Jean de Rotrou was born into a family of magistrates on August 21, 1609, in the town of Dreux. Official records show that his ancestors had already been living there for several centuries at the time of his birth. Over the years, his forebears had provided this small Normandy town with many of its administrators and notaries. Rotrou would himself join their ranks. When he died there on June 28, 1650, it was in his official capacity as mayor. Very little is known about his early life except that he began his studies in the humanities at the college of Dreux and completed them in Paris. When he arrived in Paris, he was only thirteen. He studied philosophy under a benign tutor-priest, Father de Breda, who indulged his young student’s penchant for versification. Rotrou earned his law degree in 1630.
There is no evidence to indicate what made Rotrou turn to the theater at such an early period in his life. The production of his first play, l’Hypocondriaque, took place before he was twenty. Tradition has it that he led a bohemian existence during the first years of his theatrical career. Like most young men engaged in belles lettres, he sought a patron and protector. He found one in the comte de Belin, who provided him with generous financial help until the count’s death in 1637. Rotrou found another stable source of income as the official poet of the most prestigious theatrical playhouse in Paris, the Hôtel de Bourgogne. It was his function to...
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