Moliere combined all the traditional elements of comedy - wit, slapstick, spectacle and satire - to create richly sophisticated and enduringly popular dramas. The Miser is the story of Harpagon, a mean-spirited old man who becomes obsessed with making money out of the marriage of his children, while The Hypochondriac, another study in obsession, is a brilliant satire on the medical profession. The School for Wives, in which an ageing domestic tyrant is foiled in his plans to marry his young ward, provoked such an outcry that Moliere followed it with The School for Wives Criticized - a witty retort to those who disapproved of the play's supposed immorality. And while Don Juan is the darkest and most tragic of all the plays in this collection, it still mocks the soullessness of the skinflint with scathing irony.
Moliere was born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin in Paris in 1622. He began studying law but gave it up in favour of an acting career. A gifted actor, director and writer, he is remembered as the creator of French classical comedy. He died in 1673 aftera performance of The Hypochondriac. John Wood was involved with theatrical productions of Moliere as a producer and translator. David Coward is a Professor of French at the University of Leeds. He has translated many French novels and plays.