Philippe Quinault Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Philippe Quinault was baptized in the Parisian church of Saint Eustache on June 5, 1635. Although the date of his birth is unknown, French children then were normally bapitzed within a few days after birth. Quinault’s father was a baker. At the age of ten or eleven, Quinault became a servant to the French playwright Tristan L’Hermite; it appears that Tristan was responsible for the education which Quinault received. In the early 1650’s, Quinault began the study of law, and by 1655, he was a lawyer. Quinault was only eighteen years old when a prominent Parisian theater company performed his first play, Les Rivales. Between 1653 and 1671, sixteen plays by Quinault were performed in Paris. In 1670, Quinault was elected to the Académie Française.

After the performance in early 1671 of Bellérophon, Quinault began a new career. Between 1673 and 1686, he wrote eleven opera librettos for Lully. Their first opera, Cadmus et Hermione, was so well received at the royal court that Lully did not want to lose such a valuable librettist. He agreed to pay Quinault four thousand pounds for each libretto. In addition to this substantial sum, Quinault also received an annual pension of two thousand pounds from King Louis XIV. Louis XIV granted such pensions to artists, musicians, and playwrights who had contributed significantly to the cultural life of his court. When Quinault died in Paris on November 26, 1688, he was a wealthy man. He had also enjoyed a normal family life. On April 29, 1660, Quinault married a young widow, Louise Goujon. They had six children: five daughters, and one son who died in infancy. Two daughters married, while the other three entered religious life. Quinault’s widow died on May 5, 1710.