Molière’s “L’Avare:” Doublings

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L’Avare by François Boucher (drawing) and Laurent Cars (engraving) (Photo credit: Pinterest)

Background

  • Plautus (c. 254 – 184 BCE)
  • commedia dell’arte
  • French 17th-century misers: sources
  • Hellenic (ancient Greek) sources
  • French medieval farces and fabliaux
  • translations into English

As indicated in a previous post, Molière‘s L’Avare, The Miser, was first performed on 9 September 1668 at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal. It is a five-act play, in prose, inspired by Roman dramatist Plautus‘ (254 – 148 BCE) Aulularia, the Pot of Gold. As we have seen, it is also rooted in the commedia dell’arte as well as Italian comedies and tales, and in France’s own medieval farces and the largely scatological fabliaux.

However, Molière also drew his material from La Belle Plaideuse (1655), by François le Métel de Boisrobert, which features a father-as-usurer, and Jean Donneau de Visé‘s La Mère coquette (1665), where a father and son are in love with the same woman.[1]

L’Avare is one of Molière’s better-known comedies and it was translated into English by Thomas Shadwell (1772) and Henry Fielding, the author of Tom Jones. However, it was not a huge success in Molière’s own days. It has been speculated that Molière’s audience expected a play written in verse, the nobler alexandrine verse (12 feet or syllables), first used in the twelfth-century Roman d’Alexandre.

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L’Avare (www.gettyimages.fr)

The dramatis personæ is:

Harpagon, father to Cléante, in love with Mariane.
Cléante, Harpagon’s son, lover to Marianne.
Valère, son to Anselme, lover to Élise, and “intendant” to Harpagon
Anselme / Dom Thomas d’Alburcy, father to Valère and Mariane, and 
Master Simon, broker.
Master Jacques, cook and coachman to Harpagon.
La Flèche, valet to Cléante.
Brindavoine, and La Merluche, lackeys to Harpagon.
A Magistrate and his Clerk.
Élise, daughter to Harpagon.
Mariane, daughter to Anselme.
Frosine, an intriguing woman.
Mistress Claude, servant to Harpagon.

The scene is at Paris, in Harpagon’s house.

Act One

We will be focusing on the manner in which the young couples featured in the Miser, L’Avare, manage to overcome the obstacle to their marriage. Short of a miracle, they are condemned to do as their father’s greed dictates. All the elements of L’Avare’s plot are introduced in the first act of the play, which reflects the Græco-Roman origins of comedy and tragedy. As a five-act play, Molière’s L’Avare is a ‘grande comédie,’ not a farce (Molière wrote both), and its plot is the archetypal struggle, also called the agôn, between, on the one hand, the alazṓn of Greek comedy, or the blocking character, and, on the other hand, the eirôn, the young couple and their supporters: valets, maids, zanni. In other words, it is a traditional blondin-berne-barbon plot. The young couples will succeed in marrying.

A Comedy of Manners and A Comedy of Intrigue

  • doublings: two young couples and two fathers
  • Harpagon is the father of Élise and Cléante
  • Anselme is Valère and Mariane’s father, which we do not know until the fifth act (V. v) of the comedy

L’Avare is both a comedy of manners, a form we inherited mostly from Greek dramatist Menander, and a comédie d’intrigue, a comedy where the plot prevails. As the portrayal of a miser, L’Avare is a comedy of manners (see the full text in Wikisource and eBook #6923). Harpagon’s greed constitutes the obstacle to the marriage of Cléante (Harpagon) and Mariane as well as the marriage of Valère and Élise (Harpagon).

Cléante gambles and wins, which allows him to buy elegant clothes and court Mariane, but he does not have sufficient money to marry and must therefore go to a moneylender. Ironically, the moneylender happens to be Harpagon himself who demands no less than the now metaphorical “pound of flesh” (Shylock) as repayment. The moneylender episode—act two, scene two (II. i) [II. 2]—shows to what extent Harpagon’s greed is an obstacle to the marriage of our young couples. The plot advances in that Cléante cannot obtain a loan that might enable his marriage. Another “trick” must be devised. However, plot and manners (greed) are inextricably woven.

Obstacles to Two Marriages

  • “genre” art
  • a family tyrant

The action takes place in Harpagon’s house in Paris and can be described as genre arta depiction of ordinary people engaged in ordinary activities. Will G Moore has remarked that Molière’s characters

“[a]re concerned with everyday life; the stuff of which it was made was by tradition the doings of ordinary people in ordinary surroundings.”[2]

L’Avare is a five-act comedy, but it is written in prose, not verse, and Harpagon, our blocking character, is an enriched bourgeois. Although he does not feed his horse properly, he owns a carriage and he has servants. As depicted by François Boucher, the interior of his house is rather elegant. However, he is extremely greedy and he behaves as though he owned his children. He is a domestic tyrant. In act one, Harpagon states that he has arranged for his children to marry, but has not consulted them. Cléante will marry a “certain widow,” our tyrant has just heard of, and Élise will be “given” to Mr. Anselme, a gentleman who will not request the customary dowry, or “sans dot

Quant à ton frère, je lui destine une certaine veuve dont ce matin on m’est venu parler; et, pour toi, je te donne au seigneur Anselme. (Harpagon to Élise, [I. iv])
[As to your brother, I have thought for him of a certain widow, of whom I heard this morning; and you I shall give to Mr. Anselme. [1. 6] [eBook #6923]

Élise does not know Mr Anselme and refuses to marry him, threatening to commit suicide. As for Harpagon, he plans to marry Mariane, who loves his son (Cléante). For Harpagon, Mr Anselme is a perfect choice because Élise will marry at no cost to the miser: “sans dot.” (I. iv FR) (I. 6 EN) 

Harpagon’s Rigidity

Valère will attempt to save Élise from a marriage to a person other than himself. Valère, Harpagon’s “intendant,” begs Harpagon to free Élise. However, the objections he presents are followed by Harpagon’s “sans dot” (without a dowry). Molière’s blocking characters are inflexible or rigid. This rigidity is the feature Henri Bergson (18 October 1859 – 4 January 1941) attached to the comical or comedic in his Laughter. Valère’s objections having been rebuked by a litany of “sans dot,” he is literally speechless. He simply repeats what the Harpagon, the miser, has told him:

Lorsqu’on s’offre de prendre une fille sans dot, on ne doit point regarder plus avant. Tout est renfermé là-dedans, et sans dot tient lieu de beauté, de jeunesse, de naissance, d’honneur, de sagesse, et de probité. (Valère à Harpagon, I. v)
[When a man offers to marry a girl without a dowry, we ought to look no farther. Everything is comprised in that, and “without dowry” compensates for want of beauty, youth, birth, honour, wisdom, and probity.] (I. 10[eBook #6923]

But there is some hope. As the story goes, Valère’s father, Dom Thomas d’Alburcy, is believed to have drowned when he and his family (his wife, Valère and Mariane) were fleeing Naples. It appears, however, that Dom Thomas has survived and that he is a man of means. Valère was looking for him when he met Élise. At her request, he decided to stay near her and made himself Harpagon’s “intendant,” but someone else is looking for Valère’s father.

Mais enfin, si je puis, comme je l’espère, retrouver mes parents, nous n’aurons pas beaucoup de peine à nous le rendre favorable. J’en attends des nouvelles avec impatience, et j’en irai chercher moi-même, si elles tardent à venir. (I. i)
[However, if I can find my parents, as I fully hope I shall, they will soon be favourable to us. I am expecting news of them with great impatience; but if none comes I will go in search of them myself.] [I.1]

The curtain will then fall on an anagnorisis  (V. v) [V. 5], a recognition scene. However, when Anselme enters Harpagon’s house and hears that there is opposition to the contract he has come to sign, he tells Harpagon that he will not coerce a woman into a mariage, which frees Élise. He also remarks that he will not “lay claim to a heart which has already bestowed itself,” thereby allowing Mariane, his daughter, to marry Cléante, Harpagon’s son, rather than Harpagon.

Ce n’est pas mon dessein de me faire épouser par force, et de rien prétendre à un cœur qui se serait donné ; mais pour vos intérêts, je suis prêt à les embrasser ainsi que les miens propres. (Anselme to Harpagon [V. v])
[It is not my intention to force anybody to marry me, and to lay claim to a heart which has already bestowed itself; but as far as your interests are concerned, I am ready to espouse them as if they were my own.] (V. 5) [eBook #6923]

Anselme seems a fine gentleman whom the anagnorisis (V. v) [V. 5], the dénouement (see Dramatic Structure, Wikipedia), will identify as Valère and Mariane’s father. A greedy Harpagon has chosen Anselme as the perfect groom because Anselme would marry Élise without requesting the customary dowry, or at no cost to the miser: “sans dot.” (I. v) [I. 5]

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Qu’il faut manger pour vivre, et non pas vivre pour manger. (III. i)

A Comedy of Intrigue

  • a plot or intrigue
  • a chiasmus (a mirror image in a sentence)
  • a quiproquo (a misunderstanding)
  • the doubling of the father figure (mirror image)

Harpagon’s greed is enormous, so students are taught that Molière concentrates on manners rather than the plot. He does, but in L’Avare, although the plot is mainly episodic, manners and plot (intrigue) are inextricably linked. For instance, when Harpagon is having a meal prepared to celebrate the marriage(s) that are to take place that very day, Harpagon hears Valère say that il faut manger pour vivre and not vivre pour manger, that one should eat to live and not live to eat, Harpagon so loves Valère’s witty chiasmus, that he wants these words engraved in gold and placed above his fireplace. (III. i) [III. 1] It is unlikely that Harpagon would use gold to celebrate greed, but it is true to character and comical. The meal he is planning often ends comedies and may solemnize a wedding.

Moreover, it is a quiproquo, a comical misunderstanding which, in L’Avare, leads to the anagnorisis. When Harpagon realizes his cassette has disappeared and may have been stolen, he loses his composure and accuses Valère, at the instigation of Maître Jacques. Maître Jacques resents the trust Harpagon has placed in Valère. If he could, Harpagon would have Valère drawn and quartered. Valère has not stolen Harpagon’s cassette, but he and Élise have signed a promise to marry another. Valère has ‘robbed’ Harpagon, but it is Élise he has taken, not a cassette. (V. iii & iv) [V. 3 & 4] [eBook #6923]

Anselme first steps foot on the stage as the battle rages. Given Élise’s promise, he cannot and would not marry her. However, Valère stands accused of a theft and wants to tell his story. The anagnorisis has now begun. To give himself credibility, Valère says that he is the son of Dom Thomas d’Alburcy, which Anselme hesitates to believe because he is a friend of Dom Those and, to his knowledge, all members of Dom Thomas’ family drowned as they were trying to flee Naples, which is not the case.Valère says that he was rescued by Pedro, a servant, and later adopted by the captain of the ship he and Pedro were allowed to board. He can prove his identity. As he speaks, Mariane realizes that Valère is her brother.

For their part, Mariane and her mother were also saved, but their helpers were corsaires, pirates, who enslaved them. Following ten years of enslavement, they were released and they returned to Naples where they could not find Dom Thomas d’Alburcy. They therefore picked up a small inheritance in Genoa and moved to Paris. Mariane’s mother is Valère’s  mother and Dom Thomas d’Alburcy’s wife. As he watches this scene, Dom Thomas learns that no member of his family died leaving Naples. He has just found his children and his wife. He would not stand in the way of Valère and Mariane’s marriage who wish to marry Harpagon’s children. Le sieur Anselme knows le sieur Harpagon.

