully, created the comédie-ballet. Moreover, the French court sought constant divertissements. It danced, and it sang. Therefore, Molière worried and said so. As a playwright, chef de troupe and actor, he worked to death. Molière died at the age of 51.

Et n’ai-je à craindre que le manquement de mémoire? Ne comptez-vous pour rien l’inquiétude d’un succès qui ne regarde que moi seul? Et pensez-vous que ce soit une petite affaire, que d’exposer quelque chose de comique devant une assemblée comme celle-ci? que d’entreprendre de faire rire des personnes qui nous impriment le respect, et ne rient que quand ils veulent? Est-il auteur qui ne doive trembler, lorsqu’il en vient à cette épreuve? Et n’est-ce pas à moi de dire que je voudrais en être quitte pour toutes les choses du monde?
Molière (Sc I. i)
[And have I nothing to fear but want of memory? Do you reckon the anxiety as to our success, which is entirely my own concern, nothing? And do you think it a trifle to provide something comic for such an assembly as this; to undertake to excite laughter in those who command our respect, and who only laugh when they choose? Must not any author tremble when he comes to such a test? Would it not be natural for me to say that I would give everything in the world to be quit of it.]
Molière (Sc. I. 1, p. 192)

Mon Dieu, Mademoiselle, les rois n’aiment rien tant qu’une prompte obéissance, et ne se plaisent point du tout à trouver des obstacles. Les choses ne sont bonnes que dans le temps qu’ils les souhaitent ; et leur en vouloir reculer le divertissement est en ôter pour eux toute la grâce. Ils veulent des plaisirs qui ne se fassent point attendre, et les moins préparés leur sont toujours les plus agréables, nous ne devons jamais nous regarder dans ce qu’ils désirent de nous, nous ne sommes que pour leur plaire ; et lorsqu’ils nous ordonnent quelque chose, c’est à nous à profiter vite de l’envie où ils sont. Il vaut mieux s’acquitter mal de ce qu’ils nous demandent, que de ne s’en acquitter pas assez tôt ; et si l’on a la honte de n’avoir pas bien réussi, on a toujours la gloire d’avoir obéi vite à leurs commandements. Mais songeons à répéter s’il vous plaît.
Molière (Sc. i)
[Oh! Mademoiselle, Kings like nothing better than a ready obedience, and are not at all pleased to meet with obstacles. Things are not acceptable, save at the moment when they desire them; to try to delay their amusement is to take away all the charm. They want pleasures that do not keep them waiting; and those that are least prepared are always the most agreeable to them. We ought never to think of ourselves in what they desire of us; our only business is to please them; and, when they command us, it is our part to respond quickly to their wish. We had better do amiss what they require of us, than not do it soon enough; if we have the shame of not succeeding, we always have the credit of having speedily obeyed their commands. But now, pray, let us set about our rehearsal.]
Molière (Sc. 1, p. 193)

Scene Three

Scene Three provokes a strange feeling, which is consistent with works of fiction. They may seem real. Roland Barthes has given a name to this phenomenon: l’effet de réel, which, in L’Impromptu de Versailles reaches dizzying heights. Molière protrayed his century and did so because he wrote “d’après nature.” He observed carefully, which led to the Querelle de l’École des femmes. On 4 June 1664, his realism unleashed fury. His Tartuffe was condemned and, to a certain extent members of la Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement could be fooled. They could see a real dévot, in a faux dévot. Molière rewrote his play until it could be performed with producing a scandal.

L’effet de réel also generates feelings. Form and feelings are not easily dissociated. Susanne K. Langer‘s Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art (1953) is very convincing. When the play begins, we are in the “green” room. For instance, Molière says that he does not want to be Molière and denies having played the marquis ridicule in La Critique de l’École des femmes, but a little further down the page, he admits having played the marquis ridicule. However, La Grange wants to bet, cent (a hundred) pistoles that Molière was the marquis ridicule and Brécourt has just arrived and says that both are “fools.” Suddenly, we remember Perrin Dandin.

Scene Four

Brécourt as umpire says that both Molière and La Grange are “fools,” which takes us back to La Critique’s Uranie who suggests that characters presented on the stage are “miroirs publics” (public mirrors) and “une thèse générale,” generalities. Molière does not attack anyone in particular, he depicts a group.

