Consecrated Ground

On February 17, 1673, Moliere, though desperately ill, insisted on perfoming in a scheduled play rather than let his company down. He was later carried home, where he died shortly thereafter. Religious prejudice against the theatre being so strong, it was customary for a dying actor to formally renounce his profession in order to obtain permission for burial in consecrated ground; Moliere's sudden death, however, prevented this. When appeals to the archbishop of Paris were rejected, his grieving widow sought the aid of the king. Louis promptly asked the ecclesiastical authorities how far down the earth was considered consecrated. "Fourteen feet," came the response. "Very good," Louis declared. "Let Moliere's grave be dug in the churchyard sixteen feet deep and then it cannot be said that he is buried in consecrated ground, nor need it scandalize the clergy."

[As Moliere's grave has never been found, many suspect that the archbishop of Paris, who demanded that the funeral take place after nightfall with just two priests in attendance, in fact had the actor's body buried outside the churchyard.]

[In his play La Princesse d'Elide, Moliere introduced a dull-witted character named Moron -- thereby introducing a new word into the language.]

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