Today’s Google Doodle has been designed to celebrate the life and work of French actor and comic playwright Molière, who according to many is the the world’s foremost comic dramatist and perhaps the greatest artist in the history of French theater. On this day in 1673, Molière premiered his final play, Le Malade Imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid), which happens to be a three-act comédie-ballet that satirized the medical profession. Molière is known for his satirical plays that fearlessly lampooned human folly and blended ballet, music, and comedy into a new genre that transformed buffoonery into witty social critique.
In his final play, Le Malade Imaginaire, Molière starred in the title role of Argan, who is portrayed as a severe hypochondriac who tries to convince his daughter to forsake her true love and marry his doctor’s son, so as to save on medical bills. Google writes that today’s Doodle provides a glimpse into Molière’s most memorable scenes from The Imaginary Invalid and other classics like School for Wives, Don Juan, and The Miser. Molière’s career as a playwright began with his first Paris play, Les Precieuses ridicules (The Affected Young Ladies) was performed in 1660 and premiered at the Theatre du Petit-Bourbon which was adjacent to the famous Louvre Museum.
Molière was just a stage name for Jean-Baptiste Poquelin who was baptized in Paris in 1622. He was the son of a successful furniture maker and upholsterer to the royal court. Molière rejected his father’s offer to take up the family trade, and assumed the stage name Molière and began his career at the theater during the 1640s. Despite royal support, Molière’s was ruthless pen offended powerful interests who in turn tried to censor his work. His religious satire Tartuffe which is considered one of his best works was first performed in 1664 and immediately banned by the court of King Louis XIV only to be unbanned later. Molière wrote in the preface to Tartuffe, “The duty of comedy is to correct men by amusing them.”