Jean Anouilh

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Anouilh, Jean

(zhäN änwē`yə), 1910–87, French dramatist. Anouilh's many popular plays range from tragedy to sophisticated comedy. His first play, L'hermine, was published in 1932. During the Nazi regime he wrote plays about resistance to oppression in terms of subjects from classical mythology; Antigone (1944, tr. 1946) is the most celebrated of these. Several of his later plays have contemporary and historical settings. Anouilh's works frequently contrast the worlds of romantic dreams and harsh reality. He has also written film scripts, one of which, Little Molière (1959) was successfully produced as a play. His later plays include The Waltz of the Toreadors (1952, tr. 1957), Poor Bitos (1958, tr. 1964), The Lark (1953, tr. 1955), Becket (1959, tr. 1960), The Rehearsal (1963), Dear Antoine (1969, tr. 1971), and The Navel (1981).


See studies by J. Harvey (1964), E. O. Marsh (1968), M. Archer (1971), B. A. Lenski (1973), H. G. McIntyre (1981), and C. N. Smith (1985).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Anouilh, Jean


Born June 23, 1910, in Bordeaux. French playwright.

After forgoing his law studies, Anouilh published his first plays The Ermine (1934), Traveler Without Luggage (1937), and The Savage (1938). Constructed on the noble hero’s moral conflict with falsehood and cruelty, these early plays have an intimate quality. Anouilh later united them into the cycle “black plays.” The “new black plays” (1946) include tragedies based on subjects from the Bible (Jezebel), Shakespeare (Romeo and Jeannette), and antiquity (Medea and Antigone). Anouilh’s heroes reject compromise in the name of an ethical principle and perish, as for example in Antigone (staged, 1943; published, 1944). This idea in the plays of the 1940’s bears the quality of despair and is expressed in the spirit of existentialism. The “black plays” include the cycle “costume plays” (1960). These comprise the historical dramas The Lark (1953), in which the national heroine Joan of Arc asserts her human dignity through saving the people of France from enslavement, and Becket, or the Honor of God (1959).

Anouilh’s ironically lyrical plays are united into the cycle “pink plays” (1942), which include Dinner in Senlis, Léocadia, and others, and the cycle “brilliant plays,” which include Cecile, or a Lesson to Fathers (1951) and other plays. The heroes of these plays find happiness by isolating themselves from the world of suffering and cruelty; however, the conventional theatricality of these comedies underscores the illusoriness of such happiness. Anouilh’s satirical comedies are combined in the cycle “thorny plays” (1956). The cycle includes the plays Ornifle, or the Draft and Poor Bitos, in which the character of Robespierre is tendentiously parodied and the thought is expressed that any violence is evil. Variety and novelty of plot, free and easy dialogue, action, emotionality, and humor are all attributes of the bright theatricality of Anouilh’s plays.


Théâtre complet, vols. 1–6. Paris, 1962.
La foire d’empoigne. Paris, 1961.
In Russian translation:
P’esy, vols. 1–2. Afterword by L. Zonina. Moscow, 1969.


Zonina, L. “Zhan Anuil.” In Sovremennaia zarubezhnaia drama. Moscow, 1962.
Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 4. Moscow, 1963.
Luppé, R. de. Jean Anouilh. Paris, [1959].
Borgal, C. Anouilh: la peine de vivre. [Paris,] 1966. (Contains a bibliography.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.