Moliere and Theater Superstitions

First volume of 1739 English translation of Molière's plays. Wikipedia, Public Domain

Whether or not you are an actor, you probably know that it is considered bad luck to say "Good luck" to a performer. Instead, you should say, "Break a leg!"

And if you have brushed up on your Shakespeare, then you already know that it could be disastrous to say "Macbeth" out loud while in a theater. To avoid being cursed, you should instead refer to it as "the Scottish play."

However, many do not realize that it is unlucky for actors to wear the color green.

Why? It is all because of the life and death of France's greatest playwright, Molière.

His real name was Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, but he was most famous for his stage name, Molière. He attained success as an actor in his early twenties, and soon found that he had a talent for writing stage plays. Although he preferred tragedies, he became renowned for his hilarious satires.

Tartuffe was one of his more scandalous plays. This vicious farce mocked the church and caused an uproar among France's religious community.

Another controversial play, Don Juan or The Feast with a Statue, mocked society and religion so severely that it was not performed uncensored until 1884, over two hundred years after its creation.

But in someways, Molière's demise is even more intense than his plays. He had been suffering from tuberculosis for several years. However, he did not want the illness to prevent his artistic pursuits.

His final play was The Imaginary Invalid. Ironically, Molière played the central character -- the hypochondriac.

During a royal performance before King Louis the 14th, Molière began to cough and gasp. The performance was stalled momentarily, but Molière insisted that he continue. He bravely made it through the rest of the play, despite collapsing once more and suffering a hemorrhage.

Hours later, after returning home, Molière's life slipped away. Perhaps due to his reputation, two clergymen refused to administer his last rites. So, when he died, rumor spread that Molière's soul did not make it into the Pearly Gates.

Molière's costume -- the clothing that he died in -- was green. And since that time, actors have maintained the superstition that it is highly unlucky to wear green while on-stage.