Famous French Playwrights

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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.
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 1 
Victor Hugo
(French Writer of the Romantic Movement Best Known for His Novel 'Les Misérables' and Play 'Ruy Blas')
Victor Hugo
9
Birthdate: February 26, 1802
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Besançon, Doubs, 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.

 2 
Albert Camus
(Philosopher & Novelist)
Albert Camus
6
Birthdate: November 7, 1913
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Drean, Algeria
Died: January 4, 1960

Albert Camus was a French philosopher and the second-youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. His philosophical views contributed to the rise of absurdism, a philosophical concept. Also a prolific writer, Albert Camus had an illustrious literary career; most of his philosophical essays and novels are still influential.

 3 
Jean-Paul Sartre
(Novelist, Playwright, & Philosopher)
Jean-Paul Sartre
6
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.

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 4 
Jules Verne
(French Author Who Was One of the Pioneers of the Modern Science Fiction Genre)
Jules Verne
8
Birthdate: February 8, 1828
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Nantes, France
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.
 5 
Emile Zola
(French Novelist & Playwright Known for His Works 'Les Rougon-Macquart' and 'Thérèse Raquin')
Emile Zola
7
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.

 6 
Jean Cocteau
(French Author and Artist Who Was One of the Foremost Creatives of the 'Surrealist', 'Avant-Garde', and 'Dadaist' Movements.)
Jean Cocteau
5
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.
 7 
Honoré de Balzac
(French Novelist and Playwright Known for His Magnum Opus 'La Comédie humaine')
Honoré de Balzac
4
Birthdate: May 20, 1799
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tours, France
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.

 8 
Eugène Ionesco
(Romanian-French Playwright and Leading Figure of the 'French Avant-Garde Theatre')
Eugène Ionesco
3
Birthdate: November 26, 1909
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Slatina, Romania Slatina, Romania
Died: March 28, 1994

Eugene Ionesco was a Romanian-French playwright and one of the 20th century's leading figures of the French avant-garde theatre. He is best remembered for his play, The Bald Soprano, which played an important role in the development of the Theatre of the Absurd. Eugène Ionesco was the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Austrian State Prize for European Literature.

 9 
Cyrano de Bergerac
(Novelist and Playwright Known for His Play ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’)
Cyrano de Bergerac
4
Birthdate: March 6, 1619
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
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.
 10 
Jean Racine
(Dramatist)
Jean Racine
3
Birthdate: December 22, 1639
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: La Ferté-Milon, Kingdom of France
Died: April 21, 1699
 11 
Antonin Artaud
(French Writer, Theatre Director and One of the Major Figures of the European Avant-Garde)
Antonin Artaud
4
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.  

 12 
Olympe de Gouges
(French Playwright, Political Activist, and Advocate for Women's Rights)
Olympe de Gouges
5
Birthdate: May 7, 1748
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Montauban, France
Died: November 3, 1793

Olympe de Gouges was an 18th-century French playwright and political activist. Her writings on women's rights and abolitionism were popular in various countries. She was an outspoken advocate against the slave trade in the French colonies. She demanded that French women be given the same rights as French men. She was executed during the Reign of Terror.

 13 
Jean Genet
(Writer Known for His Novels 'The Thief's Journal' & 'Our Lady of The Flowers')
Jean Genet
4
Birthdate: December 19, 1910
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 14, 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.

 14 
Pierre Beaumarchais
(French Polymath and One of the Greatest Playwrights of 18th-Century France)
Pierre Beaumarchais
3
Birthdate: January 24, 1732
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 18, 1799

Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was a French polymath who had worked as a watchmaker, playwright, musician, financier, and diplomat. He was also an inventor and revolutionary. He was much respected in French society and held influence in the court of King Louis XV. He supported American independence and actively participated in the early stages of the 1789 French Revolution. 

