Comédie-Française, also known as House of Molière, is one of the very few state theatres in France, and the only one with its own troupe of actors. The theatre was established in the times of Louis XIV, and since then the names of nearly all the great actors and dramatists of France have, at some time in their career, been associated with this place.
Founded by Louis XIV, the Comédie-Française has an unbroken tradition reaching back to the times of Molière. Being three centuries old, the theatre managed to overcome various difficulties and today it has an impressive repertoire of 3000 works and three theatres in Paris.
The Comédie-Française was founded by a decree of Louis XIV on 24 August 1680 to merge the only two Parisian acting troupes of that time. Since its inception the Comédie-Française has had several homes. Its first residence was housed at the Hotel de Guénégaud. The Hôtel de Guénégaud Theatre was a dramatic institution of Moliere – a prominent playwright who was considered to be the patron of French actors. Therefore, it may be said that the theatre has an unbroken tradition reaching back to the times of Molière. After the performance of anti-monarchical play Charles IX in 1789, violent political discussions arose among the performers, and ultimately they split into two sections: the Republican party which formed “Théâtre de la République”, and the royalist section of “Théâtre de la Nation”. During the French Revolution, the Théâtre de la Nation was closed by the order of the Committee of Public Safety and the actors were imprisoned, but gradually released some time later. From 1770 to 1782, the Comédie had quarters in the royal palace of the Tuileries. This theatre was enlarged and modified in the 1800s, and then rebuilt in 1900 after a severe fire. Today the Comédie-Française has an impressive repertoire of 3,000 works as well as three theatres in Paris: salle Richelieu, théâtre du Vieux-Colombier and Studio-Théâtre.
The actors performing at the theatre are divided into two groups: “sociétaires” and “pensionnaires.” The former are regular members of the organization; the latter are paid actors who may, after some time, become “sociétaires.” At some point of their career all famed French actors had some experience with this theatre.