Molière’s “L’Avare:” Doublings



, , , , , , , ,


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


  • 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.


L’Avare (

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 alazôn 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]

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) [1. 5 ]


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]


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 alazôn, prevents 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]


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


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]


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



Commedia dell’arte


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 Molière21 (Tout Molière) internet publication FR
(cliquer sur Liens = Tout Molière = L’Avare) 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

[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


L’Avare by Jean Degrassi, 1955 (

© Micheline Walker
1 December 2016

Portraits of the Misanthrope


, , , , ,

Alceste by Edmond Geffroy


ALCESTE, in love with Célimène
PHILINTE, friend of Alceste
ORONTE, in love with Célimène
ELIANTE, Célimène’s cousin
ARSINOE, friend of Célimène
ACASTE, a marquis
CLITANDRE, a marquis
BASQUE, Célimène’s servant
AN OFFICER of the Marshals’ Court
DUBOIS, Alceste’s valet

The Scene is at Paris

Alceste vs Philinte

In act I, scene 1 of The Misanthrope, Alceste, the misanthrope, claims the court is filled with people who praise a person, but find fault with the same person the moment he or she leaves. He is angry with his friend Philinte who has been courteous with a person he barely knows. Were he Philinte, he would hang himself.

Go to, you ought to die for very shame!
Such conduct can have no excuse; it must
Arouse abhorrence in all men of honour.
I see you load a man with your caresses,
Profess for him the utmost tenderness,
And overcharge the zeal of your embracings
With protestations, promises, and oaths;
And when I come to ask you who he is
You hardly can remember even his name!
Your ardour cools the moment he is gone,
And you inform me you care nothing for him!
Good God! ’tis shameful, abject, infamous,
So basely to play traitor to your soul;
And if, by evil chance, I’d done as much,
I should go straight and hang myself for spite.
(Alceste to Philinte, I.1)
(French 1.i)

Philinte is an honnête homme. He would not tell an ageing Émilie, la vieille Émilie, that the manner in which she uses makeup (le blanc) and behaves (faire la jolie) does not suit an aging woman:

Quoi ! vous iriez dire à la vieille Émilie
Qu’à son âge il sied mal de faire la jolie,
Et que le blanc qu’elle a scandalise chacun ? (1.i)

[What! would you tell old Emilie
that ’tis unbecoming at her age to play the pretty girl;
or that the paint she wears shocks every one?
Le Misanthrope (I, i)]

The Portrait Scene


ACT II, Scene 5 (EN) 2.iv (FR)

Ironically, Alceste is in love with Célimène who enjoys depicting the ills of others. She does so to entertain those who admire her. Célimène is a charming twenty-year-old widow seeking attention and pleasure. In seventeenth-century France, young, and not-so-young, widows were privileged. They could choose to marry or not to marry, and, if they chose to marry, they married a person whom they loved, not a spouse imposed on them by a greedy father.

Her portrait of Alceste is that of a man who is very contrary.

Must not the gentleman needs contradict?
What! Would you have him think like other people,
And not exhibit, in and out of season,
The spirit of gainsaying he’s endowed with?
Others’ opinions are not fit for him,
And he must always hold the opposite,
Because he’d fear to seem like common mortals,
If he were caught agreeing with anyone.
The glory of contradiction charms him so
He often takes up arms against himself
And falls to combating his own beliefs
If he but hears them from another’s lips.
(Célimène to everyone, II.5)

[L’honneur de contredire, a, pour lui, tant de charmes,
Qu’il prend, contre lui-même, assez souvent, les armes ;
Et ses vrais sentiments sont combattus par lui,
Aussitôt qu’il les voit dans la bouche d’autrui.
(Célimène à tous, 2.iv)]

Given his view of society, a world where everyone speaks ill of others, Alceste’s love for Célimène, is incongruous. Destiny has been unkind to him. However, although he is contrary, he does not criticize Célimène in the portrait scene (2.iv). He turns to her admirers and blames them.

Pourquoi s’en prendre à nous ? Si ce qu’on dit, vous blesse,
Il faut que le reproche, à Madame, s’adresse.

[But why blame us? If what is said offends you,
You must address your censures to the lady.

Pour moi, je ne sais pas ; mais j’avouerai, tout haut,
Que j’ai cru, jusqu’ici, Madame sans défaut.

De grâces, et d’attraits, je vois qu’elle est pourvue ;
Mais les défauts qu’elle a, ne frappent point ma vue.

‘Tis not for me to say; still, I’ll declare
That hitherto I’ve found the lady faultless.

I find her full of graces and attractions;
But as for faults, I haven’t seen them yet.

In short,

Les rieurs sont pour vous, Madame, c’est tout dire ;
Et vous pouvez pousser, contre moi, la satire.

[You (Célimène) have the laughers, madam, on your side;
That’s saying everything. On with your satire!

Éliante’s “Tirade” (long speech)

But Alceste loves Célimène and will not criticize her. Éliante, Célimène’s cousin who is very fond of Alceste, tells everyone that persons who are in love do not find faults in the person they love. If a woman is fat, her “carriage” is “majestic.” One likes what could be considered a disadvantage in the eyes of a person who is not “in love.”

