The Bourgeois Gentleman

Article

October 28, 2021

Le Bourgeois gentilhomme is a comedy-ballet by Molière, in three then five acts (comprising respectively 2, 5, 16, 5 and 6 scenes) in prose (except the ballet entries which are in verse), performed for the first time on October 14, 1670, in front of the court of Louis XIV, at the castle of Chambord by the troop of Molière. The music is by Jean-Baptiste Lully, the ballets by Pierre Beauchamp, the sets by Carlo Vigarani and the Turkish costumes of the Chevalier d'Arvieux. In this play, Molière makes fun of a rich bourgeois who wants to imitate the behavior and the way of life of the nobles. This spectacle was greatly appreciated by Louis XIV, who imposed it on his rather hostile courtiers.

A masterpiece of its kind

This piece is the perfect example of comedy-ballet and remains one of the only masterpieces of this noble genre that mobilized the best actors and musicians of the time (with Lully in particular). The success that it achieved immediately is undoubtedly linked to the taste of contemporaries for what was called turqueries. The Ottoman Empire was then a subject of universal concern in people's minds and people sought to tame it. The immediate origin of the work is linked to the scandal caused by a Turkish ambassador. When he came on November 5, 1669, Louis XIV received Soliman Aga, an envoy of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed IV. The Sun King has deployed all the pomp of which he is capable to impress the Turkish ambassador. Her gold brocade is so covered with diamonds that it seemed "surrounded by light". However, on leaving the reception, the guest reportedly said to relatives: “In my country, when the Great Lord shows himself to the people, his horse is more richly decorated than the coat I have just seen. The anecdote goes around the Court and Louis XIV, stung to the quick, seeks a way to ridicule the Turks whose ambassador has dared not to be dazzled by the Sun King. Molière, author, director and actor, has been close to the king for several years and it is he who will take care of settling scores in prose and music. He set to work with Lully to create Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. As the Château de Chambord does not have a theater, it was on the first floor of the southern branch that a wooden theater was fitted out and set up for the first time in 1669. The courtiers of Louis XIV, having learned about the subject and fearing to be exhausted by Molière, first tried to have the play banned, then during the premiere of October 14 and the second of the 19 of the same month, welcomed the room without an applause, in obvious contempt. But the king, at the end of the second performance, expressed his satisfaction: “I am completely satisfied with your comedy, this is the real comedy and the good and useful joke; continue to work in this same genre, you will make me happy. ".

Plot

Bourgeois of modest origin but proud to have become rich, Mr. Jourdain intends to acquire the manners of quality people. He decides to order a new outfit more in line with his new condition and sets out to learn weapons, dance, music and philosophy, all of which are essential to his condition as a gentleman. He courts Dorimène, a widowed marquise, brought under his roof by her lover, an authoritarian count, who intends to take advantage of the naivety of M. Jourdain and Dorimène. His wife and Nicole, his servant, laugh at him, then worry to see him so envious, and try to bring him back to the reality of his daughter Lucile's upcoming marriage to Cléonte. But the latter not being a gentleman, M. Jourdain refuses this union. Cléonte then decides to enter the game of dreams of nobility of Mr. Jourdain and, with the help of his valet Covielle, he passes himself off as the son of the Grand Turk. He thus obtains the c

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