Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Corneille, Pierre (1606-1684), one of the fathers of French drama, born at Rouen. His father, who was an advocate, and the Master of Woods and Forests, was ennobled in 1637, an honour which was confirmed to the son in 1669. After being educated by the Jesuits Corneille became an advocate at 18. His first play, Melite, was given to the world in 1629, to be followed in 1632 by the tragedy of Clitandre, and in 1633 by a comedy, La Veuve. In the next year appeared two other comedies, La Galerie du Paris and La Suivante. In 1634 he was chosen to write a Latin ode of welcome to Richelieu, who took him up, and made him one of the five poets whose work it was to polish up the Cardinal's literary work. Corneille soon displeased Richelieu, though he was afterwards restored to favour. In 1635 he produced Place Royale and Medee, and in 1636, l'Illusion Comique, and his masterpiece, The Cid. But the jealousy of his contemporary rivals drove him in disgust to Rouen, where he remained three years. In 1640 he published Horace, which he dedicated to Richelieu, who had taken him again into favour. He then married. His next piece was Cinna. In 1640 also appeared Polyeuete, and Le Menteur, which bears the same relation to French comedy as does Le Cid to tragedy. In 1647 he was elected to the Academy after being twice rejected. In 1653 he gave up writing for the stage, but six years later he wrote Edipe for Fouquet, a play which brought him to the notice of Louis XIV., and gained him a pension. From this time his pieces, except Psyche, in which Moliere collaborated, and into which Corneille put some of his best work, fell off in power, and he sank into what was almost poverty. His pride and reserve, increased by his poverty, prevented his succeeding like Racine, with whom he holds the balance as the first dramatist of France. But he was a man of warm affections, and was very fond of his brother, who was himself a prolific writer. His great fault was a childish jealousy which, however, did not degenerate into envy. Corneille, though his work is very unequal in merit, is considered the Shakespeare of France.