Le Ciel, mes enfants, ne me redonne point à vous, pour être contraire à vos vœux. Seigneur Harpagon, vous jugez bien que le choix d’une jeune personne tombera sur le fils plutôt que sur le père. Allons, ne vous faites point dire ce qu’il n’est point nécessaire d’entendre, et consentez ainsi que moi à ce double hyménée. (V. v)

[Heaven, my dear children, has not restored you to me that I might oppose your wishes. Mr. Harpagon, you must be aware that the choice of a young girl is more likely to fall upon the son than upon the father. Come, now, do not force people to say to you what is unnecessary, and consent, as I do, to this double marriage.] [V. 5] [eBook #6923]

Doublings

Molière’s L’Avare has an intrigue which resembles the intrigue of most comedies. A young couple wishes to marry, but a blocking character, or alazṓnprevents their marriage. However, Molière has doubled the young couple who are a brother and sister wishing to marry a brother and a sister, so Molière has therefore doubled the father figure which happens during the anagnorisis. As Dom Thomas d’Alburcy, Anselme is the eirôn who allows the young couples to marry.

The anagnorisis, the recognition scene, does not take place unannounced. As mentioned earlier, as he despairs,Valère tells Élise that he hopes to find his father who may still be alive. Act one (I. i) [I. 1] has prepared the reader or spectator:

Mais enfin, si je puis comme je l’espère, retrouver mes parents, nous n’aurons pas beaucoup de peine à nous le rendre favorable. (Valère à Élise, I. i)
[However, if I can find my parents, as I fully hope I shall, they will soon be favourable to us.] [I. 1] [eBook #6923]

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Der Geizigue, Harpagon & La Flèche by August Wilhelm Iffland, 1810 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Comments

In L’Avare, Molière does not use a deus ex machina. He simply introduces a second father figure who will allow the young couples to marry and will pay all costs. L’Avare‘s young couple are in fact very resourceful, but one cannot marry without money. Mariane (Dom Thomas) recoils at wishing Harpagon’s death, feelings that are reciprocated by Cléante (Harpagon).

Mon Dieu, Frosine, c’est une étrange affaire, lorsque pour être heureuse, il faut souhaiter ou attendre le trépas de quelqu’un, et la mort ne suit pas tous les projets que nous faisons. (Mariane à Frosine, III. iv)
[Oh, Frosine! What a strange state of things that, in order to be happy, we must look forward to the death of another. Yet death will not fall in with all the projects we make.] [III. 8] [eBook #6923]

Que veux-tu que j’y fasse ? Voilà où les jeunes gens sont réduits par la maudite avarice des pères ; et on s’étonne après cela que les fils souhaitent qu’ils meurent. (II. i)
[What would you have me do? It is to this that young men are reduced by the accursed avarice of their fathers; and people are astonished after that, that sons long for their death.] [II. 1] [eBook #6923]

When his father falls, accidentally, Cléante is worried:

Qu’est-ce, mon père, vous êtes-vous fait mal ? (III. ix)
[What’s the matter, father? Have you hurt yourself?] [III. 14] [eBook #6923]

Critic Northrop Frye states that “[t]he tendency of comedy is to include as many people as possible in its final society: the blocking characters are more often reconciled or converted than simply repudiated.”[3]

As for Harpagon, although he may he has been tyrannical, when Dom Thomas and the young couples leave to bring good news to Dom Thomas’ wife, Harpagon is off to see his dear cassette. His cassette, a casket, his vital to Harpagon.

Et moi, voir ma chère cassette. (I. vi)
[And I to see my dear casket.][1. 6] [eBook #6923]

Conclusion

I have already suggested that Molière uses doubling and fusion of functions.[4] Harpagon is a miser and will remain a miser ready to sacrifice his children. It is a sad reflection on humanity but perhaps less sad than the intervention of a deus ex machina. Dom Thomas d’Alburcy is a  major member of the play’s society, the intervention of a second father figure allows the happy ending the play demands. An anagnorisis may not be as dazzling a dénouement as the intervention of a deus ex machina, the prince in Tartuffe and a godlike figure in Dom Juan, but all’s well that ends well. 

Love to everyone

RELATED ARTICLES

Molière

Commedia dell’arte

Farce

Sources and Resources

The Miser is a Wikisource eBook (Charles Heron Wall, translator)
The Miser is an Internet Archive publication EN
The Miser is a Project Gutenberg publication [eBook #6923] EN
The Miser, Henri Fielding is an eText EN
L’Avare is a toutmoliere.net publication FR
Molière21 is a research group
Le Salon littéraire FR
The Miser is a LibriVox text publication (YouTube)
Laughter, Henri Bergson is an Internet Archive publication EN

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[1] L’Avare in Maurice Rat, Œuvres complètes de Molière (Paris : Éditions Gallimard, coll. La Pléiade, 1956), p. 968.
[2] Will  G. Moore, Molière, a New Criticism (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1968 [1949], pp. 69-70.
[3] Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 [1957]), p. 165.
[4] Micheline Bourbeau-Walker, « Le Misanthrope, ou la comédie éclatée, » in David Trott & Nicole Boursier, eds. L’Âge du théâtre en France (Edmonton, Alberta: Academic Printing and Publishing, 1988 ), 53 – 63. (papers from a conference held in Toronto, May 14 – 16, 1987) ISBN 0-920980-30-9 — PQ527.A33 1988

The Miser

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L’Avare by Jean Degrassi, 1955 (liveauctioneers.com)

© Micheline Walker
1 December 2016
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A Cautionary Tale

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Photo credit: Etsy

The Wedding

Before our wedding and our idyllic honeymoon at Wickanninish Inn, my future husband and I had to attend a rehearsal for the wedding ceremony. We loved one another, but to a certain extent, I married to please my mother. She would be very disappointed if I lived with a man without first marrying him.

As we were driving to a rehearsal of the wedding ceremony, my future husband told me, out of the blue, that there was a condition attached to his marrying me. He said he would leave me if I ever put on weight. I realised that the wedding ceremony could be a comedy and that the marriage would not be valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church. I therefore contemplated cancelling the wedding, but it was late and I was very confused.

Ryerson University

  • downtown Toronto
  • a secure position
  • a secure marriage

A year later, David started to work in Toronto, where I also found a position. I taught French at Ryerson Polytechnical University, in downtown Toronto. I had to teach eighteen hours a week, but I was teaching French as a second language, nothing more, and I could devote the Summer months to research. As well, I was in Canada’s best research environment. I worked near the University of Toronto and its research library. 

In other words, I was secure and nothing threatened my marriage and health, except being too thin. My husband insisted. So I resigned. I then changed my mind, but when I phoned Ryerson, I was told I had already been replaced. I started teaching French as a second language to government of Ontario civil servants.

McMaster University

  • a fragile career
  • a fragile marriage
  • illness

A year later, after he read Open Marriage, my husband asked me to apply for a position at McMaster University, in Hamilton. He would stay in our house and I would rent an apartment in Hamilton. In my eyes, this wasn’t a marriage, but a mere arrangement.

One day, I was asked to see the Chair of my department who told me that the following year, I would teach courses in linguistics: theoretical and foreign-language didactics. I told the Chair that I had never studied linguistics and that preparing the course might preclude my publishing papers on Molière and related topics. He, the Chair, made it very clear that if I refused to teach linguistics, I would have to leave the university. I therefore learned and taught linguistics, but, as I feared, my contract was not renewed. I had written a fine article on Molière, but that did not suffice.

My marriage had ended, I no know longer had a position, and my health had deteriorated. For the following months, I worked as public relations and admissions’ officer in a college affiliated with the University of Regina. I had to travel throughout the province, which I could not do. 

St Francis Xavier University

A friend suggested that I apply for a position at St Francis Xavier University, in Nova Scotia. He thought my chances were very good. I applied and moved to a small university town. I was no longer in a good research environment and had to use the interlibrary loan service. But I wrote articles on Molière and linguistics. In the mid 1980s I was elected President of the Canadian Association of University and College Teachers of French (APFUCC) and a member of the Board of Governors of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, and served on its executive.

But I had caught a virus and had lost a great deal of energy, so I was fragile. When a departmental war erupted (it happens), I fell ill (crippling fatigue) and decided to seek a diagnostic and treatment. A SPECT scan revealed myalgic encephalomyelitis. My neurologist told me that the damage was extensive and that he doubted I could return to work. There was no cure.

I had to earn a living, so I returned to work on a part-time basis. However, a new Chair decided to avenge a colleague whose contract was not renewed and would not allow me to work on a full-time basis. I re-entered the classroom on a full-time basis, when this Chair left the University to accept a position elsewhere. For four years, I was the prey of obstructionism.

The Moral

The moral of this story is complex, but quite obvious. All I will say is, first, that, although it was very late, I should have cancelled the wedding. Second, I will say that when I worked at Ryerson, I could combine a career and a marriage. That never happened again. While studying linguistics, I caught an invisible, but chronic and incurable illness. I managed to keep my position for several years because my workload was normal. I bought a house across the street from campus to simplify my life. But if my workload grew too heavy and my working environment was vitiated, I was at risk.

At that point in its history, my university’s policy was to eliminate from its Faculty persons who might fall ill. This is what a vice-president told me, which raises bigger questions that I will not address.

But it would be my opinion that there are times when one should listen to one’s instinct and stay where one is safe and happy. I resigned from a good position without making sure there was a way back to safety. I lost my marriage, harmed my health, and put my career in jeopardy. But I’m a survivor and I’m happy where I am.

PS, I have never put on weight.

RELATED ARTICLES

 

Love to everyone 💕

Two posts are dedicated to Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. The first is ready, but not the second. I would prefer to publish the first when I have nearly ended the second. I put images and a video.

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Wickanninish Inn, 1968

© Micheline Walker
17 January 2020
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Social Media / Médias sociaux

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Woman Reading by François de Troy (Photo credit: wiki2.org)

I returned to Molière, but I could not concentrate until now. Yesterday was a very sad day.

The Social Media

In fact, current events are leading me to question the appropriateness and validity of statements made on Instagram, or Twitter, or other social media. Among elements militating against social media is timing. Persons are not forever sitting at their computer. In the case of an important statement, should the world know before the addressee.

I would be inclined to question the legality of statements made on Twitter or Instagram. It seems the truth, but the medium is the message.

I’m a blogger, but I seldom “like” or “dislike” something on the social media. Experience has taught me to be careful. For instance, every time I have been quoted by the press, I was quoted erroneously.

As for our Royals, reportedly, persons attending yesterday’s meeting were calm. To my knowledge, there was no firm approval nor was there a firm disapproval of changes in status. So, there is room for everyone to think. Prince Harry talked with his beloved grandmother before the meeting. Moreover William and Harry agreed, in writing, that there was no bullying. Let’s hope everything will remain civilised.

Love to everyone 💕

Marin Marais: Chaconne (Livre V)
Josh Cheatham (viola da gamba), Julien Léonard (viola da gamba), Skip Sempé (harpsichord) 

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Declaration of Love par François de Troy (Photo credit: wiki2.org)

© Micheline Walker
14 January 2020
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Harry and Meghan: please wait…

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Meghan Markle in St George's Chapel

https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/962242/Meghan-Markle-and-Prince-Harry-wedding-pictures-Meghan-and-Harry-wedding-best-photos

—ooo—

At the end of an earlier post, I wrote that I would not discuss the Royals again.  I realised that there were very few reliable sources of information.

