At this time was being enacted at the Palais Royal a pathetic drama of real life. For the last eight or nine years Catherine Debrie had been Molière's wife in all but name, now consoling him under repeated disappointments, anon supporting him in his aspirations by intelligent sympathy, and generally making his happiness the chief, if not the sole object of her existence. He was the god of her idolatry--a god at whose shrine no self-sacrifice could be too great. Nor had he failed to appreciate this devotion; his attachment to her increased as time passed away, and would have led him to give her his hand if she had been free to accept it. But in the young actress just added to the company she was to find a too powerful rival. His friendly interest in Armande Béjart involuntarily ripened into a warmer sentiment. It was in vain that his better judgement warned him not to place his peace of mind at the mercy of a girl without fixed character, predisposed to frivolity, and nearly twenty-five years younger than himself. To use his own words, "It is not reason that regulates love," and the passion he conceived for her seemed to become a part of his very being. In extreme anguish, but without uttering a syllable of reproach, Mdlle. Debrie unostentatiously quitted what she had made a home in the best sense of the word, and at the church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois, from which the signal for the St. Bartholomew massacre had been given, Molière and Armande were married in the presence of his father, M. Poquelin, of the mother of the Béjarts, and most of the players of the Palais Royal.
It was soon manifest to the dramatist that his infatuation had led him into a terrible error. Instead of becoming what his fancy had painted, an affectionate and sympathetic companion, Armande showed that she had married him only from motives of self-interest. He found her to be heartless, vain, giddy and shallow-minded. She repaid his tenderness with undisguised indifference, saw nothing in his work except a means of gratifying her love of display, and took advantage of the liberty he gave her to become one of the most notorious coquettes on the outskirts of the court. If he complained of her conduct she would upbraid him as a tyrant or resort to impudent levity. Being remonstrated with on account of some undue familiarity with Lauzun, she protested that the scandal which associated his name with hers had no foundation, as it was the comte de Guiche she preferred. Molière, unhappily for himself, was of too sensitive a nature not to suffer intensely from the blow he had received. His life from this time was one of almost continuous torture. But his love for Armande seemed to increase as her worthlessness became more apparent; and accordingly, endeavoring to persuade himself that her faults were due in great measure to the thoughtlessness of youth, he left no stone unturned--with what success we shall see in due course--to inspire her with sentiments resembling his own. Apart from other objections, Molière was many years her senior, so many that real sympathy between them was impossible.