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       Jean-Baptiste Poquelin



It is unknown how the great French dramatist Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622–1673) acquired his new name Molière. We do know that he must have first used it in 1643 or 1644, for it is found in a document dated June 28, 1644. It at least has a much more theatrical ring than ‘Poquelin’, which to a Frenchman suggests either ‘poquet’ [seed-hole], or ‘poquer [a verb meaning ‘to throw one’s ball in the game of ‘boules’ in such a way that it stops still where it stands’]. As for the name Molière, it did in fact also belong to a second-rank writer who died in the same year that Jean-Baptiste was born. But the commonly held theory is that he derived it, not from his lesser co-dramatist, but from a place of his name – or something like his name – that was visited by the touring company to which young Poquelin belonged. (There were several villages named Molières, for example, and at least one called Molères.)

Room, A. (1981), ‘Name Stories’, Naming Names, p.123

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