 15 
Alexandre Dumas, fils
3
Birthdate: July 27, 1824
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 27, 1895
 16 
Tristan Tzara
(French Writer Known for Being One of the Founders and Central Figures of the Anti-Establishment 'Dada Movement')
Tristan Tzara
3
Birthdate: April 28, 1896
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Moinești, Romania
Died: December 25, 1963

Tristan Tzara was a Romanian-born French avant-garde performance artist, poet, and essayist. A multi-talented personality, Tzara was also active as a playwright, journalist, art and literary critic, film director, and composer. Tristan Tzara is best remembered for co-founding the anti-establishment Dada movement, which he helped popularize. He is also credited with co-founding the Romanian literary and art magazine Simbolul.   

 17 
Françoise Sagan
(Playwright)
Françoise Sagan
4
Birthdate: June 21, 1935
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cajarc, France
Died: September 24, 2004
 18 
Florian Zeller
(Novelist)
Florian Zeller
4
Birthdate: June 28, 1979
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris, France
 19 
Marguerite Duras
(Former novelist, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, and experimental filmmaker)
Marguerite Duras
5
Birthdate: April 4, 1914
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Vietnam
Died: March 3, 1996
 20 
Pierre Corneille
(Tragedian)
Pierre Corneille
4
Birthdate: June 6, 1606
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Rouen, France
Died: October 1, 1684

Born into a family of lawyers, Pierre Corneille, too, initially studied law. However, both he and his younger brother, noted playwright Thomas Corneille, deviated from their family profession. Part of the Society of Five Authors, selected by Cardinal de Richelieu, Corneille later grew into one of the greatest 17th-century tragedians.

 21 
Alfred de Musset
(French Writer Best Known for His Autobiographical Novel ‘The Confession of a Child of the Century’)
Alfred de Musset
4
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.

 22 
Marcel Pagnol
(Novelist)
Marcel Pagnol
4
Birthdate: February 28, 1895
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Aubagne, France
Died: April 18, 1974
 23 
Yasmina Reza
(Playwright)
Yasmina Reza
4
Birthdate: May 1, 1959
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
 24 
Gao Xingjian
(Chinese-born French Naturalized Playwright and Novelist Who Won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2000)
Gao Xingjian
3
Birthdate: January 4, 1940
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Ganzhou, China

Gao Xingjian is a Chinese-born émigré and French naturalized playwright, novelist, critic, photographer, film director, translator, and painter. He is best known for winning the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature in 2000. Gao Xingjian has also received other major awards, including the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement. 

 25 
Jean Anouilh
(Dramatist)
Jean Anouilh
3
Birthdate: June 23, 1910
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bordeaux, France
Died: October 3, 1987
 26 
Romain Rolland
(French Playwright, Essayist and Novelist Who Won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915)
Romain Rolland
3
Birthdate: January 29, 1866
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clamecy, France
Died: December 30, 1944

Romain Rolland was a French novelist, essayist, dramatist, mystic, and art historian. In 1915, Rolland was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature. One of the most important supporters of Josef Stalin, Rolland is also remembered for his significant influence on Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud.

 27 
Paul Claudel
(Playwright, Poet, Diplomat, Writer, Diarist, Poet lawyer, Translator)
Paul Claudel
3
Birthdate: August 6, 1868
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Villeneuve-sur-Fère
Died: February 23, 1955

Born into a family of farmers, Paul Claudel grew up to join the foreign service of France, thus serving in places such as the US, China, and South America. While he traveled the world as a French ambassador to French ambassador, he also enriched French literature with his poems, essays, and plays.

 28 
François-Marie Banier
3
Birthdate: June 27, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris, France

François-Marie Banier is a French playwright, novelist, photographer, artist, and actor. Renowned for his photographs of public figures and celebrities, Banier is also known for his wide circle of friends and acquaintances with members of high society. In 2016, François-Marie Banier became entangled in a prominent legal case in which he was convicted of exploiting elderly billionaire Liliane Bettencourt.

 29 
Guillaume Apollinaire
(Known for His Poems Without Punctuation)
Guillaume Apollinaire
1
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.

