chapter  1
11 Pages


The importance of public display in seventeenth-century Paris is attested by the diplomatic and political spectacles which from time to time marked the life of the capital and, indeed, by the planning of the open spaces which were required for such events.1 But if Peter Burke is correct in describing Louis XIV’s France as a ‘theatre state’, the term is justified beyond the court in the forms of daily life, trade and amusement. Molière would have known the display and performance in the market place, where the show was offered in its own right on the trestle stage put up on the Place Dauphine, or the Pont Neuf, or in the booths of the town’s two ancient fairs. For most of the population, it must be remembered, theatre meant theatre of the street.