Comme l’affaire de la comédie est de représenter en général tous les défauts des hommes, et principalement des hommes de notre siècle; il est impossible à Molière de faire aucun caractère qui ne rencontre quelqu’un dans le monde; et s’il faut qu’on l’accuse d’avoir songé toutes les personnes ou l’on peut trouver les défauts qu’il peint, il faut sans doute qu’il ne fasse plus de comedies.
Brécourt (Sc. iv)
[As the business of comedy is to represent in a general way all the faults of men, and especially of the men of our day, it is impossible for Moliere to create any character not to be met with in the world; and if he must be accused of thinking of everyone in whom are to be found the faults which he delineates he must, of course, give up writing comedies.]
Brécourt (Sc. iii, p. 203)

Moreover, Molière is not running out of material. The following quotation names all kinds of courtiers he could depict as hypocrites. They greet one another politely, only to indulge in backbiting. This tirade, a soliloquy, is a prelude to the Misanthrope, which would not be performed until 4th June 1666. Molière still has everything to say. A tirade follows, but it is too long to quote in its entirety. The full quotation has become a post entitled L’Impromptu, Sc. iv.

Attendez, il faut marquer davantage tout cet endroit, écoutez-le-moi dire un peu. «Et qu’il ne trouvera plus de matière pour… — Plus de matière! Hé, mon pauvre Marquis, nous lui en fournirons toujours assez, et nous ne prenons guère le chemin de nous rendre sages pour tout ce qu’il fait et tout ce qu’il dit. Crois-tu qu’il ait épuisé dans ses comédies tout le ridicule des hommes? Et sans sortir de la cour, n’a-t-il pas encore vingt caractères de gens où il n’a point touché? N’a-t-il pas, par exemple, ceux qui se font les plus grandes amitiés du monde, et qui le dos tourné font galanterie de se déchirer l’un l’autre? Voilà à peu près comme cela doit être joué.
Molière (Sc. iv)
[You must be more emphatic with this passage. Just listen to me for a moment. “And that he will find no more subjects for . . . No more subjects? Ah, dear Marquis, we shall always go on providing him with plenty, and we are scarcely taking the course to grow wise, for all that he can do or say. Do you imagine that he has exhausted in his comedies all the follies of men; and without leaving the Court, are there not a score of characters which he has not yet touched upon? For instance, has he not those who profess the greatest friendship possible, and who, when they turn their backs, think it a piece of gallantry to tear each other to pieces?]
Molière (Sc. 3, pp. 204-205)

Read the full quotation at L’Impromptu, Sc. iv

In Scene Five, all members of Molière’s troupe are delighted because authors have got together to write a play against Molière, entitled Le Portrait du peintre. Vengeance is expected on Molière’s part. We suspect, first, that others attack him because they see themselves in the ridiculous characters his plays depict. What we see and hear is unlikely to correspond to what is said. Second, Molière was the better playwright.  

Brécourt feels that a new play, a superior play, is the appropriate response.

Molière describes the society of his century “d’après nature.” In other words, he depicts his society realistically, which is the source of the querelle de l’École des femmes and will also be the source of Tartuffe‘ condemnation. Molière’s kwowledge of human nature brings to mind humanists such as Montaigne, l’humayne condition, and Rabelais‘ various characters.

The End of a Project

I have now written posts on every play Molière wrote. Some posts are less bilingual than others which can be remedied. I do not think, however, that I can write a full book on Molière. I no longer live near a research library and my memory is failing me. I forget the spelling of words. But my posts will be my contribution to Molière scholarship, other than articles I have written. I am glad Internet Archives published Henri van Laun’s translation of every play Molière wrote.

I have chosen music composed by Louis XIII. Louis XIII did not live with his wife, yet he fathered two children. The kings of France loved entertainment.

RELATED ARTICLES
Page on Molière
L’Impromptu, Sc. iv (11 December 2020)
L’Impromptu de Versailles, 2 (10 December 2020)
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.
Wikipedia: various entries.
The Encyclopædia Britannica: various entries.

Kindest regards to all of you. 💕

Tu crois ô beau soleil par Louis XIII
J. S Grimaldi as Scaramouche

© Micheline Walker
10 December 2020
WordPress

A Word on L’Impromptu, 2

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La Colonnade du Louvre (Tripadvisor), designed by Claude Perrault

The Comédie-Italienne and Molière’s troupe shared the théâtre du Petit-Bourbon until it was demolished to make room for La Colonnade du Louvre. They moved to the Théâtre du Palais-Royal.