However, I am saddened by the latest and real news of Harry’s possible “abdication.”  I know that commentators, tabloids and social media have not been kind to Meghan, on the contrary, but abdication could be a mistake. It may be judicious on the part of the Royal family, as a whole, to seek greater privacy and fewer engagements. Such matters can be negotiated. Harry and Meghan have taken legal action, but they have acted as individual members of the Royal family. Moreover, it may be harmful for members of the Royal family to continue to “tell all” publicly. A “tell all” may be considered an invitation to the scrutiny they wish to avoid.  

The Consequences

It seems Meghan is homesick. She has friends in Canada and the United States. But are they true friends? Meghan is a duchess. But it is not impossible to have excellent friends in Britain. There are very good people in Britain. I miss my former community, little Antigonish, Nova Scotia. I left listening to the worst possible advice, and there have been sad consequences. But I have long forgiven everyone and I live comfortably in a lovely apartment.

Frogmore, etc.

I should add that, although Frogmore is called a cottage, it is a mansion compared to the homes most people live in. Some people do not have a roof over their head. It could be that Harry is extremely rich. If not, is it realistic, on his part and on Meghan’s, to believe they can earn the amount of money that affords them Frogmore Cottage, a staff, good food, designer clothes for Meghan, excellent cars, and expensive holidays on the West Coast of Vancouver Island or elsewhere, etc. 

My worst fear is that, on a dark day, former and beloved Prince Harry may think that he has made a mistake, and blame Meghan. Does she want to take that risk, and does he want to be fighting for custody of their son? Archie is a Royal.

The Paparazzi

The tabloids are the very devil and so are the paparazzi. I am told paparazzi were pursuing the limousine that crashed in 1997, taking three lives, including Harry’s mother. However, I am also told that the driver was speeding away and that some, perhaps all, passengers had not buckled up.

Therefore, my advice to Harry and Meghan would be to slow down and buckle up. Severing some ties with the Palace at this moment may prove necessary, but abdication is a drastic step that can wait.  

Archie did not return to Britain. He was left in Canada after the family’s vacations. Meghan is also in Canada.

Back to Molière…

Love to everyone 💕

I wrote this post yesterday and feared publishing it. But I’m not judging; I am simply advising caution.

 

Vadim Chaimovich plays
Henry Purcell:
Abdelazer Suite: II. Rondeau in D minor (piano version)

© Micheline Walker
10 January 2020
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“La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas,” details

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DeTroy

Lecture de Molière par Jean-François de Troy (my collection)

The Conclusion

I have added a short conclusion to my last post, Molière’s Comtesse d’Escarbagnas, and have referred to allusions to comedy as self-referential. As for the comedy the Vicomte is  is offering to the Comtesse, it is not a play-within-a-play (un théâtre dans le théâtre). We do not see the play and it is not over when the curtain falls. However, allusions to this comedy do take us from one scene to another. In other words, they function as a fil conducteur, or leading thread, thereby contributing to the coherence of the play. Guests arrive one at a time: Jeannot carrying pears on behalf of Monsieur Tibaudier, Monsieur Tibaudier himself, Monsieur Bobinet and, when the play-as-gift has begun, Monsieur Harpin.

The editor of my very 1956 Pléiade edition of Molière points to four main types constituting La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas: Monsieur Bobinet, Monsieur Tibaudier, Monsieur Harpin, a tax-farmer, and la Comtesse: Monsieur Bobinet is described as an out-and-out prig: “cuistre fieffé.” Monsieur Tibaudier, a councellor-at-law, is a “robin pédant et galant,” a pedantic noble of the robe. Monsieur Harpin swears and does not know that le Vicomte is no longer a rival. As for the Comtesse, she has been described or has described herself in her conversation with Julie, which takes place in Scene II. However, in as light a comedy as La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas, Messieurs Tibaudier, Bobinet, and Harpin are mostly sketched. None are a Tartuffe.

The Épigrammes & poet Martial

This scene is precious. Monsieur Tibaudier has written épigrammes for the Comtesse. This form was popular in 17th-century French salons.

When the Vicomte admires Monsieur Tibaudier’s poetry and says that he, a Vicomte, has been outranked, supplanté, the Comtesse suspects he is mocking Monsieur Tibaudier whom she admires and will marry.

Comment, Madame, me moquer ? Quoique son rival, je trouve ces vers admirables, et ne les appelle pas seulement deux strophes, comme vous, mais deux épigrammes, aussi bonnes que toutes celles de Martial.
Le Vicomte à la Comtesse (Scene V)
[How, Madam, to sneer? Though his rival, I think these verses admirable, and not only call them two strophes, but two epigrams, as good as all those of Martial.]
The Viscount to the Countess (Scene Sixteen, 76)

The Comtesse thinks Martial is a local person who makes gloves:

Quoi, Martial fait-il des vers, je pensais qu’il ne fît que des gants?
La Comtesse au Vicomte à la Comtesse (Scene V)
[What! does Martial make verses? I thought he made nothing but gloves.]
The Countess to the Viscount (Scene Sixteen, p. 76)

Monsieur Tibaudier corrects her gently. It is not that Martial, says Monsieur Tibaudier, but a man who lived thirty to forty years ago.

Ce n’est pas ce Martial-là, Madame, c’est un auteur qui vivait il y a trente ou quarante ans.
Monsieur Tibaudier à la Comtesse (Scene V)
[It is not that Martial, Madam; it is an author who lived about thirty or forty years ago.]
Monsieur Tibaudier to the Countess (Scene Sixteen, p. 77) 

That is another mistake. Latin poet Martial (see Épigrammes) lived in the 2nd-century CE. Poet Martial wrote fifteen books of Épigrammes. So, both the Comtesse and Monsieur Tibaudier are wrong, but should Le Vicomte correct Monsieur Tibaudier, the man who so praises la Comtesse and whom she loves? No, Monsieur Tibaudier would be humiliated and the riposte would not be consistent with the spirit of La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas

La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas was part of the Ballet des ballets. The music, by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, has come down to us, and so have the nine scenes of a short comedy of manners. In a comedy of manners, one interjects elements that will keep the spectators laughing. However, La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas is a very light comedy of manners and part of a divertissement (entertainment) called Le Ballet des ballets. Monsieur Tibaudier is a counsellor-at-law and he grows pears. So, it is unlikely that he would know much about Latin poets, but Molière is rather kind to his characters. However, it is true that the Martial le Vicomte mentions does not make gloves.

Such lines could be compared to a lazzo of the commedia dell’arte.

Le Théâtre dans le Théâtre

Molière did enter his comedies. I think several moliéristes would agree that the Vicomte’s description of the play can be seen as a brief intrusion by the dramatist of his Comtesse d’Escarbagnas. As well, one wonders why so much of Scene One is devoted to a depiction of a fâcheux (a bore). My readers who know French will find the Notice to La Comtesse  d’Escarbagnas very informative. For instance, the description of a fâcheux (a bore), at the very beginning of the play, is looked upon as “fort curieuse,” very curious (see Notice).

Georges Forestier, the current authority on this subject, does not list La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas as a théâtre dans le théâtre, at least not as a whole. The théâtre dans le théâtre [1] would have been inserted in the missing Pastoral, between Scenes VIII and IX.

Two comedies from now, we will read La Critique de l’École des femmes (1 June 1663) and L’Impromptu de Versailles (14 October [Versailles] and 4 November 1663 [Théâtre du Palais-Royal]]. L’Impromptu de Versailles is considered a théâtre dans le théâtre

RELATED ARTICLES

Sources and Resources

____________________
[1] Georges Forestier, Le Théâtre dans le théâtre (Genève: Librairie Droz, 1996), p. 353.

With kind regards 💕
We are nearly finished reading Molière. Some of these posts took days to prepare. So, I am switching to shorter posts. I’m exhausted.

im284-Jean-François_de_Troy_-_A_woman_reading

Woman reading par Jean François de Troy (wiki2.org)

© Micheline Walker
8 January 2020
WordPress

 

Molière’s “La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas”

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La comtesse d'Escarbagnas par Ed. Héd.

La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas par Edmond Hédouin (theatre-documentation. com)

La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas, a short play in prose, was written as part of the celebrations that took place when Louis-Philippe, duc d’Orléans, Monsieur, Louis XIV’s only brother, married a German princess, la princesse Palatine, his second wife. Louis-Philippe lost his first wife, Henriette d’Angleterre, on 30 June 1670. She was 26 years old.

Molière’s La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas was first performed in February 1672 at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, where royal divertissements often took place. (See toumoliere.net) Its first public performance took place on 8 July 1672 at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal. The play’s source is Greek author Theophrastus (Characters), who is also one of Molière’s sources for Les Fâcheux. Théophraste wrote portraits.

Ballet_ballet_front

The date shown in this image is inaccurate. It should read February 1672. (toumoliere.net)

Le Ballet des ballets

The nine scenes of our current play were to constitute a one-act comedy of manners, followed by a pastorale, now lost, and an intermède from Psyché. The divertissement would therefore be a comédie-ballet entitled Le Ballet des ballets. It was written by Molière, composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, and choreographed by Pierre Beauchamp. In 1671, Molière had fallen out with Lully. When the play was performed for the public, on 8 July 1672, the pastoral was replaced by Molière’s Le Mariage forcé, to which intermèdes were added. These are included at the foot of this post.

escarbagnas

La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas par François Boucher (dessin) & Laurent Cars (gravure)  (sitelully.free.fr)

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

LA COMTESSE D’ESCARBAGNAS.
LE COMTE, son fils (her son).
LE VICOMTE, amant de (in love with) Julie.
JULIE, amante du Vicomte.
MONSIEUR TIBAUDIER, conseiller, amant de la Comtesse.
MONSIEUR HARPIN, receveur des tailles (tax farmer), autre amant de la Comtesse.
MONSIEUR BOBINET, précepteur de (tutor to) Monsieur le Comte.
ANDRÉE, suivante de la Comtesse.
JEANNOT, laquais de Monsieur Tibaudier.
CRIQUET, laquais de la Comtesse.

La scène est à Angoulême.

SCENE ONE

Most of Scene One is a conversation between Julie and le Vicomte, the comedy’s young lovers. First, the Vicomte tells Julie that he bumped into a fâcheux, which delayed him. He then goes on to say that he doesn’t like making believe he is in love with the Comtesse. He laments his role.  It is a “comedy.”

Que cette feinte où je me force n’étant que pour vous plaire, j’ai lieu de ne vouloir en souffrir la contrainte, que devant les yeux qui s’en divertissent. Que j’évite le tête-à-tête avec cette comtesse ridicule, dont vous m’embarrassez, et en un mot que ne venant ici que pour vous, j’ai toutes les raisons du monde d’attendre que vous y soyez.
Le Vicomte à Julie (Scène première)
[[…] I am induced not to wish to suffer the annoyance of it, except in the presence of her who is amused by it; that I avoid the tête-à-tête with this ridiculous Countess, with whom you hamper me; and, in one word that, coming here but for you, I have all the reasons possible to await until you are here.]
The Vicount Julie (Scene One, p. 64)

The Comtesse is besotted with rank and has just returned from Paris where she was surrounded by aristocrats. This, no doubt, has further consolidated her conviction that aristocrats are personnes de qualité. Julie reports to the Vicomte, the man she loves, that glittering Paris has besotted the Comtesse.

