Molière most likely did write his own plays

November 27, 2019

Two French researchers from the CNRS and Ecole nationale des chartes disprove the theory according to which Corneille was Molière's ghostwriter - a popular and century-old theory, defended by some academics and writers. According to their forthcoming study in Science Advances, Molière would most likely be the only author of his numerous masterpieces.

Was Pierre Corneille Molière's ghostwriter? The idea dates back to 1919, when French poet and writer Pierre Louÿs wrote a now famous article, attributing Amphitryon and a few other plays signed by Molière to Corneille. This suspicion grew further, to encompass all of Molière's plays: how would it be possible that a poorly educated actor, managing his own theatre company, and valet of the king's chamber, could have written so many masterpieces? Molière would only have been the main protagonist of the plays. Their actual author, Pierre Corneille, would have benefited from his fame and talent, without exposing himself to controversies nor tarnishing his reputation as a serious author.

This theory was revived in the early 2000s by researchers in linguistics, stating that Corneille and Molière's styles were extremely close - which would mean that Corneille actually wrote Molière's works.

Florian Cafiero and Jean-Baptiste Camps, two researchers in computational linguistics from the CNRS and the École nationale des chartes, used "authorship attribution" techniques to disprove this theory. They rely on an extensive statistical analysis of writing habits and speech mannerism to identify the author of a text. Each individual writes using a specific proportion of words, expressions, or grammatical sequences. Even when someone tries to consciously imitate another style, some elements betray him, like function words ( "from", "then", "of"...), that we use without even thinking.

The reliability of these techniques is remarkable. They are used by historians to identify the author of a medieval text, or by an intelligence agency to understand who wrote an anonymous threat. Using these methods, the authors of this study read and analysed these texts for three years, comparing among other thing the rhymes, grammar, vocabulary, or function words present in texts by Molière, Pierre Corneille, Scarron, Rotrou or Thomas Corneille. In this study of an unprecedented scale, it appeared that from any point of view, the characteristics found in Molière's text were without a doubt significantly different from any other author of the time. Pierre Corneille's plays are very often the most different, Scarron's or Thomas Corneille's works being always closer to Molière's. It is thus very likely that Molière's masterpieces would not have been written by Corneille, nor by another author... but more simply, by himself.


Related Author Articles from Brightsurf:

Scientists author papers in Nature Astronomy chronicling legacy of Spitzer space telescope
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, decommissioned earlier this year, made important discoveries about comets, stars, exoplanets and distant galaxies, leaving a lasting legacy of solar system science.

Electric clothes dryers: An underestimated source of microfiber pollution
Electric clothes dryers (tumble dryers) may be a hitherto unsuspected source of microfibers, widely emitting fibers from laundry into the environment through their vents, according to an experimental study.

Elizabeth I identified as author of Tacitus translation
A new article in the Review of English Studies argues that a manuscript translation of Tacitus's Annales, completed in the late sixteenth century and preserved at Lambeth Palace Library, was done by Queen Elizabeth I.

Women scientists author fewer invited commentaries in medical journals than men
Women scientists were 21% less likely to author invited commentaries in medical journals during a five-year period than men with similar scientific expertise, seniority, and publication metrics.

Stephenson Cancer Center physician is senior author on major study
A gynecologic oncologist at the Stephenson Cancer Center at OU Medicine was a national leader of a newly published research study that reveals good news for women with ovarian cancer -- longer survival times plus a treatment option that causes fewer difficult side effects.

Texts like networks: How many words are sufficient to recognize the author?
We are more original than we think -- this is what is being suggested by literary text analysis carried out by a new method of stylometry proposed by scientists from the Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences.

Tweeting their own horn: Author self-promotion on Twitter increases research dissemination
Researchers from the University of Toronto presented a new study at CHEST Congress 2019 Thailand in Bangkok that aimed to determine the effect of authors' self-promotion on the social media site, Twitter, in regards to the dissemination of their research.

Ninety-six scientists co-author paper on rainforest mammals
The Atlantic Forest, the second most biodiverse forest system in South America (after the Amazon), once covered roughly 463,000 square miles of habitat.

Contribution statements and author order on research studies still leave readers guessing
Although many scientific journals try to provide more details about author contributions by requiring explicit statements, such contribution statements get much less attention than authorship order, according to new findings from a Georgia Tech-University of Passau team.

UTHealth's Wolinsky is senior author of paper on new therapy for primary MS
Positive results of an investigational medication study for primary progressive multiple sclerosis were published online in today's New England Journal of Medicine in a paper led by senior author Jerry Wolinsky, M.D., of McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Read More: Author News and Author Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to