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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