[Love is but little subject to such laws,
And lovers always like to vaunt their choice.
Their passion can find naught in her to blame,
For in the loved one, all seems lovable.
They count her faults perfections, and invent
Sweet names to call them by. The pallid maiden
Is like a pure white jasmine flower for fairness;
The frightful dark one is a rich brunette;
The lean one has a figure lithe and free;
The fat one has a fine majestic carriage
The dowdy, graced with little charm, is called
A careless beauty; and the giantess
Appears a goddess to adoring eyes.
The dwarf is deemed a brief epitome
Of heaven’s miracles; the haughty maiden
Is worthy of a crown; the cheat is clever;
The silly dunce, so perfectly good-hearted;
The chatterbox, so pleasantly vivacious;
The silent girl, so modest and retiring.
Thus does a lover, whom true passion fires,
Love even the faults of her whom he admires.
(Éliante to everyone, II.5)
(French 2.iv)]

A first reading of Éliante’s long speech may lead to believe Éliante’s tirade excludes Alceste. In act II, scene 1, when Alceste is alone with Célimène, he finds fault with the company Célimène keeps. Alceste and Célimène are alone. Alceste’s belaviour is not courteous. (2.i)

C’est pour me quereller, donc, à ce que je voi,

Que vous avez voulu me ramener chez moi ?

Je ne querelle point ; mais votre humeur, Madame,

Ouvre, au premier venu, trop d’accès dans votre âme ;
Vous avez trop d’amants, qu’on voit vous obséder,
Et mon cœur, de cela, ne peut s’accommoder.

So—’twas to scold at me, apparently,
That you were kind enough to bring me home?

I am not scolding. But your humour, madam,
Gives any and everyone too easy access
Into your heart. You have too many lovers
Besieging you—a thing I can’t endure.

Alceste is jealous. Yet, Éliante’s tirade is about Alceste.

C’est ainsi, qu’un amant, dont l’ardeur est extrême,
Aime, jusqu’aux défauts des personnes qu’il aime.

[Thus does a lover, whom true passion fires,
Love even the faults of her whom he admires.
(Éliante to everyone, II.5)]

Alceste is as Éliante says: blinded by love. We have also seen that Alceste is vain, which leads him to criticize civil behaviour, because he has no way of knowing whether praise of him is genuine praise or more politeness. He is yet another vaniteux inquiet, vain but uncertain, as Paul Bénichou[1] correctly identifies flawed humanity in Molière’s plays. Moreover, Alceste is rigid, which, according to Henri Bergson, generates laughter. (See Laughter,

Quel avantage a-t-on qu’un homme vous caresse,
Vous jure amitié, foi, zèle, estime, tendresse,
Et vous fasse de vous, un éloge éclatant,
Lorsque au premier faquin, il court en faire autant ?
(Alceste 1.i)

[What use is it to have a man embrace you,
Swear friendship, zeal, esteem, and faithful love,
And loudly praise you to your face, then run
And do as much for any scamp he meets?
(Alceste I.1)]

Sur quelque préférence, une estime se fonde,
Et c’est n’estimer rien, qu’estimer tout le monde.
(Alceste 1.i)

[Real love must rest upon some preference;
You might as well love none, as everybody.
(Alceste I.1)]


Le Misanthrope is a problematic play. Célimène would marry Alceste, but she would not follow him into a desert, a refuge in seventeenth-century France. She is too young.

Moi, renoncer au monde, avant que de vieillir !
Et dans votre désert aller m’ensevelir !
(Célimène, 5, scène dernière)

[What, I renounce the world before I’m old,
And go be buried in your solitude!
(Celimene, V, last scene)]

Yet, the curtain falls on a marriage. Éliante will marry Philinte. Both follow Alceste, so everyone leaves the stage. The curtain falls and nobody is laughing. True to Célimène’s portrait of him, Alceste has taken up arms against himself. Alceste who loves Célimène, who loves him, refuses to marry her.

Moreover, although Alceste is rigid, he shares Philinte’s views, but he will not be tolerant and calm. He will be angry (bile).

Je veux qu’on soit sincère, et qu’en homme d’honneur
On ne lâche aucun mot qui ne parte du cœur.
(Alceste 1.i)

[Be genuine; and like a man of honour
Let no word pass unless it’s from the heart.
(Alceste I.1)]

Je prends, tout doucement, les hommes comme ils sont,
’accoutume mon âme à souffrir ce qu’ils font;
Et je crois qu’à la cour, de même qu’à la ville,
Mon flegme est philosophe, autant que votre bile.
(Philinte 1.i)

[I quietly accept men as they are,
Make up my mind to tolerate their conduct,
And think my calmness is, for court or town,
As good philosophy as is your choler.
(Philinte I.1)]


Structurally, Alceste, as a character, combines several comedic functions. He is the heavy father (the alazôn of Greek comedy) who opposes the marriage of young lovers. But he is also the innamorati of the commedia dell’arte and Atellane farce, not to mention the young lover of Greek Old Comedy (Aristophanes). Finally, he is the eirôn, a role he shares with Philinte. He is all three stock characters of farces. However, Molière’s Misanthrope is not a farce. Or is it? The Misanthrope is une grande comédie (five acts, alexandrine verses [12 syllables], the court). The play also contains “mirrors.” Arsinoé, the prude, is Célimène as she could be at an older age.[2]

This is incomplete, but allow me to quote our colleague David Nicholson (17 February 2019): “Molière’s plays are classics because their themes are universal; they’re at home across oceans and centuries.”


Sources and Resources


[1] Paul Bénichou, Morales du Grand Siècle (Paris : Gallimard, 1948), pp. 295-296.

[2] Micheline Bourbeau-Walker, LE MISANTHROPE, ou la comédie éclatée, in David Trott & Nicole Boursier, eds. L’Âge du Théâtre en France/The Age of Theater is France (Edmonton: Academic Printing and Publishing, 1988), pp. 53-61.

Love to everyone  💕

Bruno Procopio plays François Couperin‘s Barricades mystérieuses (The Mysterious Barricades)

©Micheline Walker
20 February 2019

A Last Opportunity


, , , , ,

Lysandre by Edmond Geffroy (my collection)

A Short Book

There are indications I will not live eternally, but I have an unfinished project: publishing a book on Molière.

