The Lavish Lovers: A Comedy Interspersed with Music and Ballet, Molière

By David Edney

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The Lavish Lovers, commissioned by Louis XIV to put on display all that theatre could offer, is an important example of the Sun King’s use of art as an instrument of government. Part ballet, part comedy, with music by Jean-Baptiste Lully, it shows all the main trends of French court entertainments. The king was a true artistic collaborator; he specified the subject, the characters, and the setting. The roles of Neptune and Apollo were designed for him to perform as a dancer. In carrying out the assignment, however, Molière modified the elements to produce a show that the patron had not imagined. Long dismissed as a kind of forced labour, it is in fact a significant achievement, which makes us think about the political role of art and the use of different art forms within a single work. In it we see the playwright’s craft and ideas at an important stage of his career, and his ability to maintain his artistic integrity under an authoritarian régime.

David Edney is a professor emeritus in the Department of Languages and Linguistics at the University of Saskatchewan. He has previously published an edition of Beaumarchais’s Three Figaro Plays in the Carleton Renaissance Play series. His translations of French plays have been performed in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. He is now beginning to add Spanish and Italian plays to his repertoire.

286 pp.
ISBN: 978-077272046-7 softcover
Published: 2009


Sixteenth Century Journal, 43:3 (Fall 2012), pp. 797-798. Reviewed by Joan E. McRae.


List of Illustrations

Molière's Career in the Theatre
Molière's Comedy-Ballets: Questions of Genre
The Lavish Lovers as Ballet: The History of Court Entertainments
The Lavish Lovers as Comedy: The Significance of the Work

List of Molière's Comedy-Ballets



The Lavish Lovers

Notes to the Lavish Lovers

Appendices (contemporary texts about The Lavish Lovers and about seventeenth-century ideas and practice concerning dance and theatrical machinery)
I. The Program of the Lavish Lovers
II. A Review of The Lavish Lovers (Gazette de France, February 21, 1670)
III. Louis XIV, Memoirs, 1666-72 (excerpts)
IV. Michel de Pure, On Theatrical Spectacles, Ancient and Recent, 1668 (excerpts)
A Definition of Ballet
The Courtier and Dance
The Value of Dance
On Theatrical Machinery
On the Programme Verses
V. Pierre Corneille, Andromède, The Decor for Act Three, 1650
VI. Nicola Sabbattini, Constructing Stage Sets and Theatrical Machinery, 1638 (excerpts)