Coquelin, Benoît Constant

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Coquelin, Benoît Constant

(bənwä` kôNstäN` kôklăN`), 1841–1909, French actor, known as Coquelin aîné [the elder]. He made his debut at the Comédie française in 1860 and achieved fame in classic comic roles, such as the valets in Molière's plays and Beaumarchais's Figaro. He made an extensive tour of Europe and America in 1886. In 1897 he created his greatest characterization, the title role in Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, at the Théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin, which he also managed. In 1900 he toured the United States with Sarah Bernhardt and returned to Paris to play opposite her in Rostand's L'Aiglon. Highly critical and analytical toward his art, and believing in simulated rather than real emotions, he wrote L'Art et le comédien (1880) and Les Comédiens, par un comédien (1882); his approach led to an interesting debate with Sir Henry IrvingIrving, Sir Henry,
1838–1905, English actor and theatrical manager, originally named John Henry Brodribb. He made his debut in 1856 and achieved fame in 1871 with his portrayal of Mathias in Leopold Lewis's The Bells, a role he often repeated.
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 on techniques of acting. His brother, Ernest Alexandre Honoré Coquelin, 1848–1909, known as Coquelin cadet [the younger], acted at the Comédie française after 1868. At his best in secondary comic roles, he was also popular for his monologues and several amusing books written under the pseudonym Pirouette.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Coquelin, Benoit Constant


(also known as Coquelin aîné). Born Jan. 23, 1841, in Boulogne; died Jan. 27, 1909, in Couilly-Saint-Germain. French actor.

In 1859 and 1860, Coquelin attended the Paris Conservatory, where he studied drama under F. J. Régnier. From 1860 to 1892 he was an actor at the Comédie Française (not continuously). He first earned recognition as Figaro in Beaumarchais’s The Marriage of Figaro and the Barber of Seville. Coquelin acted in Molière’s comedies and in romantic plays (for example, the role of Don César de Bazan in Hugo’s Ruy Blas), he also played lyrical and dramatic roles in contemporary dramas. While he was affiliated with the Comédie Française, he founded his own troupes. Coquelin toured throughout Europe and America; he performed in Russia in 1882, 1884, 1889, 1892, and 1903. In 1895 he became a member of the Renaissance Theater. From 1897 until his death, he was the director of the Theatre de la Porte St. Martin in Paris.

Coquelin’s most brilliant performance was in the title role of Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. During the second half of the 19th century, he was among the leading exponents of realist traditions in the French theater. Coquelin possessed a high degree of technical skill, a flexible voice, and a mobile face. He was able to create extremely individualized portrayals. His realism was limited by his objectivism and indifference toward social and political questions. K. S. Stanislavsky ranked Coquelin among those actors who cultivated the “art of performing,” or effective acting that showed the result and not the creative process.

Coquelin’s brother, Ernest Alexandre Honoré (also known as Coquelin cadet, 1848–1909), was also a well-known actor at the Comédie Française.


In Russian translation:
Iskusstvo aktera. Leningrad-Moscow, 1937.


Istoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatro, vol. 5. Moscow, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.