The father of French tragedy, Pierre Corneille, was born on June 6, 1606. He is listed with Racine and Moliere as one of the greatest seventeenth century playwrights. Corneille unsuccessfully studied law until his father secured a magisterial post for him with the department of Forests and Rivers. He wrote his first play while employed with this department. He turned this work, Melite, over to a group of traveling actors in 1629 and it quickly became a part of stage acts. Melite reflected the elevated language and manners of Parisian society. Corneille went on to write his tragedy Medee in 1635.
Corneille was selected to write versus for Cardinal Richeliu's visit. He was noticed by the Cardinal and selected to be in the society of five authors. These authors were to write a vision of a new type of drama emphasizing virtues. Richeliue presented ideas the writers would express it in dramatic form. Corneille had a very difficult time accepting Richelieu's' demands and Corneille left the society. In 1936 Corneille wrote El Cid base on the legend of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar or El Cid Campeador a military figure in Medieval Spain. History has proven that El Cid is Corneille's greatest work but El Cid was accused of being immoral and disobeying the strictures of a tragedy. Additionally El Cid was claimed to be plagiarized.
Corneille continued to write tragedies and by the mid 1640 his collect ion of plays was distributed. He married Marie de Lamperiere and they had seven children. During this time La Mort de Pompee, Rodogune, Theordore, and Heraclius were written.
In 1652 Corneille decided to quite writing for the theater and began to focus on translating the Initiation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. He returned to stage writing in 1659 and wrote Oedipus. He also produced Three Discourses on Dramatic Poetry which were defenses of his writing style. Corneille's final play was Surena (1675). He retired from the stage and died in Paris on October 1, 1684.