Pierre Corneille Biography

Pierre Corneille, one of France’s greatest dramatists of the seventeenth century, defied classical theories of drama and paved a new path for French tragedy. Despite being born into a family of lawyers, Corneille followed his passion for plays and quickly gained recognition for his innovative writing style. His talent as a poet also caught the attention of a Cardinal, but Corneille ultimately chose to follow his own instincts and became one of the most exceptional and famous playwrights in French history. His unique approach to French tragedy created a new trend in the genre.

Quick Facts

  • French Celebrities Born In June Died At Age: 78
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Marie de Lampérière
    • Father: Pierre Corneille
    • Mother: Marthe le Pesant de Boisguilbert
    • Siblings: Thomas Corneille
  • Born Country: France
  • Quotes By Pierre Corneille
  • Playwrights
  • Died on: October 1, 1684
  • Place of death: Paris, France
  • City: Rouen, France

Childhood & Early Life

Pierre Corneille was born on 6th June, 1606, in Rouen, France. His father, Pierre Corneille, was a reputed lawyer, and he had a sibling named Thomas Corneille who also became a playwright. Pierre received his education at the ‘Collège de Bourbon’, which later became known as ‘Lycée Pierre-Corneille’.


At the age of eighteen, Pierre started pursuing law but did not find much success in the profession. His father arranged a job for him at the ‘Rouen department of Forests and Rivers’. While working there, he wrote his first play titled ‘Mélite’ and pitched it to a group of actors. The play was well-received and performed in Paris, earning Pierre recognition as a playwright.

Pierre decided to pen plays regularly and moved to Paris. His creativity gained immense fame, and he became one of the prominent playwrights in French stage. In 1634, he was commissioned to create verses for Cardinal Richelieu’s visit to Rouen and became a part of the ‘Les Cinq Auteurs’, a society of five poets. However, Pierre’s independent thinking led him to part ways with the group and pursue an independent journey as a playwright.

He initially focused on comedies but later shifted to tragedy. In 1635, he wrote his first tragedy titled ‘Médée’. In 1637, his play ‘Le Cid’ was staged and met with immense success, although it was criticized for defying classical rules of drama. The play was subject to scrutiny by the ‘Académie Française’, but despite its success, it faced controversy and denial from other playwrights and the academy.

Pierre faced these controversies and went back to Rouen, seeking a life of obscurity. He tried to rewrite ‘Le Cid’ multiple times to make it flawless. However, these controversies helped him focus more on the dramatic rules set by classical philosophers. In 1640, he made a comeback with the play ‘Horace’ and continued to produce plays prolifically.

In 1656, Pierre took a break from playwriting to translate ‘Imitation of Christ’ by Thomas à Kempis. He returned to the world of theatre in 1659 and wrote plays like ‘Oedipe’, ‘Trois Discours sur le poème dramatique’, and ‘La Toison d’or’. He continued to produce plays until 1674 when he composed his last play titled ‘Suréna’ and retired from the world of theatre.

Personal Life & Legacy

In 1641, Pierre married Marie de Lampérière, and they had seven children. Ten years after his retirement, Pierre passed away in 1684 and was cremated at the ‘Église Saint-Roch’ in Paris.

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