Pierre Corneille Additional Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Pierre Corneille was born to a prosperous bourgeois family. His father and grandfather were lawyers in the parliament of Rouen, and, after studying Latin at the local Jesuit school (where he won prizes for Latin verse composition), Corneille took a law degree in 1624. In 1628, his parents bought for him a position as king’s counselor in the Rouen office of the departments of waterways and forests and of the admiralty, posts that he conscientiously filled until 1650. Corneille lived for many years in Rouen, moving to Paris only in 1662 in order, perhaps, to satisfy a promise made to the French Academy on his election in 1647, which required that its members reside in Paris. His younger brother Thomas, also a popular dramatist, with whom Corneille had a long and close relationship, may also have influenced the decision to move to the capital. Corneille had six children with Marie de Lampérière, whom he married in 1641 and whose family background was similar to his own.

Corneille met with immediate success as a dramatist. His first play, the comedy Mélite, submitted to the famous actor Montdory while his theatrical troupe was performing in Rouen in 1629, was a triumph when Montdory performed it in Paris in the following year. Seven more plays (of which six were comedies) made Corneille a well-known young author when, in early 1637, probably the most significant play in the history of French drama, The Cid, scored an unheard of popular...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201537-Corneille.jpg Pierre Corneille Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Pierre Corneille (kawr-NAY) was born in the Norman city of Rouen, France, on June 6, 1606. He was the eldest of the six children born to Pierre and Marthe Corneille. His younger brother Thomas also became a very successful playwright. Between 1615 and 1622, Corneille studied at the Jesuit high school in Rouen. He was a learned Latinist and remained a fervent Catholic for his entire life. In 1624, he received his law degree and was admitted to the bar in Rouen. It is not known if he ever practiced law. He lived in his native city until 1662, when he moved to Paris with his family.

Beginning in 1629, Corneille began writing plays for Parisian theater companies. His early plays revealed both his skill as a dramatist and the diversity of his interests. He wrote witty comedies, a powerful tragedy titled Médée (pr. 1635, pb. 1639), and L’Illusion comique (pr. 1636, pb. 1636; The Illusion, 1989), which contains a series of plays-within-a-play. His 1637 tragicomedy Le Cid (pr., pb. 1637; The Cid, 1637) provoked an extremely positive reaction from Parisian theatergoers and much criticism from writers who were clearly jealous of Corneille’s success. The decade that followed the first performances of The Cid was a very productive period for him. He wrote a series of excellent plays inspired largely by Roman and Spanish sources; these works established his reputation as the most creative and influential French playwright of his generation. Plays such as The Cid, Horace (pr. 1640, pb. 1641; English translation, 1656), Cinna: Ou, La Clémence d’Auguste (pr. 1640, pb. 1643;...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Pierre Corneille was a gifted playwright who has remained justly famous for his treatment of moral problems. Audiences can identify with the universal moral dilemmas he described so well. In depicting the feudalism in The Cid or the Roman imperial power in Horace and Polyeucte, Corneille described problems that exist even today. Like Pauline, Polyeucte, Rodrigue, and Chimène, one recognizes that there are still conflicts between one’s personal ethical beliefs and the demands that society imposes on the individual.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Pierre Corneille (kawr-nay), born in 1606, was the son of a barrister and king’s advocate of great prominence in the thriving city of Rouen. His mother was Marthe le Pesant. He was educated in the Jesuit school in his hometown and took his oath as a lawyer four years ahead of the usual time by special dispensation. The brilliant young man followed in his father’s footsteps, almost literally, by becoming for a time the king’s advocate “over waters and forests,” as the title read.

His love of the theater and of literature were early manifest, and he wrote a play for a traveling troupe in 1629; later, Mélite was popular in Paris. While this comedy would seem crude by modern standards, it broke away...

(The entire section is 834 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Corneille is one of France’s most outstanding playwrights of the seventeenth century. Although he was considered a prolific writer for his...

(The entire section is 602 words.)