Notre comtesse d’Escarbagnas, avec son perpétuel entêtement de qualité, est un aussi bon personnage qu’on en puisse mettre sur le théâtre. Le petit voyage qu’elle a fait à Paris, l’a ramenée dans Angoulême, plus achevée qu’elle n’était. L’approche de l’air de la cour a donné à son ridicule de nouveaux agréments, et sa sottise tous les jours ne fait que croître et embellir.
Julie au Vicomte (Scène première)
[Our Countess of Escarbagnas, with her perpetual hobby of quality, is as good a character as one could put on the stage. The little excursion which she has made to Paris has brought her back to Angoulême more perfect than she was. The proximity of the court-air has given new charms to her absurdity, and her silliness does but grow and become more beautiful every day.]
Julie to the Viscount (Scene One, p. 65)

We know why the Vicomte has entered the fray. How can two bourgeois compete with a person of rank? In fact, our bourgeois are somewhat tired of courting the Comtesse. It is hoped that a petite comédie, le Vicomte as suitor, will make Monsieur Tibaudier and Monsieur Harpin press their suit. Le Vicomte, a real aristocrat is about to treat the Comtesse with a comédie. Le Vicomte‘s bourgeois rivals have been invited to attend.

SCENE TWO

We meet the Comtesse in Scene Two. She has caught a glimpse of the Vicomte leaving through a back door. She is alarmed, but Julie, her suivante, reassures her:

Non, Madame, et il a voulu témoigner par là qu’il est tout entier à vos charmes.
Julie à la Comtesse (Scène II)
[No, Madam, and by this he wished to show that he is entirely to your charms.]
Julie to the Countess (Scene Two, p. 67)

The Comtesse‘s haughty behaviour is mostly objectionable. She scolds Andrée for using the word armoire, instead of garde-robe (closet). She scolds both Andrée and Criquet, for not knowing the word soucoupe, saucer. In fact, Criquet doesn’t know the word écuyer (equerry). We also have the matter of wax candles. They may have disappeared. Andrée has suif candles, tallow candles. Finally, Andrée gets so nervous that she drops a glass sitting on a tray and breaks it. The image at the top of this post shows Andrée dropping a glass. However, Scene Two contains an extremely revealing conversation between la Comtesse and Julie, which will be discussed.

SCENE THREE

Before he arrives, Monsieur Thibaudier, one of the Comtesse‘s bourgeois suitors has Jeannot take pears to the Comtesse, to which a note is attached. The note will be read by the Vicomte to everyone in Scene Four. However, the Comtesse surprises us. As Scene Three is closing, she praises Monsieur Tibaudier:

Ce qui me plaît de ce Monsieur, c’est qu’il sait vivre avec les
personnes de ma qualité, et qu’il est fort respectueux.
La Comtesse à tous (Scene III)
[What pleases me in this Mr. Tibaudier is, that he knows how to behave with persons of my rank, and that he is very respectful.]
The Countess to all (Scene Fourteen, p. 74)

SCENE FOUR

In Scene Four, le Vicomte tells the Comtesse that the comedians are ready and that, in a quarter of an hour, they should all leave for the large room, la salle. The Countess warns that she does not want une cohue, a crush.

Je ne veux point de cohue au moins. Que l’on dise à mon suisse qu’il ne laisse entrer personne.
La Comtesse au Vicomte (Scène IV)
I will have no crush at least. (To Criquet). Tell my porter to let no one enter.
The Countess to the Viscount (Scene Fifteen, p. 74)

So the Vicomte, who is treating la Comtesse to a comedy, is ready to cancel the performance. One cannot let in the whole town, but spectators are needed.

En ce cas, Madame, je vous déclare que je renonce à la comédie, et je n’y saurais prendre de plaisir, lorsque la compagnie n’est pas nombreuse. Croyez-moi, si vous voulez vous bien divertir, qu’on dise à vos gens de laisser entrer toute la ville.
Le Vicomte à la Comtesse (Scène IV)
[In this case, Madam, I must inform you that I shall abandon the comedy; and I cannot take any pleasure in it, if the company be not numerous. Believe me, that if you wish to amuse yourself well, you should tell your people to let the whole town come in.]
The Viscount to the Countess (Scene Fifteen, p. 74)

The Viscount then reads the note Monsieur Tibaudier has sent with the pears. Monsieur Tibaudier has made it clear that the Comtesse has been cruel, so we expect the Comtesse to be to react angrily, but she doesn’t. Some académicien might find fault with the note, but she likes it.

Il y a peut-être quelque mot qui n’est pas de l’Académie; mais j’y remarque un certain respect qui me plaît beaucoup.
La Comtesse à tous (Scène II)
[There may, perhaps, be some word in it which does not belong to the Academy; but I can read a certain respect in it which pleases me much.]
The Countess to all (Scene Fifteen.75)

Julie says:

Vous avez raison, Madame, et Monsieur le Vicomte dût-il s’en offenser, j’aimerais un homme qui m’écrirait comme cela.
Julie à la Comtesse (Scene IV)
[You are quite right, Madam, and, at the risk of offending the Viscount, I should love a man who wrote to me in this way.]
Julie to the Countess (Scene Fifteen, p. 75)

SCENE FIVE

In Scene Five, the Comtesse welcomes Monsieur Tibaudier rather warmly and the Viscount reads aloud Monsieur Tibaudier’s poems. They are so lovely that the Viscount says to himself that he has been outranked by Monsieur Thibaudier.

The Comtesse enjoys being courted by a Viscount, which we have seen in Scene Two, but she likes Monsieur Tibaudier’s note.

Self-interest and Jealousy

Scene Two is most revealing. It points to the organising principles of the play. Self-interest informs the behaviour of the Countess, and so does vanity. She may first appear obsessed with rank, but she is guided by vanity, and fear of losing the Comtesse‘s affection keeps her suitors vying for her affection.

Scene Two: Julie wonders how, having just travelled to Paris, the Comtesse can manage lowly Angoulême. She has been at Court where she met le beau monde (celebrities). Can she return to the company of a Counsellor at Law, Monsieur Tibaudier, and a tax farmer, Monsieur Harpin. They do not have a title.

Je m’étonne, Madame, que de tous ces grands noms que je devine, vous ayez pu redescendre à un monsieur Tibaudier, le conseiller, et à un monsieur Harpin, le receveur des tailles. La chute est grande, je vous l’avoue. Car pour Monsieur votre vicomte, quoique vicomte de province, c’est toujours un vicomte, et il peut faire un voyage à Paris, s’il n’en a point fait; mais un conseiller, et un receveur, sont des amants un peu bien minces [thin], pour une grande comtesse comme vous.
Julie à la Comtesse (Scène II)
[I am surprised, Madam, that after all these great names at which I guess, you have been able to come down again to a Mr. Tibaudier, a counsellor at law, and to a Mr. Harpin, a receiver of taxes. The fall is great, I confess; for, as for your Viscount, though but a country Viscount, he is at any rate a Viscount, and may make a journey to Paris, if he have not already done so: but a counsellor at law, and a receiver of taxes are somewhat inferior lovers for a grand Countess like you.]
Julie to the Countess (Scene Eleven, p. 71)

There can be no doubt that the Comtesse inhabits the world La Rochefoucauld described. Self-interest makes it necessary for her to accommodate her bourgeois suitors who must be rivals.

Ce sont gens qu’on ménage dans les provinces pour le besoin qu’on en peut avoir, ils servent au moins à remplir les vides de la galanterie, à faire nombre de soupirants; et il est bon, Madame, de ne pas laisser un amant seul maître du terrain, de peur que faute de rivaux, son amour ne s’endorme sur trop de confiance.
La Comtesse à Julie (Scène II)
[They are people whom we conciliate in the provinces for the need we may have of them; they serve at least to fill up the vacancies of gallantry; to increase the number of suitors; and it is well, Madam, not to let one lover be sole master, for fear, that, failing rivals, his love may go to sleep through too much confidence.]
The Countess to Julie (Scene Eleven, p. 72)

The Countess is the widowed mother of three sons, one of whom, le Comte, still has a tutor, Monsieur Bobinet. In Scene Eight, Monsieur Harpin, who enters the stage tardily and rather tempestuously, intimates that he has been a donneur. Might the Countess need money and have accepted money?

Monsieur Tibaudier en use comme il lui plaît, je ne sais pas de quelle façon monsieur Tibaudier a été avec vous, mais Monsieur Tibaudier n’est pas un exemple pour moi, et je ne suis point d’humeur à payer les violons pour faire danser les autres.
Monsieur Harpin (Scène VIII)
[Mr. Tibaudier behaves as it pleases him: I do not know on what footing he is with you;  but Mr. Tibaudier is not an example for me, and I am not disposed to pay the violins to let others dance.]
Monsieur Harpin (Scene Twenty-One, p. 81)

Her relationships with Messieurs Tibaudier and Harpin were waning. Hence a recourse to jealousy. Monsieur Tibaudier presses his suit successfully. His verses and true love eliminate le Vicomte.

SCENE VI

Monsieur Bobinet has arrived. He is the tutor to the Countess’ son, the Count. He reports on the Count and also brings news of the Comtesse’s two other sons:

Comment se portent mes deux autres fils, le Marquis et le Commandeur?
La Comtesse à Monsieur Bobinet (Scene VI)
How fare my two other sons, the Marquis and the Commander?
The Countess to Monsieur Bobinet (Scene Seventeen, p. 77)

She wants to know where the Count is and what he is doing. Monsieur Bobinet replies that the Count is in her “beautiful apartment with the alcove” working. 

Il compose un thème, Madame, que je viens de lui dicter, sur une épître de Cicéron.
La Comtesse à monsieur Bobinet (Scene VI)
He is composing an exercise, Madam, which I have just dictated to him upon an epistle of Cicero.
La Comtesse à monsieur Bobinet (Scene Seventeen, p.77)

SCENE VII

Given that the Vicomte has been more or less eliminated, the Comtesse wishes for her son to greet Monsieur Tibaudier. Monsieur Tibaudier is delighted, thereby pleasing the Comtesse. She is a Comtesse, which is rank, but this comtesse thrives on being admired.

Je suis ravi, Madame, que vous me concédiez la grâce d’embrasser Monsieur le Comte votre fils. On ne peut pas aimer le tronc, qu’on n’aime aussi les branches. 
Monsieur Tibaudier à la Comtesse (Scène VII)
[I am enchanted, Madam, that you concede me the favour of embracing the Count, your son. One cannot love the trunk without also loving the branches.]
Monsieur Tibaudier to the Countess (Scene Fourteen, p. 78)

We also learn that although she has three grown (or almost) sons, she still looks young.

Hélas! quand je le fis, j’étais si jeune que je me jouais encore avec une poupée.
La Comtesse à Julie (Scène VII)
[Alas! when he was born, I was so young that I was still playing with a doll.]
The Countess to Julie (Scene Eighteen, p. 78)

She is floating in mid-air when we hear that the comedians are ready.

Les comédiens envoient dire qu’ils sont tout prêts.
Criquet (Scène VII)
The actors send me to say that they are quite ready.
Criquet (Scene Twenty, p. 79)

Le Vicomte reflects that:

Il est nécessaire de dire, que cette comédie n’a été faite que pour lier ensemble les différents morceaux de musique, et de danse, dont on a voulu composer ce divertissement, et que…
Le Vicomte à tous (Scene VII)
[It is necessary to say that this comedy has been written only to connect together the different pieces of music and dancing of which they wished to compose this entertainment, and that…]
The Viscount to all (Scene Twenty, p. 79)

Is the dramatist within his play and is this play a théâtre dans le théâtre? I believe he is.