This goal may be unrealistic. However, I will not be given another chance. It will be a short book and I may not have reviewed recent literature on the subject as thoroughly as I would like to. Yet, I wrote a PhD thesis on Molière, and a PhD thesis is a scholarly venture. Moreover, I was expected to “dust it off,” a thesis is a thesis, and publish it.

Dusting it off is what I plan to do. In other words, it will not sound too scholarly. I will quote fellow moliéristes, but will focus on my findings.

L’Avare (

Problematic Plays

  • Tartuffe, 1664 – 1669
  • Dom Juan, 1665
  • Le Misanthrope, 1666
  • L’Avare, 1668

Were it not for the intervention of a second father, the young couples in L’Avare (The Miser), 1668, could not marry. They would be at the mercy of Harpagon’s greed.

Matters are worse in Tartuffe1664 -1669. Were it not for the intervention of the king, not only would the young lovers not marry, but Orgon’s family would be ruined. In The Misanthrope,1666Alceste is his own worst enemy. In Dom Juan, 1665, Dom Juan is removed by a deus ex machina and he has left Elvira, his wife.


Chapters may resemble Molière’s “L’Avare: Doublings, a post. This post is informative, but not too scholarly. It also illustrates my main finding. In Molière’s plays, the young lovers cannot marry without an intervention, or putting on a play (Le Bourgeois gentilhomme). In L’Avare, they are saved by a second father: doublings. Molière uses stage devices, such as a deus ex machina, to save the society of the play.

Therefore, if a blocking character is removed, he is a pharmakos (a scapegoat).

L’Avare, 1668, (The Miser) is rooted in Roman playwright Plautus‘ Aulularia. Plautus died in 184 BCE. Molière’s miserly father is a Shylock (The Merchant of Venice, c. 1600, by Shakespeare). There are misers in the commedia dell’arte, and Molière knew the stock characters of the commedia dell’arte. Comedy has a tradition. Greek playwright Aristophanes is considered its father. Molière also wrote farces. These date back not only to medieval France, but to the Atellane farces, which featured stock characters, as does the commedia dell’arte.

Conclusion & remerciements

I feel very young, but time goes by so quickly. It would please me to tell more about Molière, but it has to be now. It’s my last chance and there you are, supporting me.

I wish to thank a very kind gentleman who sent me images of Colette‘s La Chatte by Raoul Dufy.


Je vous remercie bien sincèrement d’avoir pensé à moi. Ces dessins de Dufy me font plaisir. Votre générosité m’a beaucoup touchée.

Colette a eu une « dernière chatte », et j’ai, pour ma part, une dernière occasion.

Love to everyone  💕


Marc-Antoine Charpentier — Te  Deum

Elmire (Tartuffe) by Tammy  Grimes (my collection)

© Micheline Walker
16 February 2019







A Chartreux portrayed, etc …


, , , , , , ,


Dear friends,

I have not been able to write due to various house chores. I haven’t quite finished settling down. In the past, I settled into a home in a matter of days. This time, I will have to hire professionals. How humbling!

You may remember that I lost my voice on 11 December. It has now returned, but it is different. X-rays revealed advanced emphysema. I could not believe my doctor. Two thirds of my lungs have turned into a dry sponge. I have never smoked.

I can breathe ‘normally,’ so no treatment is necessary.

However, I am losing my driver’s license: myalgic encephalomyelitis, not emphysema, although the two could be linked. I had a long career as a driver.

I bought an apartment located close to a little market. Just in case…  The little market has everything I need. I have been told I qualified for a service dog, but Belaud said no.


My cat Belaud was delighted when I discovered a painting featuring a chartreux sitting on a lady’s lap: artistic roots. French poet Joachim du Bellay had a chartreux named Belaud. When his Belaud died, he wrote an extroardinary epitaph entitled Sur la mort de Belaud. As you know, I share my home and life with a cat named Belaud. Belaud is a pure-bred French chartreux. I named my chartreux after Joachim du Bellay‘s Belaud. Du Bellay’s Sur la mort de Belaud is a long poem I would not attempt to translate.

Belaud Portrayed & Elevated

  • literary roots
  • artistic roots

Belaud has literary roots, but the J. Paul Getty Museum has a painting featuring a dignified lady, nose up, holding her precious chartreux. Artist Jean-Baptiste Perronneau (French, 1715 – 1783) is not as prominent a figure as Joachim du Bellay, but we owe him the portrait of a chartreux, and images are immediate. Upon analysis, we may find that a picture is complex, but in the case of Perronneau’s portrait, we know we are seeing a lady, Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange, holding her beloved cat, a chartreux.

Because of this portrait, chartreux have acquired greater stature. A cat protrayed is a thousand cats. Moreover, Jean-Baptiste Perronneau depicted a chartreux sitting in the lap of the distinguished madame Pinceloup de la Grange. I told Belaud that a portrait of a chartreux had surfaced. “Well, mother,” said Belaud, “I knew. We cats research our ancestry.” Mme Pinceloup de la Grange’s chartreux could indeed be Belaud’s ancestor. However, my Belaud does not wear a collar because he is not a threat to birds. He would love to be hired to chase away various rats, “gros rats.” In fact, one gentleman offered him a lucrative contract: “toxicity” said the gentleman, “toxicity! It will be the Black Death all over again.” The gentleman died a few weeks later.

Given their profession, chasing rats, chartreux are large and very robust cats. Fearing the cold, they wear two coats of fur. I should also mention that they enjoy sitting with their legs extended forward and that they sometimes cross their legs, as though they were dogs, or human beings. They may be referred to as blue cats, but they are grey cats. The light, however, may make their fur appear blue and even mauve.

