Moliere went on with the management of his theater, and writing and bringing out new plays. One of them—“L’Ecole des Femmes”—was translated and amended into the English by Wycherly, and was altogether more licentious in plot than in the original language. It was very popular in England, but not so much so in France.
The next piece of Moliere’s was entitled “Impromptu de Versailles,” and was written at the command of the king. The king and his courtiers were accustomed to take parts in the ballets in those days, and Louis and his court took parts in the ballets of Moliere’s construction. The soldiers who guarded the king were accustomed to go into the theater free. They took up a large space, and Moliere represented his loss to the king, who abolished the privilege. The soldiers were very angry, and the next night they cut the door-keeper to pieces with their swords, and forced their way into the house. Moliere made them a speech, and peace was restored. The king offered to punish with severity the lawless soldiery, but Moliere requested him not to do so, and the new order was ever after obeyed without trouble.
One of his next acts was to hold up to ridicule, in a comedy, the medical faculty. The condition of the medical art at that time was such that it richly deserved ridicule. But no man can thus attack great bodies of men without making enemies, and Moliere had them without number.
The comedian was now at the height of his prosperity, and still he was unhappy. Separated from his wife, whose conduct was now shameful, he had no domestic happiness. He spent much of his time at his country-house at Antenil, where an apartment was always kept for his old school-fellow, Chapelle, for whom he always retained a warm affection. He was often alone, and preferred solitude, shutting himself away from society. A supper was once given by him to all his brother wits. He alone was indisposed, and as he took no wine or animal food, he went early to bed, leaving his friends merry over their wine. At last they grew so affected by the wine they had drank, that they were ready to follow a leader into any absurdity. Chapelle was, when tipsy, always melancholy, and on this occasion he addressed his companions in a strain of bathos which, had they been free from the effects of wine, would only have excited their laughter. But now they were in the same condition as himself. Chapelle finally wound up by proposing that they all proceed to a neighboring river, and end life together by plunging into it. He expiated upon the heroism of the act, and the immortality it would give them, and they all agreed to it. Moliere overheard them quitting the house, and suspecting something wrong, followed them. He came up with them upon the bank of the river, when they besought him also to die with them. He professed to be struck with the heroism of their plan, but demanded that it should be executed in the broad day. They fell in with his suggestion, and returned to the house. Of course, the next morning they were ashamed to look upon each other’s faces.