We hope Mate Aleks Sierz adds some of these top quotes to his Text of the Day series! Sixteenth-century thinker Michel de Montaigne certainly had a way with words. How many of these pithy aphorisms feature in The First Modern Man, a new play inspired by him? Time to get booking!
Michael Barry‘s new one-man play The First Modern Man, about French Renaissance philosopher and essayist Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), gets its full-length premiere at London’s The Hen & Chickens Theatre in a pre-Brexit run from 19 February to 2 March 2019, with a press night on 21 February.
All those personal articles and blogs we devour about love, sex, money, the school run, and life itself, had their beginnings in a sixteenth-century melancholic French noble. Jonathan Hansler stars as Michel de Montaigne in this premiere production, directed by Helen Niland.
Michel de Montaigne wanted to retire to a contemplative life – but he had too much on his mind. He wrote his ideas down as a way of coping with melancholy and, by doing so, created the essay.
Barry’s The First Modern Man is set in de Montaigne’s library where, as his guest, we share the thoughts of a humane, clever, funny commentator on whatever comes into his mind: sex, cannibals, philosophy, death, witches, life, foreign travel, coaches, thumbs, colonialism, judicial torture, even ‘world’ music – and his cat.
The real Michel de Montaigne‘s massive volume Essais, comprising three books and 107 chapters of varying length, was first published in France in 1580. In addition to popularising the essay, de Montaigne had a direct influence on later Western writers including Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Isaac Asimov, and, some believe, on the later works of his British near-contemporary, William Shakespeare.
More so than any other Renaissance author, de Montaigne is recognised for freely entertaining doubt of conventional wisdom, as characterised by the sceptical remark for which he became known: “What do I know?” Here are a few other quotes of his we love.
- “If I want to find a fool to laugh at, I don’t have to go far. I can laugh at myself.”
- “Ignorance doesn’t offend me; only the way it is dressed up.”
- “Inconsiderate excuses are a kind of self-accusation.”
- “Malice gives most of its poison to itself.”
- “A man may play the fool in everything else, but not in poetry”
- “A man may always study but doesn’t have to always go to school”
- “A bad word believed obliterates ten years’ merit.”
- “Age puts more wrinkles on the mind than it does on the face”
- “Too much wisdom can make a man a fool.”
- “Cruelty is the most extreme of vices.”
- “Our foolishness doesn’t make me laugh, our wisdom does.”
- “The thing in the world I am most afraid of is fear.”
- “Did anyone ever think they lacked common-sense?”
- “He who fears he shall suffer is already suffering what he fears.”
- “If headaches came before drunkenness, we wouldn’t drink too much.”
- “I can’t refuse to play with my dog if he begs me.”
- “I don’t want to die, but I have no objection to being dead.”
The First Modern Man runs from 19 February to 2 March 2019 at the Hen & Chickens Theatre, 109 St Paul’s Road, London N1 2NA, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm and Saturday matinees at 3pm. Tickets are priced £8-£12. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!