Famous French Playwrights

France has been the breeding ground of the world’s greatest literary figures and intellectuals. The country has produced some of the finest works and often served as the initiator of new trends in European literature. Interestingly, it is these trends that have passed on to the world, thus becoming a global trend in literature. While French novels and short stories are widely read and translated, French drama has been equivocally appreciated for the finesse that they possess. Tracing it roots way back to the 12th century, French theatre has a come a pretty long way since its Middle Age and Renaissance days. With its eventful history and glorious past, much of the opulence and magnificence that the theatre of France today enjoys is due to the work of proficiently talented French playwrights. And if you don’t believe us, check this. France has been the address of some of the world’s greatest playwrights like Alexander Dumas, Charles Riviere Dufresny, Emile Augier, Eugène Brieux, Victorien Sardou, Thomas Corneille, Alfred Jarry, Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Antonin Artaud and so on. A key trademark of their work is an intense plot that is embroidered by a tight yet crisp story and dramatic dialogues. With this segment, explore the life and works of some of the greatest French playwrights.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Voltaire

Voltaire.
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 21, 1694
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 30, 1778
18th-century historian, author, philosopher, and advocate of freedom of speech Voltaire was a leading figure of the French Age of Enlightenment. He often ran into trouble for his criticism of the French nobility and the Roman Catholic Church. He once went to Britain on voluntary exile, fearing imprisonment in France.

 2 Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo.
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Famous As: Novelist & Poet
Birthdate: February 26, 1802
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Besançon, France
Died: May 22, 1885

Victor Hugo was a French poet, dramatist, and novelist of the Romantic movement. Regarded as one of the best-known and greatest French writers of all time, Victor Hugo wrote abundantly during his career that spanned over six decades. Thanks to his works, such as Hernani and Cromwell, Victor Hugo was one of the leading figures of the Romantic literary movement.

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 3 Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre.
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Famous As: Philosopher, Novelist
Birthdate: June 21, 1905
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 15, 1980

Jean-Paul Sartre was a French philosopher, writer, literary critic, and political activist. One of the most important personalities in the philosophy of phenomenology and existentialism, Sartre played a crucial role in 20th-century French philosophy. His work continues to influence literary studies, post-colonial theory, sociology, and critical theory. He was honored with the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature.

 4 Emile Zola

Emile Zola.
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Famous As: Novelist, Playwright
Birthdate: April 2, 1840
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 29, 1902

Emile Zola was a French novelist, journalist, and playwright. He played a key role in the development of theatrical naturalism and was a well-known practitioner of the literary school of naturalism. He was also a political journalist and was influential in the political liberalization of France. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature twice.

 5 Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas.
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Birthdate: July 24, 1802
Sun Sign: Leo
Died: December 5, 1870

One of the most widely read French authors of all time, Alexandre Dumas was prolific in several genres. He joined the army as a young man and later became a full-time writer. Starting his writing career as a playwright, he moved on to writing novels. His novels have been adapted into nearly 200 films in the past century.

 6 Jules Verne

Jules Verne.
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 8, 1828
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Nantes
Died: March 24, 1905
French author Jules Verne, also known as the “Father of Science Fiction,” is best remembered for his legendary adventure novels Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in Eighty Days, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. He also became the world’s second most-translated writer since 1979.

 7 Moliere

Moliere.
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Famous As: Playwright, Actor and Stage Manager
Birthdate: January 15, 1622
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: February 17, 1673

Moliere was a French poet, playwright, and actor. Considered one of the greatest French-language writers of all time, Moliere's plays are often performed at the Comédie-Française and have been translated into several languages. Moliere had a huge impact on the French language and is widely regarded as the creator of modern French comedy.

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 8 Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau.
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Famous As: Novelist, Poet, Artist & Filmmaker
Birthdate: July 5, 1889
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Maisons-Laffitte, France
Died: October 11, 1963
While Jean Cocteau preferred calling himself a poet, his multidimensional works consisted of novels such as Les Enfants Terribles and films directed by him such as La Belle et la Bête. Cocteau relied on motifs such as eyes, blood, and mirrors, and mingled mythology and modernism.

 9 Honoré de Balzac

Honoré de Balzac.
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Famous As: French Novelist and Playwright
Birthdate: May 20, 1799
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tours
Died: August 18, 1850

Honoré de Balzac was a French playwright and novelist. Since his works gave a detailed, unfiltered representation of society, Honoré de Balzac is generally considered one of the founders of realism and an important figure in European literature. Renowned for creating multi-faceted characters, Balzac influenced several popular writers like Charles John Huffam Dickens, Émile Zola, Henry James, and Gustave Flaubert.

