chapter  4
19 Pages

COUNTRY MANNERS

The return to Paris was well managed. After its early failure, the company may have played from time to time in the capital, but certainly it had somewhere earned a reputation sufficient to arouse expectations

at court. The performances of tragedy commanded by the twentyyear-old Louis XIV, and the presence of the actresses, earned the particular approval of a court where agrément, the satisfaction of the eye and judgement of the onlooker, mattered in the conduct of its affairs, and in its involvement in the theatre, not least in its dance performances led by Louis himself. At the same time, Molière offered the ‘greatest king in the world’ country pleasures. No contemporary suggested this was foolish, perhaps because at court the taste for improvised comedy was alive. Grimarest, Molière’s first biographer, writing with hindsight in 1705, affirms that Molière meant to challenge the Bourgogne, which no longer had its great players of farce.