SCENE EIGHT

Monsieur Harpin joins everyone when the comedy has already started. He is a fâcheux.

Parbleu la chose est belle, et je me réjouis de voir ce que je vois.
Monsieur Harpin (Scène VIII)
Zounds! that is a pretty set out, and I rejoice to see what I do see.
Monsieur Harpin (Scene Twenty-One, p. 79)

Eh têtebleu la véritable comédie qui se fait ici, c’est celle que vous jouez, et si je vous trouble, c’est de quoi je me soucie peu.
Monsieur Harpin (Scène VIII)
Eh! the deuce! The real comedy which is performed here, is played by you; and if I do trouble you, I care very little about it.
Monsieur Harpin (Scene Twenty-One, p. 80)

Monsieur Harpin thinks the Vicomte is his rival.

Eh ventrebleu, s’il y a ici quelque chose de vilain, ce ne sont point mes jurements, ce sont vos actions, et il vaudrait bien mieux que vous jurassiez, vous, la tête, la mort et la sang, que de faire ce que vous faites avec Monsieur le Vicomte.
Monsieur Harpin (Scène VIII)
Eh! Odds bobs! if there be anything nasty, it is not my swearing, but your goings on; and it would be better for you to swear, heads, ‘s deaths, and blood, than to do what you are doing with the Viscount.
Monsieur Harpin (Scene Twenty-One, p. 80)

The Vicomte does not understand what is going on.

Je ne sais pas, Monsieur le Receveur, de quoi vous vous plaignez, et si...
Le Vicomte à Monsieur Harpin (Scene VIII)
I do not know, Mr. Receiver, of what you have to complain; and if…
The Viscount to Monsieur Harpin (Scene Twenty-One, p. 80)

And the Comtesse doesn’t know why Monsieur Harpin speaks to everyone.

Quand on a des chagrins jaloux, on n’en use point de la sorte, et l’on vient doucement se plaindre à la personne que l’on aime.
La Comtesse à Monsieur Harpin (Scene VIII)
When one has jealous cares, one ought not to behave in this manner; but to come and complain gently to the person one loves.
The Countess to Monsieur Harpin (Scene Twenty-One, p. 80)

Contrary to Monsieur Tibaudier, Monsieur Harpin has not gone to visit the Countess and complain. He has chosen instead to accuse the Viscount and to make a mockery of himself. In fact, Monsieur Harpin becomes quite offensive. Once again, he alludes to giving/receiving money.

Je veux dire, que je ne trouve point étrange que vous vous rendiez au mérite de Monsieur le Vicomte, vous n’êtes pas la première femme qui joue dans le monde de ces sortes de caractères, et qui ait auprès d’elle un Monsieur le Receveur, dont on lui voit trahir, et la passion, et la bourse pour le premier venu qui lui donnera dans la vue ; mais ne trouvez point étrange aussi que je ne sois point la dupe d’une infidélité si ordinaire aux coquettes du temps, et que je vienne vous assurer devant bonne compagnie, que je romps commerce avec vous, et que Monsieur le Receveur ne sera plus pour vous Monsieur le Donneur.
Monsieur Harpin (Scene VIII)
[I mean that I find nothing strange in it that you should give way to the merits of the Viscount; you are not the first woman who plays that sort of character in society, and who has a Receiver after her, whose affection and purse one finds her betray for the first comer who suits her views. But do not think it strange that I am not the dupe of an infidelity so common to the coquettes of the present day, and that I come to assure you before decent company, that I break off all connection with you, and that Mr. Receiver shall no longer be Mr. Giver to you.]
Monsieur Harpin (Scene Twenty-0ne, p. 81)

We know already that in Scene Nine, la scène dernière, le vicomte and Julie will learn that their families will allow them to marry and that le Vicomte will tell the Comtesse to marry Monsieur Tibaudier. She will resist a little, but ask Monsieur Tibaudier to marry her.

C’est sans vous offenser, Madame, et les comédies veulent de ces sortes de choses.
Le Vicomte à la Comtesse (Scène dernière)
It was meant without offence, Madam; comedies require these sorts of things.
The Viscount to the Countess (Scene Twenty-Two, p. 81)

Julie has been fully “schooled.” 

Je vous avoue, madame, qu’il y a merveilleusement à profiter de tout ce que vous dites, c’est une école que votre conversation, et j’y viens tous les jours attraper quelque chose.
Julie à la Comtesse (Scène II)
[I confess to you, Madam, that there is a marvellous deal to learn by what you say; your conversation is a school, and every day I get hold of something in it.]
Julie to the Countess (Scene Fourteen, p. 72)

Conclusion

In this comedy, jealousy is used to overcome obstacles to the marriage of the Comtesse. Monsieur Tibaudier presses his suit when a Vicomte is courting the Comtesse. On the other hand, Monsieur Harpin becomes jealous and his own worst enemy. This obstacle is to the Comtesse‘s marriage is mostly vanity on her part, which can translate as rank, but not necessarily. The Comtesse acts in her best interest. In 17th-century France, the bourgeoisie was growing and many bourgeois were rich.

However, we have a doubling or two couples. Le Vicomte and Julie face a more traditional obstacle. His father and her brothers oppose the Vicomte‘s marriage to Julie. A billet is delivered to the Vicomte. He may marry Julie. Comedy demands a fortunate péripétie, or turn of events. La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas is an “all’s that ends well” comedy. But first, all will watch the end of the comedy within the comedy. Le Ballet des ballets was a divertissement.

I have read Lucien Dallenbach’s Récit spéculaire and I am reading Georges Forestier’s Le Théâtre dans le Théâtre. Years ago, I read Jean Rousset’s books. According to Georges Forestier, the embedded (enchâssé-e) element is the missing Pastoral, situated between Scenes Eight and Nine (p. 353).[1] I would call other allusions to comedy “self-referential.”

RELATED ARTICLES

Sources and Resources

Love to everyone 💕
____________________
[1] Georges Forestier Le Théâtre dans le théâtre (Genève: Droz, 1966), p. 353.

Antoine BoëssetÀ la fin cette bergère… 
Claire Lefilliâtre (soprano), Bruno Le Levreur, Jean-François Novelli, Arnaud Marzorati
Le Poème Harmonique — Vincent Dumestre

 

La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas, le Mariage forcé – Marc Antoine Charpentier
La Simphonie du Marais
Lyrics: Le Mariage forcé and added interludes

La comtesse d'Escarbagnas par Lalauze (1)

La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas par Adolphe Lalauze (theatre-documentation. com)

© Micheline Walker
6 January 2020
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Wickanninish Inn, Vancouver Island

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Emily Carr, The Indian Church, 1929. Lawren Harris bought the painting and showcased it in his home. He considered it Carr's best work.

The Indian Church by Emily Carr, 1928 (Photo credit: Wiki2.org)

I want to wish you all a Happy New Year. May it be generous and kind.

A Coincidence

Ironically, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent their holidays on the west coast of Vancouver Island, which brought back gilded images from the past. My husband and I spent our honeymoon on the west coast of Vancouver Island, but north of the area the Royals chose for their holidays. We were at Wickanninish Inn, before the trans Canada highway reached that far. Therefore, it was the end of an era. Hundreds of people would now be on what was a desert beach.

We had Long Beach to ourselves: 13.6 kilometers, but much longer… The only live beings we met were sea lions and a dog.

Other guests had flown in, but we had used loggers’ roads. It was a bumpy, but relatively short ride, and well worth the inconvenience. The chef was from New York and the food, excellent.

The Inn was beautiful and smaller than it is today, but it was Paradise. At night we could see an impressive display of stars.

 

Artist Emily Carr (1871 – 1945) had spent time in that area. We explored in the hope of finding signs of her presence. She was everywhere.

Some of you may remember who gave his name to the Inn. It was Amerindian Chief Wickanninish who destroyed the Tonquin, a boat built for John Jacob Astor, the owner of the American Fur Trade Company. It carried voyageurs from New York to the “Oregon country.”

I will always remember the Wickanninish Inn.

RELATED ARTICLES

Sources and Resources

 

King regards to everyone 💕

I have been sick for several days, but the illness has turned into simple sinusitis.

Wickanninish Inn (brochure)

© Micheline Walker
2 January 2020
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Wickanninish Inn (1968)

La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas, nearly all

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La comtesse d'Escarbagnas par Ed. Héd.

La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas par Edmond Hédouin (theatre-documentation.com)

I’m ready to post La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas, a fine little comedy of manners and comédie-ballet also entitled le Ballet des ballets. It was performed 580 times before the French Revolution.[1] The main character, la Comtesse, is besotted by rank. She is a widowed personne de qualité, her spouse was a count, who is seeking a second husband. She does not marry an aristocrat, but a bourgeois who loves her and looks upon her as une personne de qualité. Monsieur Tibaudier is very frank, but he loves the Comtesse and she will remain a Comtesse. When the curtain lifts, she has just returned Paris. The dénouement is a happy one. It is an “all’s well that ends well,” Molière champions the happiness of loving couples.

Our dramatis personæ is:

LA COMTESSE D’ESCARBAGNAS.
LE COMTE, son fils (son).
LE VICOMTE, amant (in love with) de Julie.
JULIE, amante du Vicomte.
MONSIEUR TIBAUDIER, conseiller, amant de la Comtesse.
MONSIEUR HARPIN, receveur des tailles (tax farmer), autre amant de la Comtesse.
MONSIEUR BOBINET, précepteur (tutor) de Monsieur le Comte.
ANDRÉE, suivante de la Comtesse.
JEANNOT, laquais de Monsieur Tibaudier.
CRIQUET, laquais de la Comtesse.

La scène est à Angoulême.

The Suitors: Tibaudier and Harpin

La Comtesse is courted by three men:

  • Monsieur Tibaudier,
  • Monsieur Harpin, and
  • le Vicomte.

When the Vicomte starts courting the Comtesse, Monsieur Tibaudier and Monsieur Harpin do no think they have a chance. The Viscount has a rank and the Comtesse is obsessed with rank. Two of her suitors are bourgeois and do not like having a rival who is Vicomte. Monsieur Harpin becomes a jaloux and rudely interrupts a comédie le Vicomte is offering la Comtesse. Monsieur Harpin’s jealousy is not revealed until the very end of the comedy, when he barges in on le vicomte‘s comédie.

However, Monsieur Tibaudier and Monsieur Harpin do not know le Vicomte is not their rival. Le Vicomte is in love with Julie, but they cannot marry until his father and her brothers approve the marriage. In fact, the Comtesse‘s only available suitors are Monsieur Tibaudier and Monsieur Harpin, one of whom is un jaloux, who enters late and disgraces himself.

When the inner comedy begins, the Vicomte’s gift to the comtesse, all has been arranged. La Comtesse will marry Monsieur Tibaudier. Monsieur Harpin is a jaloux whom we do not see until it’s too late. So, as events unfold, Monsieur Harpin having stayed away, the only suitor seeking the Comtesse‘s affection is Monsieur Tibaudier who dearly loves the Comtesse.

Monsieur Thibaudier

However, when invited to attend the comédie, Monsieur Tibaudier will not go the Comtesse‘s house until Jeannot has carried a gift of pears to which a message is attached. The messages is clear. He has been waiting for too long.