I tried to indicate the scenes of L’Impromptu de Versailles in a manner other than copying from the PDF version. It was not possible. The toutmolière.net site divides Molière’s plays into acts and scenes, but one must copy the text from the PDF version. The PDF versions, French and English, are paginated.

Also, Scene v was included in yesterday’s L’Impromptu de Versailles.2. It was removed without my noticing. I reinserted its skeletal version before retiring last night. It is short, but it completes the narrative. From Scene vi to Scene x, Molière is asked to go on stage and perform. In Scene xi, the King relieves him and asks that a play the comedians know well be performed.

Help, help

How does one indent in the Block Editor and where are symbols and characters located? I have tried everything, but failed miserably.

We carry on.

Daniel Rabel‘s Depiction of the Grotesque

© Micheline Walker
9 December 2020
WordPress

L’Impromptu de Versailles, 2

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L’Impromptu de Versailles par Edmond Hédouin (théâtre-documentation.com)
L’Impromptu de Versailles par Adolfe Lalauze (théâtre-documentation.com)

L’Impromptu de Versailles, 2

Dramatis Personæ

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
But …
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 …

Scene Three

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.

Scene Four

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)

Scene Five

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,[1] 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.

RELATED ARTICLES
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.

____________________
[1] There were several theatres in Paris. The grands comédiens performed à l’Hôtel de Bourgogne.

Love to everyone 💕

Scaramouche (Fiorilli) teaching Élomire (Molière) his student, frontispiece to Le Boulanger de Chalussay’s attack on Molière, 1670 (Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
8 December 2020
WordPress

Winter has arrived …

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Carl Larsson (Wikipedia)

My post disappeared. It was my second post on L’Impromptu de Versailles. I cannot explain what happened. Inserting the original French quotations is somewhat difficult because I have to use a PDF version. It is not the copy you see. The PDF version of Molière’s play can be copied easily. However, copying Henri van Laun’s is a challenge. So, a post on Molière can take a full week to build. Building is the correct word.

No I cannot rebuild it today. I copied the text in Word, but something happened. The copy lacks final paragraphs.

It is not as rich a text as the Critique de l’École de femmes, but it is both a théâtre dans le théâtre (a play within a play, in the broadest acceptation of the word) and a mise en abyme. The Russian dolls nestled one inside another is a form of mise en abyme. But if there are two mirrors, one on each side of an object, the result is an eternal abyss, a kaleidoscope. We are about to read La Princesse de Clèves. It contains stories that could be considered mises en abyme.

I’m thinking of Christmas. The Premier wanted to wait until 11 December before allowing or cancelling Christmas, but it has already been cancelled for all red areas of the province. It’s much too dangerous.

I miss my Nova Scotia home. Life is humbler now, and I left friends behind.

I wish all of you the very best. 💕

© Micheline Walker
6 December 2020
WordPress

Amaryllis

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Amaryllis (Getty Images)

I read yesterday that many of the people who travelled and congregated to celebrate Thanksgiving have been infected with the novel coronavirus. I can understand their wish to escape isolation, but Covid-19 is highly contagious and it may be fatal. Did these people have a right to travel and congregate? Staying at home is not easy. I had a moment of sadness so intense that a young man at the bank called the police.

When I spoke to the two officers, I said the truth. I have been in this apartment since early March, my lovely cat died, and I was not fully settled. Boxes of books must be carried out of this apartment, which I believe could present a danger. I may therefore put them in the hallway the day they leave. The boxes are small and have handles.

Moreover, there are a few compensations that one can arrange. On 4 December, I will share a gourmet meal with a neighbour. The meal will be delivered to her in the lobby of the building. She will then separate it and leave my portion at my door. I will pick it up after she has returned to her apartment, two doors down. We will both enjoy the meal. We will not sit together, but is sitting together necessary?

As for Christmas, it is cancelled. Paulina will be at home and so will John. No one will come to my door. But I will remember the Christmases of my childhood and may re-read The Wind in the Willows. People are rediscovering books.

Today I will order a poinsettia and amaryllis. Last year’s amaryllis is growing again, but it may not flower. These flowers will make the apartment look cheerful.

