Georges Feydeau  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Georges Feydeau, (8 December 1862 - 5 June 1921) was a French playwright of the era known as La Belle Epoque. He was known for his many lively bedroom farces, and his plays of coincidences, slamming doors, and ridiculous dialogue delighted Paris in the 1890s and are now considered forerunners to the Theater of the Absurd.


Feydeau was born in Paris, the son of novelist Ernest-Aimé Feydeau and a Polish woman. At the age of twenty, Feydeau wrote his first comic monologue in earnest. He found his first success four years later with Tailleur pour dames (Ladies' Dressmaker, 1889). That same year Feydeau married Marianne Carolus-Duran, the daughter of the famous portrait painter Carolus-Duran. To Feydeau, the marriage brought wealth that would sustain him until he found greater success. The marriage lasted 15 years after which the couple underwent a judicial separation and were formally divorced in 1916.

Feydeau began a study of great farces in 1890, studying the works of Eugène Labiche, Henri Meilhac and Alfred Hennequin. This study brought him success with his play Champignol malgré lui (Champignol in Spite of Himself, 1892). Following this, Feydeau made a name for himself both in France and abroad, some of his plays opening overseas and in other languages before they opened in France.

These farces often involved Paris's demi-monde. The plays are noted for great wit and complex plots, featuring misunderstandings and coincidences, and what one critic called "jack-in-the-box construction".

Among his 60 plays are his famous Une puce à l'oreille (A Flea In Her Ear, 1907), La Dame de Chez Maxim (The Girl from Maxim's, 1899), and Hortense a dit: "J'm'en fous!" (Hortense says, "I don't give a damn!", 1916). Other notable Feydeau farces are L'Hôtel du libre échange (translated as Hotel Paradiso, 1894) and Le Dindon (Sauce for the Goose, 1896).

Though critics at the time dismissed Feydeau's works as light entertainment, he is now recognized as one of the great French playwrights of his era. Some have even gone so far as to refer to him as the "Bach of his form." His plays are seen today as precursors to Surrealist and Dada theatre, and the Theatre of the Absurd. His plays have been continuously revived and are still widely performed today.

Despite being a phenomenally successful playwright, his propensity for high living (he had a table permanently reserved for him at Maxim's ), gambling and the failure of his marriage were to lead to financial difficulties.

During the winter of 1918 Feydeau contracted syphilis and slowly descended into madness in the remaining years of his life.

He is buried in Cimetière de Montmartre, in Paris.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Georges Feydeau" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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