Madame, je n’aurais pas pu vous faire le présent que je vous envoie, si je ne recueillais pas plus de fruit de mon jardin, que j’en recueille de mon amour.
Monsieur Tibaudier (Scene IV)
[Madam, I could not have made you the present which I send you, if, I gathered as little fruit from my garden as I gather from my love.]
Monsieur Tibaudier (Scene Fifteen)

Monsieur Tibaudier has written:

Les poires ne sont pas encore bien mûres, mais elles en cadrent mieux, avec la dureté de votre âme, qui par ses continuels dédains, ne me promet pas poires molles.  Trouvez bon, Madame, que sans m’engager dans une énumération de vos perfections, et charmes, qui me jetterait dans un progrès à l’infini, je conclue ce mot, en vous faisant considérer que je suis d’un aussi franc chrétien, que les poires que je vous envoie, puisque je rends le bien pour le mal, c’est-à-dire, Madame, pour m’expliquer plus intelligiblement, puisque je vous présente des poires de bon-chrétien, pour des poires d’angoisse,[2] que vos cruautés me font avaler tous les jours.
Tibaudier, votre esclave indigne (Scène V)
[The pears are not yet very ripe; but they will go all the better with the hardness of your heart, which, by its continuous disdain, does not promise me anything soft. Permit me. Madam, without entering upon an enumeration of your perfections and charms which would betray me in a never ending progress, to conclude this note by calling your attention to the fact that I am as good a Christian as the pears which I send you, since I return good for evil; which means, Madam, to express myself more intelligibly, that I offer you pears of bon-chrétien for choke-pears[3] which your cruelty makes me swallow every day.
Tibaudier, your unworthy slave.]
(Scene Fifteen)

La Comtesse is not offended. She welcomes Monsieur Thibaudier has a stool[4] brought for him and the Vicomte reads his poetry.

Une personne de qualité
Ravit mon âme,
Elle a de la beauté,
J’ai de la flamme;
Mais je la blâme
D’avoir de la fierté.
(Scène V)
[A lady of quality
Ravishes my soul:
She has beauty,
I have love;
But I blame her
For having pride.]
(Scene Sixteen)

When he reads the above, le Vicomte says:

Je suis perdu après cela.
(Scène V)
[I’m lost after all this.]
(Scene Sixteen)

He doesn’t think of his rank, except to say that he has been supplanted or outranked.

Me voilà supplanté, moi, par Monsieur Tibaudier.
Le Vicomte (Scene V)
[Here I am supplanted [outranked] by Mr. Tibaudier.]
The Viscount (Scene Eleven)

Outranked he is. La Comtesse cannot find anything wrong with Monsieur Tibaudier. So, when it is revealed — the péripétie, that the Vicomte can marry Julie, the Viscount himself gives la Comtesse to Monsieur Tibaudier as a husband. Monsieur Harpin has disgraced himself, and, he, the Viscount, loves Julie.

Le Vicomte knows that Monsieur Tibaudier truly loves la Comtesse, whom he will always consider “une personne de qualité.”

As for Julie, she has made  le Vicomte wait, but has she been cruel?

C’est trop lontemps, Iris, me mettre à la torture [.]
Le Vicomte Scène première 
[Too long, Iris, have you put me to the torture[.]]
The Viscount (Scene One)

But le Vicomte replaces Julie’s name with the name Iris in the poem he recites. The name Iris belongs to John Lyly‘s euphuism. He complains Iris is making him wait too long, but he has distanced Julie by naming her Iris. Julie protests. Why should women be depicted as a man’s torturer. It has seemed long. Julie and the Vicomte want to marry, but their families are objecting. It must seem an endless wait, but what could she do?

However, suddenly, everything turns around. It’s a péripétie. Le Vicomte tells la Comtesse what it means:

Cela veut dire, Madame, que j’épouse Julie, et si vous m’en croyez, pour rendre la comédie complète de tout point, vous épouserez Monsieur Tibaudier, et donnerez Mademoiselle Andrée à son laquais dont il fera son valet de chambre.
Le Vicomte à la Comtesse (Scène dernière)
[This means, Madam, that I marry Julia ; and if you believe me, to render the comedy more complete in all points, you will marry Mr. Tibaudier, and give Miss Andrée to his lacquey, of whom he shall make his valet.][3]
The Viscount to the Countesse (Scene Twenty-Two)

The Comtesse feels, briefly, that this is offensive

Quoi, jouer de la sorte une personne de ma qualité?
La Comtesse (Scène dernière)
[What ! to hoodwink a person of my rank thus?]
The Comtesse (Scene Twenty-Two)

Le Vicomte tells her that he has not offended her. This is the Will of comedy, or an “all’s well that ends well.”

C’est sans vous offenser, Madame, et les comédies veulent de ces sortes de choses.
Le Vicomte à la Comtesse (Scène dernière)
[It was meant without offence, Madam; comedies require these sorts of things.]
The Viscount to the Countess (Scene Twenty-Two)

Therefore, the Comtesse tells monsieur Tibaudier that she will marry him.
The Countess to Monsieur Thibaudier (Scene Twenty-Two)

Oui, Monsieur Tibaudier, je vous épouse, pour faire enrager tout le monde. 
La Comtesse à Monsieur Thibaudier (Scène dernière)
[Yes, Mr. Tibaudier, I marry you in order to put the whole world in a rage.]
The Countess to Mr Tibaudier (Scene Twenty-Two)

He thinks it is a very great honour:

Ce m’est bien de l’honneur, Madame.
Monsieur Tibaudier à la Comtesse (Scène dernière)
[It is a great honour to me, Madam.]
Monsieur Tibaudier to the Countess (Scene Twenty Two)

All then go to see the end of the comédie the Vicomte was giving to Julie under the name of the Comtesse. Monsieur Harpin barges in, speaking impolitely, and is removed.

Conclusion

Molière has created a comedy where there is only one genuine suitor to la Comtesse. We suspect this is the case when le Vicomte tells Julie that she is making play a role in a comedy and complains that this has gone on for too long. She is not responsible for the delay. Cléante’s father and her brothers oppose her marriage to Cléante, the Vicomte. He protests because it has gone on too long and reads a poem where he depicts his plight as a “double martyrdom.”  Time is relative. If one has a poire d’angoisse inserted in one’s mouth, time lasts forever. If one is happy, time flies. 

C’est trop longtemps, Iris, me mettre à la torture,
Et si je suis vos lois, je les blâme tout bas,
De me forcer à taire un tourment que j’endure
Pour déclarer un mal que je ne ressens pas.
Faut-il que vos beaux yeux à qui je rends les armes,
Veuillent se divertir de mes tristes soupirs,
Et n’est-ce pas assez de souffrir pour vos charmes,
Sans me faire souffrir encor pour vos plaisirs?
Le Vicomte à Julie (Scène première)
[Too long, Iris, have you put me to the torture, And if I obey your laws, I blame them silently For forcing me to conceal the torment which I endure, To confess a pain which I do not feel.
(…)
This double martyrdom is too much at one time;
(…)
And if by pity you are not overcome,
I die both by the feint and by the truth.
The Viscount to Julie (Scene One)]

Le Vicomte and Julie are typical young lovers who face blocking characters. Cléante’s father would be a heavy father, but Julie does not agree that the Vicomte is a double martyrdom. However, she wants a copy of the letter. It is reverse flattery, but flattery.

Je vois que vous vous faites là bien plus maltraité que vous n’êtes; mais c’est une licence que prennent messieurs les poètes, de mentir de gaieté de cœur, et de donner à leurs maîtresses des cruautés qu’elles n’ont pas, pour s’accommoder aux pensées qui leur peuvent venir. Cependant je serai bien aise que vous me donniez ces vers par écrit.
Julie au Vicomte (Scène première)
I see that you make yourself out to be more ill-treated than you are; but to tell falsehoods wantonly, to attribute to their mistresses cruelties which they do not
feel, is a license which gentlemen poets take, to accommodate themselves to the ideas with which they may be inspired. I should, however, be very glad, if you would give me these verses in writing.]
Julie to the Viscount (Scene One)

The Vicomte makes believe he is in love with the Comtesse, and he cannot tell that Julie is the woman he loves. But he provides a rival to Monsieur Tibaudier and to Monsieur Harpin, which he doesn’t like.

But he calls Julie Iris. This language is akin to John Lyly‘s euphuism, a witty, courtly style that distances Julie. 

Sources and Resources

 

Love to all of you💕
This post is not complete, but it can stand alone. I will publish whatever is missing, excluding quotations used in this post.
_____________________
[1] toutmoliere.net
[2]
A pear-shaped instrument to keep the mouth open. One could not scream when thieves took everything.
[3] I believe this could also be translated as “who will be her lackey.”
[4] At Court, a lower rank individual was not allowed to sit in an armchair. The stool was a pliant. It could fold. 

escarbagnas

La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas by François Boucher (drawing) (sitelully.free.fr)

Euphues_the_anatomy_of_wit

© Micheline Walker
31 December 2019
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Happy Holidays

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The village in winter, 1880 - 1890 - Aleksey Savrasov

The Village in Winter by Aleksey Savrasov, 1800-1890 (wikiart.org)

Dear friends,

Just a word to wish you a Merry Christmas and other festivities. May the New Year bless all of you.

I thank you for the warmth you have brought me for some nine years. We create bonds with are colleagues, which I never expected.

We had a Christmas celebration last night, at one of my nephew’s home. So I may now write a post on La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas, Molière’s shortest play.

A very long time ago, my sister and I produced it. I can’t remember which role I played. Students enjoy producing plays. My sister is an award-winning actress.

Rachmaninoff— Praise the Lord

Early Spring. Thaw, 1885 - Aleksey Savrasov

Early Spring Thaw by Savrasov, 1885 (wikiart.org)

© Micheline Walker
25 December 2019
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“Les Fâcheux” & les Ballets Russes

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Les Fâcheux, stage scenery by Georges Braque, a Ballets Russes production, 1924

Georges Braque & Les Ballets Russes

In 1924, Molière’s Les Fâcheux was made into a ballet by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The image shows the stage scenery created by Georges Braque. On 17 December 2019, I inserted two images attributed to Georges Braque. The music to the ballet was composed by Georges Auric (15 February 1899 – 23 July 1983), a French composer. 

Georges Braque (13 May 1882 – 31 August 1963) is associated with Fauvism. Braque is also associated with Cubism, as is Pablo Picasso, the movement’s co-founder. Picasso was employed by Sergei Diaghilev, which is an element I wish to underscore. Diaghilev attracted and promoted many talents, including Jean CocteauLes Ballets Russes was Russian, yet a Tout-Paris ballet company. Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes also transformed Molière’s The Doctor in Spite of Himself (Le Médecin malgré lui) into a ballet. It was an opera by Charles GounodÉrik Satie was asked to compose recitatives.

For a list of Ballets Russes répertoire and related information, see Ballets Russes dancers (wiki2.org).

There is so much to tell about Molière and particularly Les Fâcheux. In fact, I still have Les Fâcheux in mind. We see two pirouettes.

  1. La Rivière and friends, thugs, turn against Damis and try to kill him.
  2. Éraste, un soldat before he was un courtisan, saves Damis, who is the blocking-character, but whom gratitude changes. He enables the marriage he would not allow, which is a complete reversal and comedy, farce in particular. It is comic irony.

The image below shows Éraste, and his companion would be Orchise.

