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Chapter 31 - Molière as National Hero

from Part VI - Afterlives

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 November 2022

Jan Clarke
Affiliation:
University of Durham
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Summary

This chapter considers Molière as an icon of French national identity and a celebrated hero. It sketches the trajectory of this national veneration as it evolved over centuries, from the first years after his death, when he was transformed from ordinary scribbler to a writer of discerning common sense and humanitarian empathy. In the century that followed, Enlightenment thinkers elevated Molière to the status of a philosopher; the secularisation of national honour paved the way for Molière’s investiture in the ‘cult of great men’. Authors of the Romantic movement solidified his reputation as a suffering genius while the efforts of historians secured Molière’s status as a French national treasure worthy of archival investigations. The Molière of the twentieth century became a distinctly more earthy presence. He comes to be viewed first and foremost as a theatre-maker, a ‘man of the theatre’, with his plays, his life and the practicalities of his livelihood now defining him as a working man. The efforts of nineteenth-century historians come to fruition in the twentieth century’s definitive art form, film, where Molière comes alive through leaps of imagination that expose contested French views of his importance.

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Molière in Context , pp. 293 - 302
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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