The chartreux and their British Blue relatives have a round face, large cheeks, a permanent smile and yellow to copper eyes. I should also tell you that Chartreux are very quiet. Legend has it that their silent owners, Carthusian monks, taught them silence. Belaud purrs, but he is otherwise absolutely silent. A long time ago, I read they were brought to France by crusaders. Were Carthusians crusaders?


Joachim du Bellay by Jean Cousin (Google)

The Literary Belaud

  • La Pléiade
  • the carpe diem
  • the Vernacular

Du Bellay’s epitaph on Belaud is very long, but very rich.  Besides, Du Bellay is a better-known figure than monsieur Perronneau. He was a member of La Pléiade, a group of stellar poets who are the fountainhead of poetry in French. Poet Pierre de Ronsard (11 September 1524 – 27 December 1585) was a prince of poets, un prince des poètes, which is not insignificant, but he is famous for a carpe diem poem. In one of his Sonnets pour Hélène, he enjoins Hélène to love him dès aujourd’hui, as of today, life being so short. There was an Hélène whose gentleman friend had died in a war. She was not in the least interested in Ronsard, but Ronsard’s poem is unforgettable.

Vivez, si m’en croyez, n’attendez à demain :
Cueillez dès aujourd’hui les roses de la vie.

Sonnets pour Hélène, 1578

Robert Herrick wrote in a similar vein:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.

As for Du Bellay’s poetry, it is eminently quotable. Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage is perfection, but Du Bellay’s place and fame in literature rest mainly on his Défense et illustration de la langue française, 1549, considered the Pléiade’s manifesto. The Renaissance was a moment of effervescence. Greek scholars and artists had fled the Byzantine Empire when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire under Mehmed the Conqueror, on 30 May 1453. Hence, Du Bellay’s reference to Ulysses /Odysseus.

Italy was the first refuge of Greek scholars. As for painters, Christians, they fled to Russia, carrying icons. Constantinople had been a Holy See for Eastern Christianity. We know about the Great East/West Schism, 1054. The Vatican is Western Christianity’s Holy See. The Eastern Church would have several Holy Sees, called Synods.

The arrival in Italy of Greek scholars may have led scholars to look to Antiquity and learn Greek. The Renaissance, however, saw the emergence of the vernacular, the mother tongue.

Du Bellay promoted the vernacular, French in his case. He was inspired by Italian author Sperone Speroni’s Dialogo delle lingue, 1542. Speroni was a friend and supporter of Venetian-language playwright Angelo Beolco (el Ruzante). However, the greater supporter of the vernacular was Pietro Bembo (20 May 1470 – either 11 January or 18 January). Bembo championed the use of Italian by poet Petrarch (20 July 1304 – 18/19 July 1374). Predecessors were Dante Alighieri (c. 1265 – 1321), the author of the Divine Comedy, written in the vernacular, and Giovanni Boccaccio (16 June 1313 – 21 December 1375), the author of the Decameron, written in the Florentine language.

A British Blue (Tumbler)

La Querelle du chartreux et du “bleu” britannique

  • le chartreux
  • le Bleu britannique
  • le chat de France

Chartreux are often compared to British blue cats. There is a resemblance, but the two breeds differ. The snout of British Blues does not point forward as much as the snout of chartreux. Consequently, British Blues have rounder faces and larger jowls. Belaud’s face is round, but his jowls are not as prominent as the jowls of his British cousins.

I was able to gather precious information about Chartreux and British Blues. My very bilingual Scottish friend, Francis, was hired to go between English-speaking Winston Churchill and Charles De Gaulle, who spoke French, as D-Day was planned. How did Francis survive being a go-between to such men? De Gaulle would not always agree with Churchill and he communicated with the Free French Forces, Forces françaises libres which he led beginning on 28 June 1940. L’appel du 18 juin (1940), a radio broadcast, the BBC, gave hope to the French. France had defenders: the United States and the British Empire. Churchill was at times livid, said Francis, discreetly. We have learned since that De Gaulle told the Forces françaises libres that Paul Verlaine’s Chanson d’automne would be used in the planning of D-Day. Verlaine is un prince des poètes, but Chanson d’automne was a code.

Obviously, sharing the code was dangerous, but I wonder whether Francis had a role to play in the Querelle des Chartreux et des Bleus britanniques. He would not have told me.  But truth me told, a querelle des chats took place in the thick of a devastating war. The British wanted to mix the Chartreux with the British Blue and De Gaulle would not allow the national cat of France simply to vanish. Later, Yvonne, De Gaulle’s wife, gave her husband a chartreux which le général called Gris [grey]-Gris. Gris-Gris probably had an aristocratic name, but le général called him Gris-Gris. Gris-Gris followed De Gaulle from room to room.

Writers Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, and Charles Baudelaire also adopted a chartreux. Belaud’s mother was a Sidonie de… I cannot remember the rest of her name, but his father was Tennessee. The cat she called la dernière chatte (the last cat), was no doubt a chartreux.

This post is a shameful coq-à-l’âne (jumping from one subject to another).  The coq-à-l’âne had a terrible reputation, but now that marginalia is all the rage, I’m saved. However, I will close proudly as Belaud is all over this post, un fil conducteur, a link, carrying weight.

A Happy Valentine’s Day  

(See Posts on Love Celebrated)

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg

Je ne pourrai pas vivre sans toi – Maurane et Michel Legrand


A Belaud, identical (Google)

© Micheline Walker
14 February 2019

Ilya Repin’s Horse


, , , , , , , , , , ,

Horse by Ilya Repin (

Repin’s Horse

The horse featured above is an artwork by one of Russia’s foremost portraitists, Ilya Repin (5 August [O.S. 24 July] 1844 – 29 September 1930). No date is given and I haven’t found a signature. We do not know when Horse was completed. Nor do we know whether Repin wanted this work to be shown.