17734_Braque_Les_Facheux_17x13in_l

Braque, Diaghilev

La Fontaine: Nature

La Fontaine and Molière probably met at approximately this point in history. La Fontaine was a protégé of Nicolas Fouquet. In a letter, une épître, to Maucroix, La Fontaine praised Molière. Les Fâcheux, “par sa manière,” had pleased him.[2]

C’est un ouvrage de Molière :
Cet écrivain, par sa manière,
Charme à present toute la Cour
De la façon dont son nom court,
Il doit être par delà Rome.
Je suis ravi car c’est mon homme.
Te souvient-il bien qu’autrefois,
Nous avons conclu d’une voix
Qu’il allait ramener en France
Le bon goût et l’art de Térence?
Plaute n’est plus qu’un plat bouffon,
Et jamais il ne fit si bon
Se trouver à la comédie;
Car je ne pense pas qu’on y rie
De maint trait jadis admiré
Et bon
in illo tempore
Nous avons changé de méthode :
Jodelet n’est plus à la mode,
Et maintenant il ne faut pas
Quitter la nature d’un pas.

[It is a work by Molière, this writer whose manner now charms the Court. The way his name is running, he must be beyond Rome, I’m delighted because he’s my man. Do you remember how, in older days, we agreed that he would bring back to France the good taste and the art of Terence? Plautus is now no more than a flat buffoon, and never has it been so good to see comedies. For I do not think that one laughs at features admired in the past and which were good in illo tempore (then). We’ve changed methods. Jodelet[1] is no longer in, and we cannot leave nature by even a step.]  (The translation is mine. It is not polished, but it is Molière theory.)

Molière depicted his century as he saw it and heard it. That is “nature” Molière’s in his century.

Sources and Resources

____________________
[1] Jodelet played Jodelet in the Précieuses ridicules. His face was enfariné, or covered with flour. Molière played Mascarille.
[2] See Maurice Rat, ed. Œuvres complètes de Molière (Pléiade, 1956), p. 861.

Love to everyone 💕

Les Fâcheux by les Ballets Russes, to music by Georges Auric.

https://www.allmusic.com/album/georges-auric-les-facheux-la-pastorale-mw0002044588

© Micheline Bourbeau-Walker
19 December 2019
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Molière’s ‟Les Fâcheux,” ‟The Bores” (2)

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edmond-geffroy-1804-1895-moliere-et-ses-personnages_-suite-de-17-aquarelles-originales-hellip

Lisandre par Edmond Geffroy

Vois-tu ce petit trait de feinte que voilà ?
Ce fleuret ? ces coupés courant après la belle? 
Lisandre (I. iii)
[Do you observe that little touch of a faint? This fleuret?
The coupés running after the fair one.]
Lisandre (I. 5)

Molière’s Les Fâcheux, a three-act and verse comédie-ballet, was first performed at Vaux-le-Vicomte, Nicolas Fouquet‘s château, on 17 August 1661. It heralded King Louis XIV’s divertissements, which usually took place in a château outside Paris, such as the château at Saint-German-en-Laye. After Vaux-le-Vicomte’s performance of Les Fâcheux, Louis XIV congratulated Molière, but suggested that a hunter, le Marquis de Soyecourt, be added to the bores. The role had been added by 25 August 1661, when Les Fâcheux was performed at Fontainebleau. On 4 November 1661, Les Fâcheux was performed in Paris at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal.

In comédies-ballets, one also names the composer, Lully, and the choreographer, Beauchamp. Here, Molière was the lyricist. As a comédie-ballet, Les Fâcheux contains a Prologue that precedes Act One and features a naiad in a shell. Moreover, interludes, entrées de ballet, separate Acts One and Two (two), Acts Two and Three (four), and two entrées de ballet follow Act Three.

Jealousy

Les Fâcheux continues the theme of jealousy, introduced in Dom Garcie de Navarre ou le Prince jaloux. In Les Fâcheux, it is a debate mostly which takes place in Act Two, Scene Four, a scene I chose to discuss separately. It should be noted, however, that Dom Garcie de Navarre ou le Prince jaloux was a comédie héroïque, but that Les Fâcheux, is a form of divertissement, not a comédie héroïque. Form imposes a different treatment of a similar subject, such as jealousy, but jealousy is jealousy. In Act Two, Scene Four Éraste, our young lover, will be asked to hear both sides of a debate on whether jealousy is a sign of love. This was a question d’amour. These were plentiful and were often discussed, rather lightheartedly, in the salons of seventeenth-century France. Questions d’amour are associated with préciosité. In this scene, the fâcheuses are Climène and Orante. 

horace1auteur

Horace (Google)

Sources

  • Horace
  • Theophrastus

I named Horace’s Satires as the play’s main source, adding that Les Fâcheux was also rooted in French and contemporary sources: Mathurin Régnier, Paul Scarron, and others. But The Bores also borrows from Theophrastus, as does Jean de La Bruyère‘s Caractères.[1] French classicisme has Greek and Roman ancestry. On the cover of the third edition of Jean de La Bruyère’s Caractères, we can read that some of La Bruyère’s caractères are a translation of  Theophrastus’ Greek characters, and others “de ce siècle,” living caractères. The seventeenth-century had its moralistes. In fact, Le Misanthrope contains a portrait scene. Someone drops a name and Célimène has a portrait ready.

Moreover, as I reread Les Fâcheux, a word leaped off the page: raison, as in René Descartes. Éraste says to La Montagne:

215 J’ai de l’amour encor pour la belle inhumaine,/ Et ma raison voudrait, que j’eusse de la haine!
Éraste to La Montagne (I. iv)
[Ah, I feel myself greatly disturbed ! I still love the cruel fair one, and my reason bids me hate her.]
Éraste to La Montagne (I. 7)

Does reason militate against love? Descartes championed reason, but he wrote Les Passions de l’âme, and was opposed by several figures in seventeenth-century France. We need only name Blaise Pascal (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650). Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point. (See merriam-webster.com.) 

Let us run back to Vaux-le-Vicomte. Les Fâcheux was created, rehearsed and performed in fifteen days.

Molière wrote that

« Jamais entreprise au théâtre ne fut si précipitée que celle-ci, et c’est une chose, je crois, toute nouvelle qu’une comédie ait été conçue, faite, apprise et représentée en quinze jours. »
Molière, Avertissement
[Never was any Dramatic performance so hurried as this; and it is a thing, I believe, quite new, to have a comedy planned, finished, got up, and played in a fortnight.][Preface]

DIAGHILEW-(SERGE-DE)-BRAQUE-(GEORGES).-LES-FACHEUX.-PARIS-_-QUATRE-CHEMINS-1924.&HELLIP-

Our DRAMATIS PERSONÆ is:

ERASTE, in love with ORPHISE,
ORPHISE, in love with ERASTE
DAMIS, guardian to Orphise,
LA MONTAGNE, servant to Eraste,
L’EPINE, servant to Damis.
ALCIDOR,
DORANTE,
LISANDRE/LYSANDRE,
CARITIDES,
ALCANDRE,
ORMIN,
ALCIPPE,
FILINTE,
ORANTE,
CLIMÈNE.
LA RIVIERE and Two COMRADES.

The Scene is at PARIS.

ACT ONE

In Act One, La Montagne is helping Éraste dress properly. For instance, he cleans Éraste’s hat, drops it, and must clean again. These are comedic routines called lazzi.

Valets and other servants help young couples overcome obstacles to their marriage. They are zanni. For instance, Éraste tells La Montagne that of all the bores, the worst is Damis, Orchise’s uncle and guardian:

Mais de tous mes fâcheux, le plus fâcheux encore,/ C’est Damis, le tuteur de celle que j’adore;/ Qui rompt ce qu’à mes vœux elle donne d’espoir,/ Et fait qu’en sa présence elle n’ose me voir./ 115 Je crains d’avoir déjà passé l’heure promise,/ Et c’est dans cette allée, où devait être Orphise.
Éraste à La Montagne (I. i)
[But of all my bores the greatest is Damis, guardian of her whom I adore, who dashes every hope she raises, and has brought it to pass that she dares not see me in his presence. I fear I have already passed the hour agreed on; it is in this walk that Orphise promised to be.]
Éraste to La Montagne (I. 1)

Moreover, Éraste turns to La Montagne to ask him whether Orphise loves him.  La Montagne calls Orphise’s love “un amour confirmé.”

125 Mais, tout de bon, crois-tu que je sois d’elle aimé?
Éraste à La Montagne (I. i)
[But, in good earnest, do you believe that I am loved by her?]
Éraste to La Montagne (I. 1)
Quoi? vous doutez encor d’un amour confirmé…
La Montagne à Éraste (I. i)
[What ! do you still doubt a love that has been tried?]
La Montagne to Éraste (I. 1)

La Montagne is doing what valets do, but Éraste wishes to leave as quickly as possible, which makes La Montagne a bore. Being a bore is, to a large extent, a matter of timing and, therefore, relative. At the end of Scene One Éraste says:

150 Au diantre tout valet qui vous est sur les bras;/ Qui fatigue son maître, et ne fait que déplaire/ À force de vouloir trancher du nécessaire.
Éraste à La Montagne (I. i)
[The deuce take every servant who dogs your heels, who wearies his master, and does nothing but annoy him by wanting to set himself up as indispensable!]
Éraste a La Montagne (I. 1)

However, as soon as Éraste leaves, so does La Montagne who sees, as Éraste does, that Alcidor is holding Orphise’s hand. Orphise waves to Éraste and tends turns her head in another direction. Éraste is miffed. Orphise has ignored him. Does she or does she not love Éraste? 

153 Mais vois-je pas Orphise? Oui c’est elle, qui vient./ Où va-t-elle si vite, et quel homme la tient?
(Il la salue comme elle passe, et elle en passant détourne la tête)
Éraste à La Montagne (I. ii)
[But do I not see Orphise? Yes, it is she who comes. Whither goeth she so fast, and what man is that who holds her hand?]
Éraste to La Montagne (I. 2, p. 59)

He bows to her as she passes, and she turns her head another way.

155 Quoi me voir en ces lieux devant elle paraître,/ Et passer en feignant de ne me pas connaître/ Que croire? Qu’en dis-tu? Parle donc, si tu veux.
Éraste à La Montagne (I. ii)
[What! She sees me here before her, and she passes by, pretending not to know me! What can I think? What do you say? Speak if you will.]
Éraste to La Montagne who will not speak for fear of being a bore. (1. 3, p. 59)

Éraste suffers :

Et c’est l’ [fâcheux] être en effet que de ne me rien dire/ 160 Dans les extrémités d’un si cruel martyre./ Fais donc quelque réponse à mon cœur abattu:/ Que dois-je présumer? Parle, qu’en penses-tu? Dis-moi ton sentiment.
Éraste à La Montagne (I. ii)
[And so indeed you do, if you say nothing to me whilst I suffer such a cruel martyrdom. Give me some answer; I am quite dejected. What am I to think? Say, what do you think of it? Tell me your opinion.]
Éraste à La Montagne (I. 3)

165 Peste l’impertinent! Va-t’en suivre leurs pas;/ Vois ce qu’ils deviendront, et ne les quitte pas.
Éraste à La Montagne (I. ii)
[Hang the impertinent fellow! Go and follow them; see what becomes of them, and do not quit them.]
Éraste to La Montagne (I. 3)

The above quotations suggest inquiétude in Éraste who loves Orphise, and matters get worse, but remember that this is a divertissement.

