Le Geôlier de soi-même

Thomas Corneille, Paris, 1656 (Edition Théâtre Classique)

Lister read this comedy by Thomas Corneille (1625-1709) in February 1664/5.  It was performed for the first time in 1655 at the Théâtre du Marais, and then fifteen times by Molière’s troupe between the years 1659 and 1662.

Thomas Corneille was the  younger brother of the renowned playwright, Pierre Corneille.  He was prolific, writing over 40 comedies, operas, lyric drama, and tragedies.  His romantic tragedy Timocrate (1656) was a ‘box-office hit’ being performed eighty times in its initial run 1

Corneille was particularly well known for his use of stage machinery, and he was a member of the Académie Française, turning his mind in his later life to compiling a technical dictionary and completing a translation of Ovid. 2

His comedy Le Geôlier de soi même (in English “His Own Jailer”) went through several editions, being republished until 1782. With a romantic and sentimental plot, and some burlesque, quid pro quos and mistaken identities, it was a successful adaptation of the popular “Spanish-style” of Calderón.

  1. Julia Prest, ‘État Présent, Thomas Corneille (1625-1709): Beyond the Triumvirate’, French Studies, lxiii, 3 (2009), 323-29, on 325.
  2. ‘Thomas Corneille’, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2013.

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