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Who is buried in Moliere’s tomb?

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Of course, the answer should be obvious. grave2It is a “trick question” much like the one American school children have asked for years: “Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?”, to which the obvious, but often overlooked answer is, “Grant” .

In the case of Moliere the the question is a double or even triple trick, for the obvious answer to the question should be: “Moliere”. However, this answer may not be true at all. No conclusive evidence can confirm that the remains of the famous French playwright are held in Paris’s Père Lachaise cemetery. Moliere’s grave may be at work to continue the farcical, ironic, and satirical spirit of Moliere to the thousands who look upon the tomb and lay a wreath on the resting place of bones extracted from some unfortunate victim of a still birth or suicide. Somewhere in the comic mist and muse the Playwright looks down with the thought, “He who laughs last, laughs best”.

 

Moliere has been the subject to controversy, heresy, and political obfuscation in death as in life.
Molière, the shape-shifter extraordinaire of the seventeenth century had become by the late eighteenth century an icon of tremendous political value, as has Camus in our own day. Politicians will always need writers more than writers need politicians, which may go a long way in explaining the motives of both members of revolutions and presidents of republics. And as for the whereabouts of the “august debris” of the illustrious playwright? Lodged quite nicely, thank you, in Paris’s Père Lachaise cemetery. At least for the time being.
Humanities

The “Humanities” article seems to speak with confidence that the “august debris” of Moliere lie beneath the concrete block, but with little reason. The death of Moliere and controversy of his funeral arrangements were riddled with scandal, confusion, and even riots in the streets.

The “august debris” of Moliere that were thought to be Moliere when the body was exhumed, stored, and carted about Paris after the French Revolution before being interred at Pere Lachaise, may have been some other bones all together.

 

The scandal raised by Moliere unburied was as nothing, however, compared with the scandal that grew upon is tomb. An obstinate tradition, supported by the memory of an aged sexton, affirms that Moliere was not buried, as the correspondent of the Abbe Boyvin affirmed “at the foot of the cross,” but a more remote portion of the cemetrary – in other words, in the portion reserved for suicides, stillbirths, ans other poor bodies who had lost or never found their souls”.
“Moliere” John Palmer 1970

The final scene

In the final scene of “House of Monkeys” the three monkeys search for the grave of Moliere:

Copyright 2012 by Dennis Kern – House of Monkeys

(Bells toll as the light of three lanterns appear in the dark. As the light fades up we see
the monkeys holding up the lanterns and searching the ground.)

Monkey 1

Where is the plot that ends this play?
Somewhere here where the still born lay?
(reading inscription)
Moliere, loses the effect of Baptism, it reads
He’s buried as a deviant for his deeds.

Monkey 2

Wait. Look here is another inscription.

(reading)
They’re off! and I have little expectation
To see them again. Despite all our efforts
For a long time, to all appearance
Terence and Plautus and Moliere died

Monkey 3

But which is true? How do we end?
People are waiting and now depend
On us to deliver an uplifting homily.
After all, this is a play of comedy.

Monkey 1

Do you not see it? Standing on the grave
We need but ask how he might behave.
His body is lost. It is the final riddle
We are here searching smack in the middle.

Monkey 2

Looking for a body of all things
While the missing Moliere sings,
His words of truth unmasking folly
In the end it is clear. He fooled us by golly

Monkey 3

Moliere will not be found in a grave
But in every laugh and giggle he gave
To people over the course of time
We end as we started. Now, join in the rhyme

Monkey 1, 2. & 3

HA HA – HO HO – HEE HEE
We are the monkeys three.
HA HA – HO HO – HEE HEE
We are the monkeys
We are the monkeys
We are the monkeys three!
Come out now. Come all
Here is the curtain call

(The cast begins to come on stage for the curtain call)

Monkey 2

All players come take a bow
For you part in the play ending now.

Monkey 1

Just as so many others have shared
The joy and laughter of one Moliere.

(After the Monkeys take a bow. They retreat to back stage and assume their places on the
column. As the curtain call ends the lights go down to reveal the column on the scrim as
in the beginning of the play. The sound of laughter that was heard at the beginning, is
heard once again echoing through the house as the audience leaves the theatre.)

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