213 Monsieur, Orphise est seule, et vient de ce côté.
La Montagne à Éraste (I. iv)
[Sir, Orphise is alone, and is coming this way.]
La Montagne to Éraste (I. 7)

Ah d’un trouble bien grand je me sens agité!/ 215 J’ai de l’amour encor pour la belle inhumaine,/ Et ma raison voudrait, que j’eusse de la haine!
Éraste à La Montagne (I. iv)
[Ah, I feel myself greatly disturbed ! I still love the cruel fair one, and my reason bids me hate her.]
Éraste to La Montagne (I. 7)

Why would “reason” demand that Éraste hate Orphise whom he loves? When, finally, Éraste catches up to Orphise, she tells him that she was pursued by a bore and laughs. Yes, a man held her hand, but she was trying to rid herself of a bore and find Éraste.

Certes il en faut rire, et confesser ici,/ Que vous êtes bien fou, de vous troubler ainsi./ L’homme, dont vous parlez, loin qu’il puisse me plaire,/ 240 Est un homme fâcheux dont j’ai su me défaire;/ Un de ces importuns, et sots officieux, /Qui ne sauraient souffrir qu’on soit seule en des lieux;/ Et viennent aussitôt, avec un doux langage,/Vous donner une main, contre qui l’on enrage./ 245 J’ai feint de m’en aller, pour cacher mon dessein;/ Et, jusqu’à mon carrosse, il m’a prêté la main./ Je m’en suis promptement défaite de la sorte,/ Et j’ai pour vous trouver, rentré par l’autre porte.
Orphise à Éraste (I. v)
[I really must laugh, and declare that you are very silly to trouble yourself thus. The man of whom you speak, far from being able to please me, is a bore of whom I have succeeded in ridding myself; one of those troublesome and officious fools who will not suffer a lady to be anywhere alone, but come up at once, with soft speech, offering you a hand against which one rebels. I pretended to be going away, in order to hide my intention, and he gave me his hand as far as my coach. I soon got rid of him in that way, and returned by another gate to come to you.]
Orphise to Éraste (I. 8)

When he learns the truth, Éraste believes Orchise and asks her not to be angry. Had he offended her, she would not laugh and, if he were jealous, a simple explanation would not have appeased him.

Ah ne vous fâchez pas, trop sévère beauté./ 255 Je veux croire en aveugle, étant sous votre empire,/ Tout ce que vous aurez la bonté de me dire./ Trompez, si vous voulez, un malheureux amant; /J’aurai pour vous respect, jusques au monument.[tomb]/ Maltraitez mon amour, refusez-moi le vôtre;/ 260 Exposez à mes yeux le triomphe d’un autre,/ Oui je souffrirai tout de vos divins appas,/ J’en mourrai, mais enfin je ne m’en plaindrai pas.
Éraste à Orphise (I. v)
[Ah! too severe beauty, do not be angry. Being under your sway, I will implicitly believe whatever you are kind enough to tell me. Deceive your hapless lover if you will; I shall respect you to the last gasp. Abuse my love, refuse me yours, show me another lover triumphant; yes, I will endure everything for your divine charms. I shall die, but even then I will not complain.]
Éraste à Orphise (I. 8)

In Act One, Scene Three, Lisandre, pictured at the top of this post, is a bore who sings and dances. Alhough Éraste appreciates Lisandre, the meeting is brief. In Scene Six, Alcandre asks Éraste to help him. He has been threatened. Éraste refuses to help because he does not want to oppose the king who frowns upon duels, but violence is suggested and we have learned that Éraste was a soldier before he was courtier:

275 Je ne veux point ici faire le capitan;/ Mais on m’a vu soldat, avant que courtisan/ J’ai servi quatorze ans, et je crois être en passe,/ De pouvoir d’un tel pas me tirer avec grâce,/ Et de ne craindre point, qu’à quelque lâcheté/ Le refus de mon bras me puisse être imputé.
Éraste à Alcandre (I. vi)
[I have no desire to boast, but I was a soldier before I was a courtier. I served fourteen years, and I think I may fairly refrain from such a step with propriety, not fearing that the refusal of my sword can be imputed to cowardice. A duel puts one in an awkward light, and our King is not the mere shadow of a monarch.]
Éraste to Alcandre (I. 10)

Moreover, in Scene One, Éraste mentions Damis, Orchise’s uncle and guardian whom he fears. Of all the bores  separating Éraste and Orchise, Damis is the worst.

So, from the very beginning of the play, we know that the blocking-character of The Bores is Damis, Orchise’s uncle and guardian.Violence has been suggested and jealousy, but neither Orchise nor Éraste are prone to jealousy. She laughs when he asks her about the man who held her hand. A short explanation suffice and he apologizes for having suggesting that the man who held Orchise may be a rival.  In Act Two, Scene Four, she watches Éraste adjudicating a debate. Is jealousy a sign of love?

THE BORES

In Act One, the bores are Lisandre (Scene Three) and Alcandre (Scene Six). Although Éraste appreciates Lisandre, he hasn’t much time for him. As for Alcandre he is asking for help that would jeopardize Éraste’s relationship with the King.

La Montagne is also a bore, but only inasmuch as Éraste is in a hurry. Damis, Orphise’s uncle and guardian is also a bore (Scene One)

ACT TWO

In Act Two, Scene Six, we meet Dorante, a hunter, who reports that a gun was used during a chase. This scene was added between the Vaux representation and the performance at Fontainebleau, as requested by the King himself.

But the love story continues. After she tells him who the man was, Éraste asks her not to be angry. He loves her, so that he will not complain.

But after Act II, Scene iv, I doubt very much that he would call Orphise, jalouse and, although he is still rushing, Éraste has calmed down after the debate. 

La Question d’amour

Given Éraste’s haste, Climène and Orante are also bores, but they ask Éraste to be the judge in the debate opposing them. Climène thinks that jealousy is a sign of love, but Orante does not. Orante says that jealous husbands could beat up their wife, which could cause a wife to leave, if she can support herself. At this point, Éraste passes judgment, and leaves promptly.

THE BORES

In Act Two, our bores are Alcippe who plays piquet (Scene Two), Climène and Orante, (Scene Four) and Dorante who went hunting and reports that a gun was used (Scene Six).

ACT THREE

At the beginning of Act Three, Éraste tells that Damis is hindering a marriage to Orphise. He is stopped by Caritidès, a pedant, who wishes Éraste to present a letter to the King on his behalf (iv). He then meets Ormin who believes France should have as many seaports as possible (v). Finally, he meets Filinte who warns Éraste that someone has made fun of him and that he should be careful.

In Scene Five he is joined by Damis himself, Orphise’s guardian. Eraste sees someone at Orphise’s door. Damis explains that he knows Éraste is to meet Orphise without witnesses. Damis will have La Rivière and L’Espine kill Éraste. But La Rivière and his friends decide to kill Damis first.

Damis is Orphise’s uncle and guardian, so as the career soldier he has been, Éraste defends Damis.

Bien qu’il m’ait voulu perdre, un point d’honneur me presse,/ De secourir ici l’oncle de ma maîtresse./ (À Damis.) Je suis à vous Monsieur. (Éraste, mettant la main à l’épée.)
Éraste seul et à Damis (III. v)
Though he would have killed me, honour urges me here to rescue the uncle of my mistress. (To Damis). I am on your side, Sir. (He draws his sword and attacks La Riviere and his companions; whom he puts to flight.)
Éraste alone and Éraste to Damis (III. 5)

Ô Ciel, par quel secours, D’un trépas assuré vais-je sauver mes jours! 795 À qui suis-je obligé d’un si rare service?
Damis, après leur fuite.
(III. v)
[Heavens! By whose aid do I find myself saved from a certain death? To whom am I indebted for so rare a service?]
Damis (III. 5)

Quoi celui, dont j’avais résolu le trépas,/ Est celui, qui pour moi, vient d’employer son bras?/ Ah! c’en est trop, mon cœur est contraint de se rendre;/ Et quoi que votre amour, ce soir, ait pu prétendre/ 805 Ce trait si surprenant de générosité,/ Doit étouffer en moi toute animosité./ Je rougis de ma faute, et blâme mon caprice./ Ma haine, trop longtemps, vous a fait injustice;/ Et pour la condamner par un éclat fameux,/ 810 Je vous joins, dès ce soir, à l’objet de vos vœux.
Damis à Éraste (III. v)
[What! Eraste, whom I was resolved to have assassinated has just used his sword to defend me! Oh, this is too much; my heart is compelled to yield; whatever your love may have meditated tonight, this remarkable display of generosity ought to stifle all animosity. I blush for my crime, and blame my prejudice. My hatred has too long done you injustice! To show you openly I no longer entertain it, I unite you this very night to your love.]
Damis to Éraste (III. 5)

SCENE SIX
In Scene VI, a delighted Orphise says that she will marry Éraste.

Si c’est pour lui payer ce que vous lui devez,/ J’y consens, devant tout, aux jours qu’il a sauvés.
Orphise (III. vi)
[I owe everything to you; if, therefore, it is to pay him your debt, I consent, as he has saved your life.]
Orphise to Eraste (III. 6)

As for Éraste, he no longer knows whether he wakes or dreams.

Mon cœur est si surpris d’une telle merveille,/ 820 Qu’en ce ravissement, je doute, si je veille.
Éraste à tous (III. vi)
[My heart is so overwhelmed by this great miracle, that amidst this ecstasy, I doubt if I am awake.]
Éraste to Orphise and Damis (III. 6)

Finally, Damis is reassured and calls for a celebration.

Célébrons l’heureux sort, dont vous allez jouir; Et que nos violons viennent nous réjouir. (Comme les violons veulent jouer, on frappe fort à la porte.)
Damis à tous (III. vi)
[Let us celebrate the happy lot that awaits you; and let our violins put us in a joyful mood.]
Damis to all (III. 6)

THE BORES

In Act Three, the bores are Caritidés, a pedant, Ormin, who wishes Éraste to tell the King to build as many ports as possible in France, and Filinte, who has heard that Éraste is threatened. However, we have criminals: La Rivière and friends. 

Images: theatre-documentation.com

Conclusion

Despite the repetitive nature of the play, one can say that, overall, Les Fâcheux uses the comedic ‟all’s well that ends well formula,” ‟tout est bien qui finit bien.”  

Yes, the question d’amour is answered. It is wiser not to be jealous. Act Two, Scene Four seems a play within a play, un théâtre dans le théâtre, more bores, but Orchise is not a ‟cruel fair one,” “une belle inhumaine, (I. iv). 

Si ce parfait amour, que vous prouvez si bien,/ Se fait vers votre objet un grand crime de rien,/ Ce que son cœur, pour vous, sent de feux légitimes,/ En revanche, lui fait un rien de tous vos crimes.
La Montagne à Éraste (I. i)
[If this perfect love, which you manifest so well, makes out of nothing a great crime against her whom you love; the pure flame which her heart feels for you on the other hand converts all your crimes into nothing.]
La Montagne to Éraste (I. 1)

In short, if Sostrate (Les Amants magnifiques), kills a boar, earning unknowingly the hand of a delighted Ériphile, matters are almost the same in Les Fâcheux. Éraste fights away La Rivière and his men, saving the life of Orphise’s guardian and turning enmity into gratitude on the part of Damis who wishes for him to marry Orchise. As in chivalry, Éraste serves and earns his lady’s hand. In fact, by defending Damis, Éraste makes himself a deus ex machina

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Sources and Resources

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[1] Cf.  Maurice Rat, Œuvres complètes Molière (Paris: Pléiade 1956), pp. 860 -864.


Love to everyone 💕

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© Micheline Walker
17 December 2019
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