Marivaux, Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de

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Marivaux, Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de (1688-1763): French Playwright.

Few comic playwrights have ever met with the success attained by Pierre de Marivaux. Born in Paris on 4 February 1688, he grew up in provincial Riom where his father served as comptroller. After studying law, Marivaux took up journalism as a career. Bankrupt and widowed by age 32, he resolved to write for the theater.

Among his most popular comedies, many still performed today, were Arlequin poli par l’amour (Harlequin Polished by Love, 1720), La Double Inconstance (Double Infidelity, 1723), L’Ile des esclaves (Island of Slaves, 1725), Le Jeu de l’amour et du hasard (The Game of Love and Chance, 1730), and Les Fausses Confidences (False Confessions, 1737). Several of these involve servants changing places with their masters, a theme with a surreptitiously revolutionary undercurrent. Most of Marivaux’s key characters are duplicitous rascals and coquettes for whom love is a game. So influential was his writing that his characters’ typically witty, airy, precious style of banter came to be known as marivaudage.

After his plays finally went out of fashion, Marivaux wrote an important essay on Corneille and Racine, sided with the moderns in the Quarrel Between the Ancients and the Moderns, penned two unfinished novels of great repute, La Vie de Marianne (The Life of Marianne, 1731-41) and Le Paysan parvenu (The Fortunate Peasant, 1735), and gained election to the French Academy in 1742. After a five-year illness, he died in Paris on 12 February 1763.

Further Reading:

Oscar A. Haac, Marivaux, 1974.

Kenneth T. Rivers

Lamar University