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Molière : Les Fâcheux. Édition présentée, établie et annotée par Jean Serroy .( Folio Théâtre). Paris, Gallimard, 2005. 160 pp. Pb €4.10.

Les Fâcheux was commissioned by Louis XIV's Minister of Finance, Nicolas Foucquet, as part of an elaborate court fête held at Vaux-le-Vicomte in the king's honour in August 1661. The play and its performance context mark an important turning point in Molière's career, and for this reason alone a separate edition of the play is most welcome. Its creation coincided with the unexpected birth of comédie-ballet — a genre that was to culminate famously in the delightful theatricality of Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (1670) and Le Malade imaginaire (1673). In his preface to the play, published in 1662, Molière explains how his own comedy and Beauchamp's ballet came to be combined: 'comme il n'y avait qu'un petit nombre choisi de danseurs excellents, on fut contraint de séparer les entrées de ce ballet, et l'avis fut de les jeter dans les entractes de la comédie […] on s'avisa de les coudre au sujet du mieux que l'on put'. At the same time, his production of Les Fâcheux propelled Molière into the world of court entertainment. Although Foucquet was imprisoned nineteen days after the premiere of Les Fâcheux, Molière and his troupe were immediately invited to give two performances of the work (complete with an additional scene suggested by the king) at Louis XIV's palace in Fontainebleau. Molière's dedication to the king in the printed edition of the play demonstrates his desire to pursue this association with Louis XIV and his court. He writes of how the king has inspired him better [End Page 393] than Apollo and all the Muses and politely invites Louis XIV to continue to support his work in the future. Most importantly, Molière makes a case for the political importance of theatrical entertainment, writing 'je crois qu'en quelque façon ce n'est pas être inutile à la France que de contribuer quelque chose au divertissement de son roi'. Serroy reproduces here the original published text of 1662 (with variants from the 1682 Œuvres complètes). His preface stresses the original court context of the work and reminds us of the thin line that separated Molière's fiction from Foucquet's fanciful reality (in both, most of the action took place in an avenue in a park). Serroy draws some worthwhile parallels between Les Fâcheux and other better-known works by Molière, noting, for instance, that the meta-theatrical allusions of the first scene of the play will be developed further in La Critique de l'École des femmes (1663) and L'Impromptu de Versailles (1663). At the back of the volume, Serroy provides a useful 'dossier', which includes a detailed chronology of Molière's life and career, a section on sources of the play and its structure, a brief performance history over the centuries and a bibliography, as well as notes on the text and a plot summary act by act. Overall this is a useful edition of a somewhat neglected work.

Julia Prest
Yale University

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