My freedom ends where yours begins…

I have a little rule and will share it again. My freedom ends where yours begins. There have been demonstrations by people who wish to work and live “normally.” We cannot live “normally.” It is too dangerous. The premier, François Legault, was spotted buying a pile of books, wearing a thick mask.

One is tempted to socialize, but gatherings must be at a distance or postponed. There are four vaccines. Canada has developed its own. In due course, we will all be vaccinated, but our current conditions preclude get-togethers. I was crying when the young man from the bank started to talk to me. His orders were to call the police. He did what he had to do and what he did turned me around. There are very good and kind policemen in Sherbrooke, Quebec. When they left, I was fine. I needed a “break.” As for the remedy, another cat, it made sense. I am still meditating, but I’ve heard of a cat named George who was homeless.

I’m returning to Molière, but re-read Denis Diderot‘s Paradoxe sur le comédien. It is a Wikisource book and short.

Love to everyone 💕

Stjepan Hauser plays Bach’s Air in G

© Micheline Walker
1st December 2020
WordPress

L’Impromptu de Versailles, 1

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L’Impromptu de Versailles par Edmond Hédouin (théâtre-documentation.com)
L’Impromptu de Versailles par Adolphe Lalauze (théâtre-documentation.com)

L’Impromptu de Versailles

Dramatis Personæ

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 (mannerist).
MADEMOISELLE BÉJART, prude.
MADEMOISELLE DE BRIE, sage coquette.
MADEMOISELLE MOLIÈRE, satirique spirituelle.
MADEMOISELLE DU CROISY, peste doucereuse.
MEDEMOISELLE HERVÉ, servante précieuse.

La scène est à Versailles dans la salle de la Comédie.
We are at Versailles in the hall where plays are performed.

L’Impromptu de Versailles FR (L’Impromptu de Versailles EN) is the second play Molière wrote in response to criticism of L’École des femmes. There was, in fact, a Querelle de l’École des femmes. We have read La Critique de l’École des femmes, the first play Molière wrote to defend himself. It premiered on 2nd June 1663. As for L’Impromptu de Versailles, the one-act play was commissioned by Louis XIV, and it was first performed at Versailles on 14th October 1663.

Molière’s two plays differ from one another quite drastically. Both are one-act plays, but L’Impromptu de Versailles is a form of théâtre dans le théâtre, a play within a play. Théâtre dans le théâtre are plays that may vary from one another. Therefore, I will say no more than the comedians who perform L’Impromptu de Versailles are mostly the same as the comedians featured in La Critique de l’École des femmes, but that they use their “real” name. Diderot‘s Paradoxe sur le Comédien (actor) is prefigured.

I will also note that the fil conducteur (the thread) of the play is the story of comedians who are pressed for time by King Louis XIV who commissioned the play. In scenes vii, viii, ix and x, of a total of eleven scenes, a nécessaire, played by Béjart, asks for the play to begin. However, in scene xi, a brief scene, Molière’s comedians are told by the nécessaire, that the King is postponing the performance of the play he commissioned. Molière’s troupe may perform a play they already know. So, Louis XIV’s demand is lifted by Louis XIV himself, now transformed into a deus ex machina, a plot device that allows the happy ending of comedy. The use of a deus ex machina suggests that the society of the play cannot resolve the problems it is facing. Innerness is suggested. In the case of L’Impromptu de Versailles, the use of a deus ex machina also points to the circularity of the plot.

Antiphanes was one of the device’s earliest critics. He believed that the use of the deus ex machina was a sign that the playwright was unable to properly manage the complications of his plot.

when they don’t know what to say
and have completely given up on the play
just like a finger they lift the machine
and the spectators are satisfied.”
Antiphanes
(See Deus ex machina, Wikipedia)

Professor Georges Forestier[1] writes that Molière would be the dramatist, who would append a comédie to the tail end of (à la queue de) L’École des femmes. La queue (the tail) is part of the animal.

Puisque chacun en serait content, Chevalier [Dorante], faites un mémoire de tout, et le donnez à Molière que vous connaissez, pour le mettre en comédie.
Uranie à Dorante (I, vi)
[As every one is satisfied, Chevalier, write out our discussion, and give it to Moliere, whom you know, to work into a play.]
Uranie to Dorante (I. 7, p. 178)

Yet at some point, Molière says to Brécourt, one of his actors, that he will not play Molière and that he did not play the marquis ridicule of La Critique de l’École des femmes. In a play, one represents someone else for the duration of the play and one may play a character that doesn’t match one “real” self

A Théâtre dans le théâtre (a play within a play)

In Georges Forestier’s Théâtre dans le théâtre,[2] L’Impromptu de Versailles is number 21 of the plays considered plays within plays in the broadest acceptation of the term.