It is lovely, but it differs from other paintings by Repin. To my knowledge, the colour indigo was not used to depict horses in 19th-century Russia. Nor were blues, greens, and turquoise, a mixture. The background, sand with a golden hue, is almost traditional. It could be used as the background to a portrait. However, in Horse, the background is primarily flat. Moreover, were it not for a larger number of gold-coloured speckles in the sand, in the lower part of the painting, Repin would not have ‘sat’ his horse. You may have noticed also that Repin’s horse does not cast a shadow and that its snout as well as its lower legs are ‘interrupted.’ We are therefore reminded of Japonism and childhood. Horse is classified as a realist work of art. It is a realist work of art in as much as we know the figure it portrays is a horse, but the horse is of a different colour.

“A Moral Social Purpose”

In 1878, Repin joined the Society of the Peredvizhniki or Itinerant’s Society, which can be traced back to the “Rebellion of the Fourteen,” when 14 young artists left the school after refusing to paint mythological paintings for their diplomas. “In 1891 he resigned from the Itinerants’ Society in protest against a new statute that restricted the rights of young artists.” (See Ilya Repin, & Ilya Repin,

However, Repin was not a rebel. By and large, he followed in the footsteps of his teacher, Ivan Kramskoi. He may have been influenced by Ivan Bunakov, with whom Repin’s father helped him apprentice. With Bunakov, a local icon painter, “he restored old icons and painted portraits of local notables through commissions.” (See However, although he was familiar with impressionism, and “admired some impressionist techniques, especially their depictions of light and color, he felt their work lacked moral social purpose, key factors in his own art.”

A Portrait Artist

“Repin had a set of favorite subjects, and a limited circle of people whose portraits he painted. But he had a deep sense of purpose in his aesthetics, and had the great artistic gift to sense the spirit of the age and its reflection in the lives and characters of individuals.”
(See Ilya Repin,

Repin was a portraitist, though not exclusively. Philanthropist and art lover and collector Pavel Tretyakov, a patron of Repin, expressed a need for depictions of his contemporaries. Repin’s portrait of composer Modest Mussorgsky (21 March 1839 – [16 O.S..] 28 March 1881), one of the Five, is unforgettable. It was painted shortly before the composer’s death. Mussorgsky’s family lost half of its estate in 1861, the year serfs were emancipated, which precipitated a crisis. Mussorgsky also joined a group indulging in an “intense worship of Bacchus.” (See Modest Mussorgsky, Wiki2. org.). Alcoholism destroyed him. This portrait suggests compassion on the part of Repin.

Ilya Repin‘s celebrated portrait of Mussorgsky, painted 2–5 March 1881, only a few days before the composer’s death (

The Common People

Repin’s “paintings show his feeling of personal responsibility for the hard life of the common people and the destiny of Russia.” (See Ilya Repin,

Repin’s Barge Haulers on the Volga may well be his most famous comment on the life of “the common people.” The barge haulers were called burlaks and attracted Repin’s attention between 1870 and 1873. They resembled convicted men condemned to row galleys.

The industrial revolution may have liberated the barge haulers, but if it did, liberation was probably achieved in the manner serfs were emancipated. Many former serfs had to pay for the land they had tilled and had fed them. Former serfs were also employed in factories where they worked 15 hours a day, which I suspect was the fate of burlaks. (See Bloody Sunday,


Barge haulers on the Volga by Ilya Repin, 1873 (Russian Museum and

Burlak by Ilya Repin, 1870-1873 ( 

1902 Song of the Volga Boatmen record by Feodor Chaliapin  

The Penates, Finland

In 1872, Repin married Vera Shevtsova. His marriage lasted ten years. Natalia Nordman (14 December 1863 – 30 June 1914) was “the love of Repin’s life.” (See They lived in her house, called Penaty (the Penates), in Kuokkala, Finland. According to, Repin designed and built the Penates (See I am therefore confused. However, the common denominator is that Ilya Repin and Natalia Nordman-Severova lived at the Penates. On Wednesday, the couple received guests. Repin made sketches of their guests and Natalia Nordman was the keeper of the album. The Album is entitled Portrait from the Album of Natalia Nordman-Severova.


The Penates, the Repin House-Museum in Kuokkala, now Repino, Saint Petersburg (


Repin chronicled a golden age: Alexander Pushkin, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, the Five, Ilya Repin, Isaac Levitan, Alexei Savrasov. Yet it was a bleak world. Russia was at a turning-point. Peasants had lived in communes, the Mir, but the industrial age would impair the Emancipation of Serfdom, 1861. As noted, several former serfs worked in factories, where working conditions were unacceptable. Building a railroad could be the source of enormous wealth for Russians who had money to invest, but did former serfs have money?

So Horse makes sense. It is fanciful, but not too fanciful. In fact, it is little more than, as noted above, a horse of a different colour. However, horses of a different colour may constitute not a new, but a gentler reality.


Sources and Ressources


Love to everyone and apologies for a lenghty absence. 💕


One must watch the video on YouTube. Click on rendez-vous.


Natalia Nordman (

© Micheline Walker
2 February 2019









We had fallen, but we were redeemed


, , , , , ,


Fallen Angel by Alexandre Cabanel, 1847 (

I would like to direct you to Silence – an Advent Quest – Silent Night (Silkannthreades)

I read this post and other Advent posts from Silkannthreades in December 2018. They were inspiring. I remembered childhood. We waited through Advent and then attended Midnight Mass. The choir always sang Silent Night.

Silent Night has a story.

In our eyes, a child was born to Mary and Joseph, but unlike other children, He was God the Son. After Mass, we put a porcelain figure of Jesus in his crib. For us, He was born at midnight, as in Minuit, chrétiens (O Holy Night).

We had fallen, but we were redeemed.

