Length: about two hours, including one twenty-minute interval
Real name: ]ean-Baptiste Poquelin
- L'Etourdi (1655)
- Le Depit Amoureux (1656)
- Les Precieuses Ridicules (1659)
- Sganarelle ou le Cocu Imaginaire (1660)
- Dam Carcie de Navarre ou le Prince Jaloux (1661)
- L'Ecole des Maris (1661)
- Les Facheux (1661)
- L'Ecole des Femmes (1662)
- La Critique de l'Ecole des Femmes (1663)
- L'Impramptu de Versailles (1663)
- Le Mariage Force (1664)
- La Princesse d'Elide (1664)
- Tartuffe (1664)
- Dom Juan ou le Festin de Pierre (1665)
- L'Amour Medecin (1665)
- Le Misanthrope (1666)
- Le Medecin Malgre Lui (1666)
- Melicerte (1666)
- Le Sicilien ou L'Amour Peintre (1667)
- Amphitryon (1668)
- Georges Dandin ou le Mari Confondu (1668)
- L'Avare (1668)
- Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (1669)
- Les Amants Magnifiques (1670)
- Le Bourgeois Centilhomme (1670)
- Psyche (1671)
- Les Fourberies de Scapin (1671)
- La Comtesse d'Escarbagnas (1671)
- Les Femmes Savantes (1672)
- Le Malade Imaginaire (1673)
John Fowles b.1926
- The Collector (1963)
- The Aristos (1964)
- The Magus (1964)
- The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969)
- The Ebony Tower (1974)
- Daniel Martin (1977)
- Cinderella (1974) children's book
- Shipwreck (1974) with old photographs
- Islands (1978) photographs by Fay Godwin
- The Tree (1979) photographs by Frank Horvat
- Enigma of Stonehenge (1980) photographs by Barry
A source of sedition
by John Fowles
Don Juan is Molière's strangest, and was for long his most scandalous play.
Not a single performance of the original text is recorded between the first
brief run in 1665 and 1841. Even in 1947 the Maison de Molière (better known
as the Comedie Française) could list only a hundred performances against the
2,400 or so for Tartuffe. However, a major revaluation has happened
since famous postwar productions in France by Jouvet and Vilar. Don Juan
is no longer the Cinderella of the Molière canon.
France found itself politically and intellectually divided in the 1660s.
On the right was the Counter-Renaissance — those who wanted a return to immutable
Catholic tradition, including the Inquisition and Vatican control of French
foreign policy. By its enemies this wing was nicknamed the Cabale des Devots,
or Bigots' Conspiracy. They had strong support at Court from the Spanish queen-mother,
Anne of Austria.
On the left were the libertines, with their belief in individual conscience
and freedom of thought, and for whose chief philosopher, Gassendi, Molière had
close sympathy. But by 1665 libertinage had in the eyes of
authority become (a little like Marxism today) less a philosophy than a source
of sedition. A number of noblemen — equivalents of the Earl of Rochester in
England — had notoriously slipped from questioning traditional authority in
scientific matters to denying all normal morality. In an increasingly conservative
France this became dangerous, and many of these 'false libertines' hastily took
cover behind the mask of religion.
The situation was complicated by the young and then very far from pious Louis
XIV. Assuming full kingship on Mazarin's death in 1661, he was in no mood to
be the Vatican's pawn or to seek alliance (and religious guidance) from Spain.
Molière was a valuable mouthpiece for views he dared not publicly express himself,
and accordingly received considerable — but not unlimited - protection.
The dramatist had returned to Paris in 1658 — he was then 36 years old -
from his long apprenticeship in the provinces. After triumphs with Les
Precieuses Ridicules and L'Ecole des Femmes, he became in
1662 the first actor ever to receive a royal pension. A year later came accusations
of impiety against him (and implicitly, Louis), which the latter answered by
standing godfather to Molière's first child. But in May, 1664, the 'servant
by whom the king speaks' threw down a gauntlet to the Spanish party that left
even his master helpless. Tartuffe, with its devastating attack
on fake religiosity, was too much, and promptly banned.
Molière had more mundane worries by 1665. His company badly needed a new
box-office success for their theatre, the Palais-Royal. A doubly tempting theme
lay at hand. Recent versions of the original Don Juan play, Tirso de Molina's
El Burlador de Sevilla, had proved very much to public taste; even
better, the monstrously immoral hero came out of Holy Spain.
Molière's prose treatment thus had to serve two contradictory needs. The
actor-manager had to deliver an audience-catching comedy; the angry humanist,
a further scathing polemic against those who had stifled his beloved Tartuffe.
The schizophrenic result, with its abrupt changes of mood and the classical
unities thrown to the winds, is one main reason for the long cold shoulder shown
by more orthodox French critics. English-speaking audiences, remembering their
own greatest dramatist, should have fewer problems.
The play opened on 15 February 1665, and despite considerable cuts, was an
immediate succes de scandale. It survived fifteen performances.
Louis did allow Tartuffe to be restaged in 1669, but Don
Juan was never pardoned. Yet there seems little doubt that he was privately
on Molière's side. Only five months after Don Juan closed, the
company was declared the King's Troupe, and handsomely pensioned.
It was not only Don Juan himself who shocked the bigots. They could not deny
such rakes existed (the blasphemous pauper scene — soon cut in 1665 — was based
on a well-known real incident); but to see their own beliefs foolishly expounded
by a servant was the last straw. Their outrage cannot have been lessened by
the fact that Molière himself played Sganarelle.
Just as he had a lifelong hatred of medicine for the way it abused the body,
so did Molière have the sharpest ear in theatrical history for language that
abuses the mind. One may suspect that what ultimately damns this Don Juan is
quite as much his final use of empty rhetoric and pious jargon to hide his sins
as the sins themselves.
No one knew better than his creator that double talk lies not only at the
heart of all comedy, but of all social and political tyranny as well.