Béjart

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This article is about the family of French actors. For the Swiss ballet company, see Béjart Ballet. For its choreographer, see Maurice Béjart.

Family[edit]

The four actors listed here were children of Marie Hérve and Joseph Béjart (died 1643), the holder of a small government post. There were 11 children in the family which was very poor and lived in the Marais, then the theatrical quarter of Paris. Four of the children became notable in the acting profession; of them, two sisters were more famous. [clarification needed][citation needed]

Madeleine Béjart[edit]

Madeleine (1618–1672) was at the head of the travelling company to which her sister Geneviève (1631–1675) — who played as Mlle Hervez — and her brothers belonged, before they joined Molière in forming l'Illustre Théâtre (1643). She remained with Molière until her death on 17 February 1672. Madeleine had an illegitimate daughter (1638) by an Italian count, and her conduct on her early travels had not been exemplary, but whatever her private relations with Molière may have been, however acrimonious and violent her temper, she and her family remained faithful to his fortunes. She was a tall, handsome blonde, and an excellent actress, particularly in soubrette parts. Among her creations were Marotte in Les Précieuses ridicules, Lisette in L'École des maris, Dorine in Tartuffe.[1][citation needed]

Armande Grésinde Claire Elizabeth Béjart[edit]

Madeleine's sister, Armande (1645–1700) married Molière. She seems to have first joined the company at Lyons in 1653. Molière directed her education and she grew up under his eye. In 1662,they married, he being then 40 and she 17. Neither was happy; the wife was a flirt, the husband jealous. On the strength of a scurrilous anonymous pamphlet, La Fameuse Comédienne, ou histoire de la Guérin (1688), her character was held perhaps unduly low. She was certainly guilty of indifference and ingratitude, possibly of infidelity; they separated after the birth of a daughter in 1665 and met only at the theatre until 1671. But Molière too could not resist the charm and grace which fascinated others, and they were reconciled.[1]

Her portrait is given in a well-known scene (Act iii., sc. 9) in Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. Mme Molière's first appearance on the stage was in 1663, as Élise in the Critique de l'école des femmes. She was out of the cast for a short time in 1664, when she bore Molière a son, with Louis XIV and Henrietta of England standing sponsors to the child.[1]

In the spring, beginning with the fêtes at Versailles given by the king to Anne of Austria and Maria Theresa of Spain, she started her long list of important roles. She was at her best as Celimène, really her own highly-finished portrait, in Le Misanthrope, and just as admirable as Angélique in Le Malade imaginaire. She was the Elmire at the first performance of Tartuffe, and the Lucile of Le Bourgeois gentilhomme.[1]

All these parts were written by her husband to display her talents to the best advantage and she made the most of her opportunities. The death of Molière, the secession of Baron and several other actors, the rivalry of the Hôtel de Bourgogne and the development of the Palais-Royal, by royal patent, into the home of French opera, brought matters to a crisis with the comédiens du roi. Well advised by La Grange (Charles Varlet, 1639–1692), Armande leased the Théâtre Guénégaud, and by royal ordinance the residue of her company were combined with the players from the Théâtre du Marais, the fortunes of which were at low ebb.[1]

The combination, known as the troupe du roi, at first was unfortunate, but in 1679 they secured Mlle du Champmeslé, later absorbed the company of the Hôtel de Bourgogne, and in 1680 the Comédie-Française was born. In 1677 Mme Molière had married the actor Eustache François Guérin (1636–1728), and had one son (1678–1708) by him. She continued her successes at the theatre until she retired in 1694. She died six years later, on November 30, 1700.[1]

Joseph Béjart[edit]

Their brothers included Joseph Béjart (c. 1617–1659), a strolling player and later a member of Molière's first company (l'Illustre Théatre), accompanying him in his theatrical wanderings, and was with him when he returned permanently to Paris, dying soon after. He created the parts of Lélie in L'Étourdie, and Eraste in Le Dépit amoureux.[1]

Louis Béjart[edit]

Joseph's brother Louis (ca. 1630–1678) was also in Molière's company during the last years of touring. He created many parts in his brother-in-law's plays — Valère in Le Dépit amoureux, Dubois in Le Misanthrope, Alcantor in Le Mariage forcé, and Don Luis in Le Festin de Pierre — and was an actor of varied talents. As a result of a wound received when interfering in a street brawl, he became lame and retired in 1670 with a pension, the first ever granted by the company to a comedian. [1][citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Attribution