1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gringoire, Pierre
GRINGOIRE (or Gringore), PIERRE (c. 1480–1539), French poet and dramatist, was born about the year 1480, probably at Caen. In his first work, Le Chasteau de labour (1499), a didactic poem in praise of diligence, he narrates the troubles following on marriage. A young couple are visited by Care, Need, Discomfort, &c.; and other personages common to medieval allegories take part in the action. In November 1501 Gringoire was in Paris directing the production of a mystery play in honour of the archduke Philip of Austria, and in subsequent years he received many similar commissions. The fraternity of the Enfans sans Souci advanced him to the dignity of Mère Sotte and afterwards to the highest honour of the gild, that of Prince des Sots. For twenty years Gringoire seems to have been at the head of this illustrious confrérie. As Prince des Sots he exercised an extraordinary influence. At no time was the stage, rude and coarse as it was, more popular as a true exponent of the popular mind. Gringoire’s success lay in the fact that he followed, but did not attempt to lead; on his stage the people saw exhibited their passions, their judgments of the moment, their jealousies, their hatreds and their ambitions. Brotherhoods of the kind existed all over France. In Paris there were the Enfans sans Souci, the Basochiens, the Confrérie de la Passion and the Souverain Empire de Galilée; at Dijon there were the Mère Folle and her family; in Flanders the Société des Arbalétriers played comedies; at Rouen the Cornards or Conards yielded to none in vigour and fearlessness of satire. On Shrove Tuesday 1512 Gringoire, who was the accredited defender of the policy of Louis XII., and had already written many political poems, represented the Jeu du Prince des Sots et Mère Sotte. It was at the moment when the French dispute with Julius II. was at its height. Mère Sotte was disguised as the Church, and disputed the question of the temporal power with the prince. The political meaning was even more thinly veiled in the second part of the entertainment, a morality named L’Homme obstiné, the principal personage representing the pope. The performance concluded with a farce. Gringoire adopted for his device on the frontispiece of this trilogy, Tout par Raison, Raison par Tout, Par tout Raison. He has been called the Aristophane des Halles. In one respect at least he resembles Aristophanes. He is serious in his merriment; there is purpose behind his extravagances. The Church was further attacked in a poem printed about 1510, La Chasse du cerf des cerfs (serf des serfs, i.e. servus servorum), under which title that of the pope is thinly veiled. About 1514 he wrote his mystery of the Vie de Monseigneur Saint-Louis par personnages in nine books for the confrérie of the masons and carpenters. He became in 1518 herald at the court of Lorraine, with the title of Vaudemont, and married Catherine Roger, a lady of gentle birth. During the last twenty years of a long life he became orthodox, and dedicated a Blason des hérétiques to the duke of Lorraine. There is no record of the payment of his salary as a herald after Christmas 1538, so that he died probably in 1539.
His works were edited by C. d’Héricault and A. de Montaiglon for the Bibliothèque elzévirienne in 1858. This edition was incomplete, and was supplemented by a second volume in 1877 by Montaiglon and M. James de Rothschild. These volumes include the works already mentioned, except Le Chasteau de labour, and in addition, Les Folles Entreprises (1505), a collection of didactic and satirical poems, chiefly ballades and rondeaux, one section of which is devoted to the exposition of the tyranny of the nobles, and another to the vices of the clergy; L’Entreprise de Venise (c. 1509), a poem in seven-lined stanzas, giving a list of the Venetian fortresses which belonged, according to Gringoire, to other powers; L’Espoir de paix (1st ed. not dated; another, 1510), a verse treatise on the deeds of “certain popes of Rome,” dedicated to Louis XII.; and La Coqueluche (1510), a verse description of an epidemic, apparently influenza. For details of his other satires, Les Abus du monde (1509), Complainte de trop tard marié, Les Fantasies du monde qui règne; of his religious verse, Chants royaux (on the Passion, 1527), Heures de Notre Dame (1525); and a collection of tales in prose and verse, taken from the Gesta Romanorum, entitled Les Fantasies de Mère Sotte (1516), see G. Brunet, Manuel du libraire (s.v. Gringore). Most of Gringoire’s works conclude with an acrostic giving the name of the author. The Chasteau de labour was translated into English by Alexander Barclay and printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1506. Barclay’s translation was edited (1905) with his original for the Roxburghe Club by Mr A. W. Pollard, who provided an account of Gringoire, and a bibliography of the book. See also, for the Jeu du Prince des Sots, Petit de Julleville, La Comédie et les mœurs en France au moyen âge, pp. 151-168 (Paris, 1886); for Saint Louis, the same author’s Les Mystères, i. 331 et seq., ii. 583–597 (1880), with further bibliographical references; and E. Picot, Gringore et les comédiens italiens (1877). The real Gringoire cannot be said to have many points of resemblance with the poet described in Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris, nor is there more foundation in fact for the one-act prose comedy of Théodore de Banville.