I can still hear the silence.

Love to everyone 💕

Hector BerliozL’Enfance du Christ


Adoration of the Shepherds by Dutch painter Matthias Stomer, 1632 (

© Micheline Walker
22 January 2019


The Eastern Church: Intuition vs Reason


, , , , , , , , ,

Michelangelo‘s painting of the sin of Adam and Eve from the Sistine Chapel ceiling (


bold letters are mine, except anamnesis

I may have used the word anamnesis in an earlier post. Human beings have created mythologies in an attempt to make sense of their origin and their human condition. We are mere mortals. (See Christian Mythology,

“In philosophyanamnesis is a concept in Plato‘s epistemological and psychological theory that he develops in his dialogues Meno and Phaedo, and alludes to in his  Phaedrus.”

“It is the idea that humans possess innate knowledge (perhaps acquired from birth) and that learning consists of rediscovering that knowledge within us.”

Mythologies: the Fall

There are links between mythologies, which suggests a cross-cultural knowledge “within us.” The flood is one. However, the more frequent link is the theory of a fall from a more perfect state to a less perfect state, a fall we remember. John Milton’s Paradise Lost  (1667) is Christian Mythology. So is Alphonse de Lamartine‘s L’Homme:

Borné dans sa nature, infini dans ses vœux,
L’homme est un dieu tombé qui se souvient des cieux[.]
[Limited in his nature, infinite in his wishes,
Man is a fallen god who remembers heaven.]

In Greek mythology, as used by Jean Racine in Phèdre (Phædra), first performed in 1677, Phèdre is descended from Helios, god of the Sun, but her mother is Pasiphaë, who gave birth to the Minotaur, the son of a bull. Phasiphaë has sinned. Her husband, Minos, king of Crete, keeps the Minotaur in the Cretan Labyrinth, built by Dædalus. Ariadne falls in love with Theseus and gives him a thread and a sword. He kills the Minotaur and leaves the labyrinth using the thread. Theseus does not marry Ariadne, he marries Phèdre, Ariadne’s sister and Pasiphaë’s daughter. But Phèdre, Pasiphaë’s daughter, falls in love with Hippolytus, Theseus’ son by Antiope, an Amazon, and she cannot control her feelings. Phèdre reflects the influence Jansenism exerted on Jean Racine. (See Phèdre,

Jean Racine’s tragedy is based on Greek mythology, but Racine had been exposed to Jansenism. According to Jansenists, human beings were predestined to be saved or suffer the torments of hell. Augustine of Hippo‘s harsh view of the consequences of the Original Sin led to a heresy, Jansenism, which throws light on Phèdre’s powerlessness, but does not make Saint Augustine a lesser theologian and father of the Christian Church. He is the author of the The City of GodOn Christian Doctrine and, especially, his Confessions. He had been a sinner, but converted at the age of 31.

The Original Sin

  • the Western Church
  • the Eastern Church

In both the Eastern and Western Churches, and in Judaism, Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, which is the Original Sin. It led to their removal from the  Garden of Eden, or Paradise. They became mere mortals, which is called the human condition. In the Western Church, humans beings are born guilty of the Original Sin.

However, the Eastern Church proposes more lenient consequences to Adam and Eve’s sin. Adam and Eve sinned, which is the first or original sin, but it does not mean that individual human beings are born guilty of the original sin and must be rushed to the baptismal font.

Matters are changing. Today “[b]oth East and West hold that each person is not called to atone for the actual sin committed by Adam and Eve.”
(See East-West Schism,Original sin, free will and the Immaculate Conception,

The Conversion of St. Augustine by Fra Angelico (

Augustine of Hippo

Concerning the Original Sin, one may wish to read Saint Augustine and the Original Sin.

Saint Augustine of Hippo (13 November 354 – 28 August 430 CE) was not translated into Greek until the 14th century, the 1300’s. The Christian Byzantine Empire was a Greek-language Empire.

“His works were not translated into Greek until the 14th century; as such, he had little or no influence on mainstream Orthodox thought until 17th century Ukraine and 18th century Russia, primarily through the influence of western clergy and the establishment of theological schools which relied on Latin models with respect to curricula, text books, etc.”

(See Saint Augustine and the Original Sin)

One may argue that Greek-speaking Christians who convened at the First Council of Nicaea, in 325 CE, and convened again at the Council of Constantinople (the former Byzantium), in 381 CE, both ecumenical, may have known Latin, but Saint Augustine lived between 354 and 430 CE.

“The Eastern Church makes no use at all of Augustine. Another Orthodox view is expressed by Christos Yannaras, who described Augustine as ‘the fount of every distortion and alteration in the Church’s truth in the West’.”
(See East-SchismOriginal sin, free will and the Immaculate Conception,

The East-West Schism of 1054 occurred, if not 729 (from 325 CE) years, at least 673 years (from 381), after the Christian Church was founded at the First Council of Nicaea and the Council of  Constantinople.

 “Rome must not require more from the East than had been formulated and what was lived in the first millennium.” (Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI)
(See East-West SchismTheological reconciliation,

It should also be noted that the Western Church wanted Mary to be born untainted to the extent of making the Immaculate Conception a dogma in 1854. In 1854, Pope Pius IX, using papal infallibility, or ex cathedra issued papal bull Ineffabilis Deusmaking the  Immaculate Conception a doctrine or dogma-

On 1st November 1950, by exercising papal infallibility, Pope Pius XII issued the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus making the Assumption of Mary an article of faith, or doctrine, or dogma.

The Eastern Church rejected the Immaculate Conception. It would not be a dogma until 1854, but it was a rationalization.

