PIERRE CORNEILLE (French) (1606 – 1684)
Corneille, often called the father of the French classical tragedy, was born in Rouen, France. Corneille was educated in his hometown, won two prizes for Latin verse composition and became a licentiate in law. From 1628 to 1650 he was King’s councillor in the local office of the department of waterways and forests. His first play ‘Mélite’ first performed in Rouen (1629) became a great success in Paris. His comedies ‘Clilandre’ (performed 1631), ‘La Veuve’ and ‘La Galerie du Palais’ (1632) were so admired by Richelieu that he included Corneille in a group called ‘Les Cinq Auteurs’ (The Society of the Five Authors). Corneille could not work effectively under the restrictions that were imposed. His ‘Le Cid’ (performed 1637) now commonly regarded as the most significant play in the history of the French drama, was an immense and popular success, but it sparked a controversy and a verdict by the French Academy that the play was dramatically implausible and morally defective. Richelieu thereupon ruled that ‘Le Cid’ could not be performed publicly. Corneille wrote nothing for three years. He then produced the tragedies ‘Horace’ (1640), ‘Cinna’ (1641) and ‘Polyeucte’ (1643) and numerous other plays, the last in 1674, 10 years before his death. His plays prepared the way for a drama that was the envy of Europe throughout the 17th century.