 10 Eugene Ionesco

Eugene Ionesco
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Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: November 26, 1909
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Slatina
Died: March 28, 1994

 11 Denis Diderot

Denis Diderot.
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 5, 1713
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Langres, France
Died: July 31, 1784

Denis Diderot revolutionized the Age of Enlightenment as the co-founder of Encyclopédie, which was banned for questioning religion. He had flirted with the idea of joining the theater and becoming a priest, and even studied law, but later devoted himself to languages, literature, and philosophy.

 12 Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert.
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Famous As: Novelist, Writer
Birthdate: December 12, 1821
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rouen
Died: May 8, 1880

Gustave Flaubert was a French novelist best remembered for his first novel Madame Bovary, which was later adapted into an opera. One of the most influential French novelists of all time, Flaubert is widely regarded as the main exponent of literary realism in France. His work inspired his protégé and short story writer Guy de Maupassant, who later achieved much acclaim.

 13 Jean Racine

Jean Racine
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Famous As: Dramatist
Birthdate: December 22, 1639
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: La Ferté-Milon, France
Died: April 21, 1699

 14 Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac.
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Famous As: Dramatist and Playwright
Birthdate: March 6, 1619
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris
Died: July 28, 1655
Seventeenth-century author and duelist Cyrano de Bergerac was immortalized by Edmond Rostand’s drama Cyrano de Bergerac, based on Bergerac’s life, with its mix of myth and reality. Even Bergerac's death is shrouded in mystery, with some claiming he died of an injury and others believing he died of a disease.

 15 Antonin Artaud

Antonin Artaud.
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Famous As: Dramatist, Poet, Essayist, Actor, & Theatre Director
Birthdate: September 4, 1896
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Marseille, France
Died: March 4, 1948

Antonin Artaud was a French writer, poet, dramatist, and theater director. Known for his raw, surreal, and transgressive themes, he was a major figure in 20th-century theater. He outlined his theories in the Theatre of Cruelty movement, expressed in the form of essays and plays. He died of cancer at the age of 51.  

 16 Jean Genet

Jean Genet.
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 19, 1910
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 15, 1986

Jean Genet was a French playwright, novelist, essayist, poet, and political activist. Genet is best remembered for his transformation into a writer and playwright after spending his early life as a petty criminal and vagabond. His best-known works include novels, such as Our Lady of the Flowers and The Thief's Journal.

 17 Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais

Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
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Famous As: Polymath
Birthdate: January 24, 1732
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 18, 1799

 18 Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 26, 1880
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: November 9, 1918

French poet Guillaume Apollinaire was a significant figure of the avant-garde movement. It is believed he had coined the terms Cubism, Surrealism, and Orphism. Known for his iconic poem Chanson du mal-aimé, written after being rejected by a lover, he also developed the typography-based concrete poetry in the collection Calligrammes.

 19 Marguerite Duras

Marguerite Duras
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Famous As: Writer, Film director, Screenwriter, Publisher, Novelist, Playwright, Autobiographer, Journalist, Poet lawyer, Feminist
Birthdate: April 4, 1914
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ho Chi Minh City
Died: March 3, 1996

 20 Yasmina Reza

Yasmina Reza
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Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: May 1, 1959
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France

 21 Tristan Tzara

Tristan Tzara
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Famous As: Art collector, Poet, Writer, Diplomat, Film director, Translator, Playwright, Essayist, Composer, Musician, Performance artist, Literary critic
Birthdate: April 16, 1896
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Moineşti
Died: December 25, 1963

 22 Romain Rolland

Romain Rolland
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Famous As: Writer, Playwright, Essayist, Historian, Novelist, Musicologist
Birthdate: January 29, 1866
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clamecy, Nièvre
Died: December 30, 1944

 23 Alexandre Dumas, fils

Alexandre Dumas, fils
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: July 27, 1824
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 27, 1895

 24 Françoise Sagan

Françoise Sagan
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Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: June 21, 1935
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cajarc, France
Died: September 24, 2004

 25 Alphonse Daudet

Alphonse Daudet.
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Famous As: Novelist, Short story writer, playwright, poet
Birthdate: May 13, 1840
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nîmes, France
Died: December 16, 1897

Alphonse Daudet was a French novelist whose books are still widely read in France. He often collaborated with his wife Julia Daudet, a famous writer, poet, and journalist. Today, several schools and colleges in France are named in his honor.