“These doctrinal issues center around the Orthodox perception that the Catholic theologians lack the actual experience of God called theoria and thereby fail to understand the importance of the heart as a noetic or intuitive faculty.”
(See East-West Schism, Theological Reconciliation (

Similarly, The Five (composers) attempted to compose distinct Russian music, an Eastern music. They composed superb music, but what they expressed was a “knowledge within them.” So their endeavour was an anamnesis. They were using the “intuitive faculty.”

As  noted in my last post, “[a] major event of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), was the issuance by Pope Paul and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople of the Catholic–Orthodox Joint Declaration of 1965.”

This has been seen as good will on the part of both the Eastern and Western Churches. After a millenium, going further may not be a realistic goal.

“Catholics [Christians] accept as valid the Eastern Orthodox intuitive [“knowledge within us”] and mystical understanding of God and consider it complementary to the rational Western reflection.”
(See East-West Schism, cannot locate, Wiki

Although the Western Church’s repertoire of liturgical music contains masterpieces of spirituality, the Eastern Church is the richer source of music reflecting an “intuitive and mystical understanding of God,” “innate knowledge.”


Blaise Pascal wrote a famous pensée (thought):

Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point[.]
[The heart has its reasons that reason does not know.]


Sources and Resources

  • Augustine of Hippo’s Confessions is a Wikisource publication
  • Jean Racine’s Phèdre is a Wikisource publication
  • Phaedra is Gutenberg’s [EBook #1977]

I apologize for a rather lengthy absence. I was exhausted and had to regroup.

Love to everyone 💕

Sergei Rachmaninoff‘s Praise the Lord
performed by the USSR Ministry of Culture Chamber Choir.

augustine_confessiones (1)

St. Augustine’s Confessions, Manuscript on vellum. Germany, first half 13th century. (Wikisource)

© Micheline Walker
19 January 2019

The Eastern Church’s Theotokos


, , , , , , , , ,

Theotokos of Vladimirtempera on panel, 104 x 69 cm, painted about 1130 in Constantinople (


  • the Eastern Church
  • the Western Church

In Eastern or Orthodox Churches, the Western Church’s Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus of Nazareth, is called the Theotokos, a Greek word meaning literally the “Birth-Giver of God.” Moreover, in Orthodox Churches, also called the Byzantine Rite, the Theotokos has always been portrayed in the same way. In the Western Church, depictions of Mary differ from artist to artist and from art movement to art movement. The Western Church has paintings and statues of the Virgin Mary, but the Theotokos is an icon.

The Theotokos

The image at the top of this post shows a very precious icon, the Theotokos of Vladimir. It is a Byzantine icon of the Virgin and Child dating to the Kormenian period and predating the Fall of Constantinople, on 29 May 1453, the capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire. Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire, further dividing the Eastern and Western Churches, which separated in 1054. Byzantine icons survived the Great Schism.


Our Lady of Kazan, a 16th-century copy (Yelokhovo Cathedral, Moscow)

The Theotokos of Vladimir was painted in Constantinople and resembles the Theotokos of Kazan. The Theotokos of Kazan is a copy, the original was likely destroyed 1904, but I would call it archetypal. It was likely painted in or about 1131 and was a gift from the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople to Grand Duke Yury Dolgorukiy of Kyiv. The Icon was housed in Mezhyhirskyi Monastery. But the Theotokos of Vladimir was stolen when Andrei Bogolyubsky sacked Kyiv, in 1169. It was taken to Vladimir, a medieval capital of Russia located two hundred kilometers east of Moscow. (See Theotokos of Vladimir,

The Theotokos is regarded as the holy protectress of Russia.” The Theotokos of Vladimir is now housed in a functioning church in the Tretyakov Gallery, in Moscow. (See Theotokos of Vladimir, Vladimir’s Theotokos is described as iconography of the Eleusa (tenderness). Such icons of the Theotokos show Jesus “cuddling up” to his mother.

The Great Schism of 1054

  • the Original Sin
  • the Immaculate Conception
  • Saint Augustine

East and West remained united despite several disputes, but these culminated in the  Great Schism of 1054. The East-West Schism involves many issues, such as the Trinity. God is one but in three coeternal consubstantial persons or hypostases. However, we will focus on one dispute: the Immaculate Conception

In 1054, the Eastern Church rejected the Immaculate Conception. According to Augustine of Hippo (13 November 354 – 28 August 430 CE), a revered father of the Church, humans were born guilty of the Original Sin. They were tainted until Baptism.

However, Mary, the mother of the Redeemer could not be born stained. She had to be born free of the Original Sin. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia,

[t]he formal active essence of original sin was not removed from her soul, as it is removed from others by baptism; it was excluded, it never was in her [Mary’s] soul. Simultaneously with the exclusion of sin.

(See The Immaculate Conception, The Catholic Encyclopedia.)

Mary was not “exempt from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death,” but she was redeemed through the same merits of Christ.

The immunity from original sin was given to Mary by a singular exemption from a universal law through the same merits of Christ, by which other men are cleansed from sin by baptism.

The Eastern Church  rejected the rather convoluted Immaculate Conception.


The Immaculate Conception was indeed difficult to accept. Yet, this doctrine was not dogmatically defined in the Catholic Church until 1854 when Pope Pius IX, declared ex cathedra, i.e., using papal infallibility, in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus, the Immaculate Conception to be doctrine. (See Immaculate Conception,

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

(See Ineffabilis Deus,

Not only does the Eastern Church reject the Immaculate Conception, but it also rejects papal infallibility. In the Eastern Church, the Theotokos falls asleep, which is called the Dormition of the Mother of God. But, on 1 November 1950, in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus DeusPope Pius XII used papal infallibility to make the Assumption of the Virgin Mary a dogma.

The Immaculate Conception is celebrated on 8 December in the Western Church and 9 December, in the Eastern Church. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary is celebrated on 15 August in both the Western and Eastern Churches, but 15 August is August 28, N.S. for those following the Julian Calendar.


