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A Cabal of Hypocrites


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AT: Molière A: Mikhail Bulgakov Pf: 1936, Moscow Pb: 1962 Tr: 1972 G: Drama in 4 acts; Russian prose S: Theatre, Molière's house, cathedral, and other locations in Paris, and royal palace in Versailles, 1660–73 C: 15m, 4f, extrasAt the age of 38 Molière has just successfully performed the title role in his Sganarelle before King Louis XIV and been well rewarded. He resolves to reject Madeleine Béjart, his mistress of 20 years' standing, and marry her 19-year-old ‘sister’ Armande, not knowing that she is in fact her daughter. Several years later, two of Molière's sons have died in infancy, and the Church condemns him for Tartuffe, but the King approves the play for performance. Molière catches Armande making love to Moirron, his adopted son and the actor playing Don Juan, and throws him out of his house. Moirron denounces Molière before the League of the Holy Writ, testifying that he married his mistress's daughter. This is confirmed by Madeleine, who, dying and in fear of eternal torment, confesses to the villainous Archbishop Charron that Molière might be Armande's father. Charron tells Armande to leave Paris. Madeleine dies, Molière is deprived of the King's patronage, and the Marquis d'Orsigny who believes himself mocked in Don Juan, almost kills Molière in a duel. Moirron reappears vowing to protect Molière from his enemies. Some time later, Molière is performing in The Hypochondriac, when the theatre is invaded by musketeers. Molière dies on stage killed by ‘the king's disfavour and the evil work of the black League’.

AT: Molière A: Mikhail Bulgakov Pf: 1936, Moscow Pb: 1962 Tr: 1972 G: Drama in 4 acts; Russian prose S: Theatre, Molière's house, cathedral, and other locations in Paris, and royal palace in Versailles, 1660–73 C: 15m, 4f, extras

In this epic adaptation of his novel, Bulgakov uses the life of Molière under Louis XIV as a coded message about the situation of the artist under Stalin (which prevented its publication until almost ten years after the dictator's death). With some reshaping of historical fact (e.g. Molière collapsed, but did not die on stage), Bulgakov traces the playwright's career from being favourite of the King to a man in danger of his life.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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