In scene one, Molière attempts to gather his actors so they may rehearse a play they do not know. Molière’s comment that actors are literally “strange animals to drive” (conduire) is Molière’s. He is chef de troupe and gathering his comedians.

Ah ! les étranges animaux à conduire que des comédiens.
Molière (I, i. p. 2) (I. 1, p. 192)
[Oh, what an awkward team to drive are actors! {Enter Mesdemoiselles Bejart, Duparc, Debrie, Molière, Du Croisy, and Hervé}.]
Molière (I, i. p. 2) (I. 1, p. 192)

All complain.

Le moyen de jouer ce qu’on ne sait pas?
[How are we to play what we do not know?]
La Grange (I, i. p. 2) (I. 1, p. 192)
Pour moi, je vous déclare que je ne me souviens pas d’un mot de mon personnage.
[As for me, I declare that I do not remember a word of my part.]
Mademoiselle du Parc (I, i. p. 2) (I. 1, p. 192)
Je sais bien qu’il me faudra souffler le mien, d’un bout à l’autre.
[I am sure I shall have to be prompted from beginning to end.]
Mademoiselle de Brie (I, i. p. 2) (I. 1, p. 192)
Et moi, je me prépare fort à tenir mon rôle à la main
[And I just mean to hold mine in my hand.]
Mademoiselle Béjart (I, i. p. 2) (I. 1, p. 192)
Et moi aussi.
[So do I.]
Mademoiselle Molière (I, i. p. 2) (I. 1, p. 192)
Pour moi, je n’ai pas grand’chose à dire.
[For my part, I have not much to say.]
Mademoiselle Hervé (I, i. p. 2) (I. 1, p. 192)
Ni moi non plus, mais avec cela je ne répondrais pas de ne
point manquer.

[Nor I either; but, for all that, I would not promise not to make a slip.]
Mademoiselle du Croisy (I, i. p. 2) (I. 1, p. 192)
J’en voudrais être quitte pour dix pistoles.
[I would give ten pistoles to be out of it.]
Du Croisy (I, i. p. 2) (I. 1, p. 192)
Et moi pour vingt bons coups de fouet, je vous assure.
[I would stand a score of good blows with a whip to be the same, I assure you.]
Brécourt (I, i. p. 2) (I. 1, p. 192)

Having complained, they start imitating the actors who have criticized them. Most are employed by l’Hôtel de Bourgogne. In the meantime, Molière has a play in mind and distribute the roles each will play.

According to Britannica, Molière

made theatre history by reproducing with astonishing realism the actual greenroom, or actors’ lounge, of the company and the backchat involved in rehearsal.

Britannica

The Dialogue

The realism of L’Impromptu is such that we do not think the actors are already on the stage. Molière gave a short one-line comment to each character objecting to performing a play they do not have the time to prepare. So, as the characters say that they are not ready to perform a play they do not know, the rapid sequence of répliques (retorts) emphasizes haste. The rapid succession of répliques is a figure of speech called stichomythia.

I will pause here leaving out elements that can be addressed separately.

RELATED ARTICLES
Page on Molière
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-documention.com (BnF)
Wikipedia: various entries
The Encyclopædia Britannica: various entries

_________________________
[1] Georges Forestier, Le Théâtre dans le Théâtre (Genève: Droz, 1996), pp. 150…
[2] Georges Forestier, op. cit. , p. 352.


Jean Rondeau & Thomas Dunford record “Les Baricades Mïstérieuses” by François Couperin
Afficher l’image source
François Couperin (Bing images)

© Micheline Walker
30 November 2020
WordPress

Just a Note

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Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Vienne

As a child, Joseph Haydn was a chorister at Saint-Étienne, in Vienna. However, he spent much of his life at Esterháza, the home of the Esterházy who were Hungarian aristocrats. Mozart performed at Esterháza. I so love this Serenade by Joseph Haydn.

L’Impromptu de Versailles is a play by Molière. None are easy.

Love to everyone 💕

Rocamadour par Félix Vallotton, 1925 (WikiArt.org)





© Micheline Walker
26 November 2020
WordPress