The French dramatist Moliere was born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin on January 15, 1622, in Paris. The son of a wealthy tapestry merchant, he had a penchant for the theater from childhood. In 1636, he was sent off to school at the Jesuit College of Claremont and in 1643, he embarked upon a 13-year career touring in provincial theater as a troupe member of Illustre Theatre, a group established by the family Bejarts. He married a daughter of the troupe, Armande Bejart, in 1662 and changed his name to Moliere. The French King Louis XIV, becoming entranced with the troupe after seeing a performance of The Would-Be Gentleman, lent his support and charged Moliere with the production of comedy ballets in which he often used real-life human qualities as backdrops rather than settings from church or state. Soon, Moliere secured a position at the Palais-Royal and committed himself to the comic theater as a dramatist, actor, producer, and director. Moliere is considered to be one of the preeminent French dramatists and writers of comedies; his work continues to delight audiences today. With L'Ecole des Femmes (The School for Wives) Moliere broke with the farce tradition, and the play, about the role played by women in society and their preparation for it, is regarded by many as the first great seriocomic work of French literature. In Tartuffe (1664), Moliere invented one of his famous comic types, that of a religious hypocrite, a character so realistic that the king forbade public performance of the play for five years. Moliere gave psychological depth to his characters, engaging them in facial antics and slapstick comedy, but with an underlying pathos. Jean Baptiste Moliere died in 1673.
When Richard Wilbur's Things of This World (1956) won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award the same year, the N.Y. Times commented editorially: "A seemingly effortless craftsman, Mr. Wilbur reveals a fine lyrical gift, a searching wit and, in his translations, a sympathetic kinship to the works of others." Wilbur was born in New York City and educated at Amherst College and Harvard University. During the late 1950s he taught at Wesleyan University. He has also been on the English faculty at Harvard and Wellesley College, and he is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. With Lillian Hellman he wrote the libretto for the opera Candide. He also is one of the premier translators of his generation. He has translated Moliere's Tartuffe and Misanthrope and many poems of Andrei Voznesensky and others. Co-recipient of the Bollingen Translation Prize in 1963, he was made the second Poet Laureate of the United States in 1987.