‘Society and its demands’ examines the nature of civil and religious life in seventeenth-century France and explains how French society became more open and more urbane under Henri IV. In this climate flourished literature that promoted an idea of moderation, yet was fascinated by excess. Theatre showed how politeness and heroism were an uneasy fit, and this is illustrated through a consideration of Molière's comic hero Alceste in The Misanthrope. In Corneille and Racine, heroism is seen as leading to conflict. In the second half of the century, a different type of protagonist emerged and there was a turn towards ‘literature of psychological analysis’.