Would that I could conclude this post appropriately. The Parables of Jesus of Nazareth and Mariology are favourite topics. Dogmas are not.

Eastern Orthodox concepts of Mary have been mostly expressed in liturgy and are not subject to a central dogmatic teaching office.

(See Mariology,

But the debate is over. “In 1965, Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras I  nullified the anathemas of 1054 although this nullification of measures taken against a few individuals was essentially a goodwill gesture and did not constitute any sort of reunion.” (See East-West Schism,

It may be that this nullifaction was a “goodwill gesture,” but there were genuine benefits to this goodwill gesture. Basically, East or West, a Christian is a Christian. The Theotokos of Vladimir is in the Tretyakov Gallery, in a functioning church.  It cannot go out of style.

I read a sentence, the source of which is Britannica, but cannot find again. However, it read that “[t]he Byzantine heritage survived … mainly because the Orthodox church showed an astonishing internal strength and a remarkable administrative flexibility.” The eastern church has Synods, each of which is autonomous, rather than one Holy See. (See Autocephaly,

However, what led me to investigate the Immaculate Conception and, in the process, mention the Assumption, is the extraordinary spirituality of Russia’s liturgical music. It shows “astonishing internal strength.”


Love to everyone 💕


© Micheline Walker
12 January 2019

Becoming a Senior Citizen


, , ,

a-fisher-girl-1874.jpg!large (1)

A Fisher Girl, by Ilya Repin, 1874 (

I apologize for not posting for a long time. I was asked to prepare a “protection mandate” and a Will. I am told that it is ordinary business. However, if at all possible, I will take care of my cat until nature takes him away. He will be eleven in April. I will also take care of myself.

However, I’ve not been idle. I have been comparing the Western Church, Catholicism’s Virgin Mary in particular, and the Eastern Church’s Theotokos, the Birth-Giver of God.

This subject is a little more complicated than one would suspect. The two Churches are both united and different.

I will publish my post as soon as my cat lets me use the computer’s keyboard.

Nikolai Lugansky plays Rachmaninoff‘s Études-Tableaux, Opus 33

a-bouquet-of-flowers-1878.jpg!large (2)

A bouquet of flowers by Ilya Repin, 1878 (

© Micheline Walker
9 January 2019









Marc-André Hamelin rearranges… Chopin


, , , , ,

An Encore: The “Minute Waltz

Marc-André Hamelin (b. 1961) is a Canadian virtuoso pianist and a composer, born and raised in MontrealQuebec. No piece is too difficult for him. He has often praised the nun who taught him how to play the piano. His father should also be praised.

He is a graduate of L’École Vincent-d’Indy, in Montreal, and then studied at Temple University in Philadelphia.

He lives in BostonMassachusetts, a fine location, with his second wife, Katie Fuller, a pianist and WGBH classical music broadcaster.

I need not tell you that Marc-André has a sense of humour.

The Minute Waltz is Frédéric Chopin’s Op 64, No 1.

Love to everyone 💕

Hamelin in 2003 (

© Micheline Walker
4 January 2019



Walter J. Phillips’ Manitoba


, , , , ,


Little Log House, a woodcut, by Walter J. Phillips

Walter J. Phillips (25 October 1884 – 5 July 1963) was born in Lincolnshire, England and studied at the Birmingham School of Art.

He moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1913 where he lived for 28 years. He died in 1963 in Victoria, British Columbia. He was a resident artist at the Banff Centre, then known as the Banff School of Fine Arts. He became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. I love his art.

Phillips was very interested in Japanese prints. The work shown above is a woodcut.

Many new Canadians first settled in Winnipeg. My husband’s grandmother, the wife of a British aristocrat, was sent to Winnipeg. Her husband claimed their son was conceived by a “lover.” I suspect he wanted a younger wife. Fortunately, her son received a good education and always looked after his disconsolate mother.

You may remember that Winnipeg had been the Earl of Selkirk‘s Red River Colony. After Rupert’s Land was purchased by a fledging confederation (c. 1867). Louis Riel negotiated Manitoba’s entry into Confederation. He was hanged in 1885 for the execution of Orangeman Thomas ScottOrangemen prevented French-speaking and Catholic Canadians from settling in the land the legendary voyageurs had opened up. They were educated in English-language schools. The matter was not solved until the Official Languages Act of 1969, and not altogether.

Moreover, the newly confederated Canada sent Amerindians to reservations. Many Canadians have Amerindian ancestry, prairie Métis, primarily, but also the people of Quebec and other provinces. Many settlers to New France married Amerindian women because France was not sending women to its colony. 

The Great Plains

I lived in Regina in the late 1970s, but my work was not related to my professional qualifications. I was offered a position as translator in Winnipeg, but decided to accept a teaching position at St. Francis Xavier University, in Nova Scotia. I loved Nova Scotia, but regret my decision to teach at StFX. Everything went wrong. The life of a translator would have suited me and I loved the prairies. One could see forever.

So here I am. Probably a descendant of an Amerindian who lived in the 1600s and the former wife of a British aristocrat. My past has been leaping at me from behind. Do you think this is a temporary disorder, or am I about to write a book?

What will 2019 bring?

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation just published an interesting document which I am enclosing:

Ode to Manitoba winter: Love it or hate it, season has inspired artists for 200 years

It features this lovely painting.

Season’s Greetings to everyone 💛

Our Street in Winnipeg, 1933, by Walter J. Phillips. (Loch Gallery, Calgary) (the CBC)


images (1)

Walter J. Phillips’ The Red River in Winter, 1927, shows the blue shadows on snow that he loved. (National Gallery of Canada)

© Micheline Walker
2 January 2019