 30 
Gabriel Marcel
(Playwright, Philosopher, Writer, University teacher, Literary critic, Musician, Music critic)
Gabriel Marcel
3
Birthdate: December 7, 1889
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris
Died: October 8, 1973
 31 
François Mauriac
3
Birthdate: October 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bordeaux, France
Died: September 1, 1970
 32 
Edmond Rostand
(Former poet and dramatist associated with neo-romanticism, became best-known for his 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac)
Edmond Rostand
4
Birthdate: April 1, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Marseille, France
Died: December 2, 1918
 33 
Maryse Condé
(Novelist)
Maryse Condé
3
Birthdate: February 11, 1937
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe
 34 
Alfred Jarry
(Playwright, Writer, Poet, Novelist)
Alfred Jarry
4
Birthdate: September 8, 1873
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Laval
Died: November 1, 1907
 35 
Philippe de Rothschild
(Winegrower, Screenwriter, Socialite, Racecar driver)
Philippe de Rothschild
3
Birthdate: April 13, 1902
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Tangier
Died: January 20, 1988
Margaret of Valois-Angouleme
3
Birthdate: April 11, 1492
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Angoulême, France
Died: December 21, 1549

Margaret of Valois-Angouleme, the wife of Henry II of Navarre, was a significant figure of the French Renaissance, and is also regarded as The First Modern Woman. She patronized artists and was herself an author, with several short stories and a religious poem to her credit.

 37 
Alfred de Vigny
(French Poet and Early French Romanticist)
Alfred de Vigny
3
Birthdate: March 27, 1797
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Loches, France
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.

 38 
Auguste Maquet
3
Birthdate: September 13, 1813
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: January 8, 1888
 39 
Octave Mirbeau
(Novelist)
Octave Mirbeau
2
Birthdate: February 16, 1848
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Trévières, France
Died: February 16, 1917
 40 
Jean Giraudoux
(Novelist)
Jean Giraudoux
2
Birthdate: October 29, 1882
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Bellac, France
Died: January 31, 1944
 41 
Georges Feydeau
(Playwright)
Georges Feydeau
2
Birthdate: December 8, 1862
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: June 5, 1921
 42 
Pierre de Marivaux
2
Birthdate: February 4, 1688
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: February 12, 1763
 43 
Victorien Sardou
(Dramatist)
Victorien Sardou
2
Birthdate: September 5, 1831
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 8, 1908
 44 
Raymond Roussel
2
Birthdate: January 20, 1877
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: July 14, 1933
 45 
Roland Topor
(Illustrator)
Roland Topor
3
Birthdate: January 7, 1938
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 16, 1997
 46 
Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt
(Playwright, Short Story Writer, Novelist and Film Director)
Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt
0
Birthdate: March 28, 1960
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, France

French-Belgian playwright and author Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt was born to physical education teachers but surprisingly developed a passion for theater instead of sports. He began his career as a philosophy teacher. His notable works include Oscar and the Lady in Pink and the Molière Award-winning Le Visiteur.

 47 
Jules Renard
(Author and member of the Académie Goncourt)
Jules Renard
2
Birthdate: February 22, 1864
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Châlons-du-Maine, Mayenne, France
Died: May 22, 1910
 48 
Madeleine de Scudéry
2
Birthdate: November 15, 1607
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Le Havre, France
Died: June 2, 1701
 49 
Alexis Michalik
2
Birthdate: December 13, 1982
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
 50 
Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois
(French Actor, Dramatist, Essayist, and Revolutionary.)
Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois
2
Birthdate: June 19, 1749
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: June 8, 1796

Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois was a French actor, essayist, dramatist, and revolutionary. He played an important role during the Reign of Terror, serving as one of the most important members of the Committee of Public Safety. Although he is credited with saving Madame Tussaud from the Guillotine, Collot d'Herbois oversaw the execution of over 2,000 people in Lyon.