 26 Marcel Pagnol

Marcel Pagnol
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 28, 1895
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Aubagne, France
Died: April 18, 1974

 27 Alfred Jarry

Alfred Jarry
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Famous As: Playwright, Writer, Poet, Novelist
Birthdate: September 8, 1873
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Laval
Died: November 1, 1907

 28 Alfred de Musset

Alfred de Musset.
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Famous As: Dramatist, Poet, Novelist
Birthdate: December 11, 1810
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 2, 1857

French playwright and author Alfred de Musset is best remembered for his autobiographical The Confession of a Child of the Century. Though he was supposedly part of the Romantic movement, many of his works satirized the movement. He stopped allowing his plays to be staged after The Venetian Night flopped.

 29 Edmond Rostand

Edmond Rostand
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Famous As: Playwright, Writer, Poet, Essayist, Screenwriter
Birthdate: April 1, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Marseille
Died: December 2, 1918

 30 Philippe de Rothschild

Philippe de Rothschild
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Famous As: Winegrower, Screenwriter, Socialite, Racecar driver
Birthdate: April 13, 1902
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Tangier
Died: January 20, 1988

 31 Florian Zeller

Florian Zeller
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 28, 1979
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris, France

 32 Gabriel Marcel

Gabriel Marcel
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Famous As: Playwright, Philosopher, Writer, University teacher, Literary critic, Musician, Music critic
Birthdate: December 7, 1889
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris
Died: October 8, 1973

 33 Jean Anouilh

Jean Anouilh
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Famous As: Dramatist
Birthdate: June 23, 1910
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bordeaux, France
Died: October 3, 1987

 34 Prosper Mérimée

Prosper Mérimée
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Famous As: Anthropologist, Archaeologist, Historian, Translator, Politician, Writer, Novelist, Painter, Playwright
Birthdate: September 28, 1803
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris
Died: September 23, 1870

 35 François Mauriac

François Mauriac
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bordeaux, France
Died: September 1, 1970

 36 Paul Claudel

Paul Claudel
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Famous As: Playwright, Poet, Diplomat, Writer, Diarist, Poet lawyer, Translator
Birthdate: August 6, 1868
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Villeneuve-sur-Fère
Died: February 23, 1955

 37 François-Marie Banier

François-Marie Banier
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 27, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris, France

 38 Margaret of Valois-Angouleme

Margaret of Valois-Angouleme
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: April 11, 1492
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Angoulême, France
Died: December 21, 1549

 39 Raymond Queneau

Raymond Queneau
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Famous As: Poet, Playwright, Novelist, Writer, Screenwriter, Mathematician
Birthdate: February 21, 1903
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Le Havre
Died: October 25, 1976

 40 Sacha Guitry

Sacha Guitry
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Famous As: Screenwriter, Actor, Playwright, Film director, Theatre director, Librettist
Birthdate: February 21, 1885
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg
Died: July 24, 1957

 41 Maryse Condé

Maryse Condé
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 11, 1937
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe

 42 Roland Topor

Roland Topor
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Famous As: Illustrator
Birthdate: January 7, 1938
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 16, 1997

 43 Alfred de Vigny

Alfred de Vigny.
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Famous As: Poet, Playwright, Novelist
Birthdate: March 27, 1797
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Loches
Died: September 17, 1863

Alfred de Vigny was a French poet whose poem La Maison du berger is regarded by some as the greatest 19th-century French poem. One of the leaders of French Romanticism, Vigny also wrote philosophical novels. Also regarded as a thinker, Alfred de Vigny was one of the first French poets to develop a serious interest in Buddhism.

 44 Auguste Maquet

Auguste Maquet
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 13, 1813
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: January 8, 1888

 45 Georges Feydeau

Georges Feydeau
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Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: December 8, 1862
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: June 5, 1921

 46 Pierre de Marivaux

Pierre de Marivaux
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 4, 1688
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: February 12, 1763

 47 Raymond Roussel

Raymond Roussel
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: January 20, 1877
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: July 14, 1933

 48 Octave Mirbeau

Octave Mirbeau
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 16, 1848
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Trévières, France
Died: February 16, 1917

 49 Jean Giraudoux

Jean Giraudoux
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 29, 1882
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Bellac, France
Died: January 31, 1944

 50 Fernando Arrabal

Fernando Arrabal
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Famous As: Screenwriter, Film director, Actor, Playwright, Poet, Artist, Novelist, Writer
Birthdate: August 11, 1932
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Melilla

Spanish-born French author and playwright Fernando Arrabal is best known for his absurdist plays. While he initially studied law, he later switched to drama. He has written and directed films such as Viva la Muerte, and his characters are often murderers or prostitutes amid cruel and pornographic themes.