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Pierre Corneille
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Playwright
    (June 6, 1606-October 1, 1684)
    Born in Rouen, France
    Considered one of the three great 17th Century French dramatists, along with Moliere and Jean Racine
    Wrote the plays 'Melite' (ca. 1629), 'Le Cid' (1637), 'Horace' (1640), 'Polyeucte' (1642), 'The Death of Pompey' (1643), 'The Liar' (1644), 'Andromede' (1650), 'Nicomede' (1651) and 'Sertorius' (1662)
    His father purchased a position for him as King's advocate in Rouen.
    He was one of Cardinal Richelieu's 'Five Poets,' who were hired to create plays around plot outlines provided by the Cardinal.
    He eventually left Richelieu's circle over his tendency to stray too far from the Cardinal's guidelines.
    The French Academy condemned 'La Cid' as 'dramatically implausible and morally defective.'
    He became increasingly bitter about being surpassed in popularity by Racine.
    His writing was very uneven, with Moliere claiming, 'My friend Corneille has a familiar who inspires him with the finest verses in the world. But sometimes the familiar leaves him to shift for himself, and then he fares badly.'
    The school he attended was later named after him.
    Despite the kvetching of the French Academy, 'La Cid' was instantly popular, with 'beautiful as 'La Cid'' becoming the 17th-century French equivalent of 'bigger than 'Cats.''
    The French Academy apparently changed their minds, since they elected him as a member (1647).
    He advocated that theater break free of the restrictions of Aristotle's 'three unities,' which required that the action take place in a 24-hour period (unity of time); at a single location (unity of place); and be centered on a single problem with no subplots (unity of action).
    A critic wrote that his best plays exhibited 'boldness, spontaneity and a love of the marvellous.'
    He was called 'the founder of French tragedy.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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