Coquelin, Benoît Constant

Coquelin, Benoît Constant bənwä´ kôNstäN´ kôklăN´ [key], 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 Irving 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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