A would-be Turk: Louis XIV in le Bourgeois gentilhomme
Seventeenth-Century French Studies
90 - 101
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Despite the large number of references to diplomatic blunders by the French during Süleyman Aǧa's visit to Paris in 1669 and the charade-like character of much of Louis XIV's policies towards the Ottoman Empire during the period, few scholars have seen the humour in Le Bourgeois gentilhomme as directed towards the crown and court. In this article, I argue that Molière's comedy-ballet can be read as a pointed satire of how Hugues de Lionne, the foreign minister, and the king received the Ottoman envoy in their official audiences, and of French foreign policy with the Ottoman state itself. The mummery involved in Lionne's receiving Süleyman as the 'Grand Vizier' of France, and the king's pretence in expecting to be viewed as a crusading monarch while diligently pursuing commercial relations with the Porte, provided Molière with ample material for satirical development. The oriental trappings of the work, especially of the Turkish ceremony, might thus be considered as a means to mirror and criticize French governmental policies and behaviour rather than as a proto-colonialist attempt imaginatively to represent the Ottoman Turk. © The Society for Seventeenth-Century French Studies 2010.
KeywordsHugues de Lionne
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme