Molière’s “L’Avare:” Doublings



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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 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]


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 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]


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 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

[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





The Strawberry Girl by Joshua Reynolds, 1775 (

I apologize for not writing for several days. My computer is on the blink.
I may need help.

Kind regards to everyone  💕


Boy holding a Bunch of Grapes by Joshua Reynolds, 1770 (

© Micheline Walker
24 May 2019


Molière’s “Jalousie du Barbouillé”


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la jalousie du barbouille

La Jalousie du Barbouillé (documentation.théâ

I have not found illustrations for La Jalousie du Barbouillé. The image above is a detail from an illustration by Abraham Bosse, showing Turlupin and Gaultier-Garguille, French farceurs at the Hôtel de Bourgogne. The Hôtel de Bourgogne, was the foremost venue for Paris actors and farceurs. Another venue was Le Théâtre du Marais, a jeu de paume, an interior tennis court.

La Jalousie du Barbouillé is a one-act farce, first performed in 1660. It is often associated with Le Médecin volant. Both are early plays. However, Le Barbouillé seems the blueprint for George Dandin, first performed in 1668. George Dandin is a rich peasant who foolishly marries into an impoverished aristocracy. La Jalousie du Barbouillé was staged a few times after it premièred, but the farce was unexpectedly removed from Molière’s répertoire and the text itself vanished. It was found by Jean-Baptiste Rousseau in the eighteenth century, but was not included in the complete works of Molière until the 1819 edition.


The Molière21 research group warn that ancestors to Molière’s plays are probably too numerous to list. Cuckoldry and jealousy have long been the subject of farces and fabliaux. Cuckoldry also provided canevas, plots, to the commedia dell’arte. However, Wikipedia’s entry on La Jalousie du Barbouillé mentions sources. One is the commedia dell’arte‘s Villano gelosi, another is a tale from Boccacio’s Decameron, Le Jaloux corrigé. Moreover, the angry or disconsolate Barbouillé and Dandin are incarnations of Pedrolino (Pierrot), the rejected and sad clown.

Our dramatis personæ are:

Le Barbouillé, husband to Angélique.
The Doctor.
Valère, lover to Angélique.
Cathau, maid to Angélique.
Gorgibus, father to Angélique.
Villebrequin (accompanies Gorgibus).
La Vallée.

Le Jaloux

La Jalousie du Barbouillé features one of Molière’s main figures: the  jaloux. Le jaloux combines two comedic functions. On the one hand, he is “in love,” but on the other hand, he is the blocking character of comedy, the alazṓn of Greek Old Comedy. If he has yet to marry, he resembles Arnolphe. Reprimands and imprecations are his native and only tongue. We have just read Le Sicilien ou l’Amour peintre. Had Dom Pèdre known the laws of gallantry, Isidore may not have fled with Adraste.

After le Jaloux marries, he remains a jaloux because he fears cuckoldry, which is his fate. The cocu is the laughing-stock of the society of the play. In La Jalousie du Barbouillé, his name suggests that his face is smeared: barbouillé.


Yes, Angélique has met Valère and, serving the couple, is Cathau, Angélique’s maid. She is on the lookout. If she sees Gorgibus, Angélique’s father, she warns Valère and Angélique, who stop speaking as lovers do. Valère knows how to change topics:

Mademoiselle, je suis au désespoir de vous apporter de si méchantes nouvelles ; mais aussi bien les auriez-vous apprises de quelque autre ; et, puisque votre frère est fort malade…
Valère à Angélique (Sc. iv, p. 5)
[Mademoiselle, I am very sorry to bring you such bad news, but, you would have heard it from some one else, and since your brother is ill…]
Valère to Angélique (Sc. 4)

The Barbouillé’s Soliloquy

As the curtain lifts, the Barbouillé engages in a soliloquy, as will George Dandin. His soliloquy, or tirade, is a litany of the wrongs he endures, saddled as he is, with a flirtatious wife. He wishes her dead, but would be hanged if he had no proof of adultery:

Il faut avouer que je suis le plus malheureux de tous les hommes ! J’ai une femme qui me fait enrager : au lieu de me donner du soulagement et de faire les choses à mon souhait, elle me fait donner au diable vingt fois le jour ; au lieu de se tenir à la maison, elle aime la promenade, la bonne chère, et fréquente je ne sais quelle sorte de gens. Ah ! pauvre Barbouillé, que tu es misérable ! Il faut pourtant la punir. Si tu la tuais… L’intention ne vaut rien, car tu serais pendu. Si tu la faisais mettre en prison… La carogne en sortirait avec son passe-partout. Que diable faire donc ? Mais voilà monsieur le docteur qui passe par ici, il faut que je lui demande un bon conseil sur ce que je dois faire.
Barbouillé (Sc. I, p. 1)
[Everybody must acknowledge that I am the most unfortunate of men! I have a wife who plagues me to death; and who, instead of bringing me comfort and doing things as I like them to be done, makes me swear at her twenty times a day. Instead of keeping at home, she likes gadding about, eating good dinners, and passing her time with people of I don’t know what description. Ah! poor Barbouillé, how much you are to be pitied! But she must be punished. Suppose you killed her…? It would do no good, for you would be hung afterwards. If you were to have her sent to prison…? The minx would find means of coming out. –What the deuce are you to do?
But here is the doctor coming out this way; suppose I ask his advice on my difficulties.]
Barbouillé (Sc. 1)

The Barbouillé seeks the help of a doctor, a pedant, who is passing by. This doctor cannot give advice. The Barbouillé says a few words, which is all our pedant requires to display his knowledge. Doctors have the reputation of presenting bills. At the end of Scene two, the Doctor therefore indulges in a long tirade aimed at showing that expense is no object. He does’nt take money. The tirade being too long, I will indicate that it is at the very end of Scene ii, p. 4, FR Scene 2, EN.


In the meantime, Monsieur Gorgibus, Angélique’s father, walks on stage, accompanied by Villebrequin, his entourage. Gorgibus fears cuckoldry as much as the Barbouillé, if not more. Should his daughter commit adultery, which is almost unavoidable, Gorgibus’ reputation would suffer. He is forever visiting his daughter and her husband, begging them to stop quarrelling. They quarrel. (Sc. v, p. 5):

Hé quoi? toujours se quereller! vous n’aurez point la paix dans votre ménage?
Gorgibus au Barbouillé
(Sc. v)
[What! will you always be quarrelling! Will you never have peace at home?]
Gorgibus to Barbouillé (Sc. 5)

An incoherent doctor butts in. For instance, he asks the Barbouillé not to use the word enrager: j’enrage [I am bursting with rage.], which is not the correct verb.[1] Whether the Barbouillé uses enrager or an another word is irrelevant. He is a nuisance. As the scene ends, the doctor is dragged away, a cord attached to his foot.

Au milieu de tout ce bruit, le Barbouillé attache le Docteur par le pied, et le fait tomber ; le Docteur se doit laisser sur le dos ; le barbouillé l’entraîne par la corde qu’il lui a attachée au pied, et, pendant qu’il l’entraîne, le Docteur doit toujours parler, et compter par ses doigts toutes ses raisons, comme s’il n’était point à terre.
(Sc. vi, pp. 8-9)
[In the midst of all this, Le Barbouillé ties the Doctor by the legs with a rope, throws him down on his back, and drags him away; the Doctor goes on talking all the time, and counts all his arguments on his fingers, as if he were not on the ground.]
(Sc. 6)


In La Jalousie du Barbouillé, Molière rehearses George Dandin ou le Mari confondu, performed in 1668. The two comedies share an episode. The Barbouillé’s Angélique is late returning home and finds herself locked out of the Barbouillé’s house. The Barbouillé will not open the door to let his wife enter. 

Oui? Ah! ma foi, tu peux aller coucher d’où tu viens, ou, si tu l’aimes mieux, dans la rue, dans la rue : je n’ouvre point à une coureuse comme toi. Comment, diable! être toute seule à l’heure qu’il est!  Je ne sais si c’est imagination, mais mon front m’en paraît plus rude de moitié.
Barbouillé à Angélique (Sc. xi, p. 10)
[Yes, you catch me! You may go and sleep where you come from; I shall not open to a gad-about like you. What! alone at this time of night! I don’t know if it is fancy, but my forehead seems to me already rougher by half.]
Barbouillé to Angélique (Sc. 11)

The Barbouillé so insists on keeping the door closed that Angélique says she will do something he will regret.

Sais-tu bien que si tu me pousses à bout, et que tu me mettes en colère, je ferai quelque chose dont tu te repentiras?
Angélique au Barbouillé (Sc. xi, p. 11)
[Do you know that if you push me too far, and put me in a passion, I may do something which will make you repent your unkindness.]
Angélique to Barbouillé (Sc. 11)

Tiens, si tu ne m’ouvres, je m’en vais me tuer devant la porte ; mes parents, qui sans doute viendront ici auparavant de se coucher, pour savoir si nous sommes bien ensemble, me trouveront morte, et tu seras pendu.
Angélique au Barbouillé (Sc. xi, p. 11)
[I declare that if you do not open to me, I will kill myself before the door; my parents will no doubt come here before going to bed, to see if we are all right together, and they will find me dead, and you will be hanged.]
Angélique to Barbouillé (Sc. 11)

She then makes believe she’s killed herself. Frightened, he goes out of the house, allowing her to enter. It was a trick which George Dandin will play on his wife, in the hope he will be vindicated. He would have the upper hand from the point of you of the law. (Act III. final scenes)


Le jaloux is doomed, whether or not he is in the right. Courting, le Jaloux cannot make himself loved. He cannot be loved. Once he marries, Molière’s jaloux is cuckolded, un cocu and barbouillé, smeared. He is the laughing-stock of the play’s society and he shames his in-laws, however vigilant a Gorgibus or a Barbouillé. Gorgibus asks his daughter to kiss her “husband:”

Allons, ma fille, embrassez votre mari, et soyez bons amis.
Gorgibus à Angélique (Sc. xii, p. 12)
[Come, daughter, kiss your husband, and be friends.]
Gorgibus to Angélique (Sc. 13)

One does not ask a woman to kiss her husband, nor does one ask a husband to apologize to his wife (George Dandin, p. 291). Angélique and Valère will become lovers. The Sotenville (George Dandin) are prosperous again, but they have sold a daughter and Dandin regrets marrying into the aristocracy. He blames himself.

As the curtain falls, Villebrequin, who has refused the hear sixty to eighty pages of instruction from a reappearing doctor, suggests all go to supper. 

Allons-nous-en souper ensemble, nous autres.
Villebrequin à tous (Sc. xiii, p. 13)
Let us all go and have some supper together.
Villebrequin to all (Sc. 13)

This invitation is formulaic and The Jealousy of the Barbouillé, an enigmatic comedy. “Nous autres” go to supper, but George Dandin, a second Barbouillé, feels he may as well drown (George Dandin, p. 291).


Sources and Resources

[1] It is the correct verb.

With kind regards to everyone. 💕
(Apologies for a belated post.)


Claude Gillot (1673–1722), Four Commedia dell’arte Figures: Three Gentlemen and Pierrot, c. 1715 (

169331 (2)

© Micheline Walker
20 May 2019






Claude Lorrain & a Carpe Diem


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Claude Lorrain – Pastoral scene with classical ruins.  Grenoble – Musée des Beaux Arts  ( Baroque and Classicism)

A Carpe Diem

Croyez-moi, hâtons-nous, ma Sylvie,  Believe me, let us hasten, my Sylvia,  
Usons bien des moments précieux;  and profit well by the precious time ;
Contentons ici notre envie,  let us here satisfy our desires.
De nos ans le feu nous y convie:  The passions of our age invite us ;
Nous ne saurions, vous et moi, faire mieux  you and I could not do better.

Quand l’hiver a glacé nos guérets,  Winter has covered our fields with ice,
Le printemps vient reprendre sa place,  Spring comes to take her place again,
Et ramène à nos champs leurs attraits;  and to our pastures gives their charms.
Mais, hélas! quand l’âge nous glace,  But when, alas ! old age has chilled our feelings,
Nos beaux jours ne reviennent jamais. our happy days return no more.

Ne cherchons tous les jours qu’à nous plaire, Let us seek all day naught but what pleases us;  
Soyons-y l’un et l’autre empressés;  let us both be earnest about it ;
Du plaisir faisons notre affaire, let pleasures be our business ;
Des chagrins songeons à nous défaire: let us get rid of all our troubles;
Il vient un temps où l’on en prend assez. a time will come when we shall have enough of them.
Quand l’hiver a glacé nos guérets, …

La Pastorale comique, Sc xiii, p. 7.
The Comic Pastoral, Sc 15, p. 51. (transl. Henri van Laun)

A Pastoral Landscape by Claude Lorrain, 1647 (

As you know, I hope to publish a book about Molière. I have not read all of Molière for decades. My PhD thesis was a discussion of six plays. The University of British Columbia’s Library has sent me a PDF copy, which I will convert into text I can edit.

Although I will seldom include the libretto in my little book, I am reading the plays of Molière in their entirety. The carpe diem located above is an “air.”

I apologize for posting rather long articles.


Love to everyone  💕

Benedetto Ferrari : « Non fia più ver » Philippe Jarrousky (contre-ténor) 


Pastoral Landscape by Claude Lorrain, 1677 (

© Micheline Walker
16 May 2019




Molière’s “Sicilien” or “Love makes the Painter”


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Although Le Sicilien ou l’amour peintre forms part of Isaac de Benserade’s Ballet des Muses, and is a comédie-ballet, written by Molière and composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully, it differs from the third entrée: the incomplete Mélicerte and Comic Pastoral. Mélicerte and the Comic Pastoral were pièces de circonstance or plays written for a momentary event. The mourning period that followed the death of Anne d’Autriche, Louis XIV’s mother, was drawing to a close and would give way to festivities that were to take place at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. In other words, these were pièces de circonstance, momentary plays. Molière never wrote the third act of Mélicerte FR and removed the Comédie pastorale‘s FR theatrical scenes. Le Sicilien ou l’Amour peintre was written and published during Molière’s lifetime.

Moreover, in Le Sicilien, gone are shepherds and shepherdesses. These inhabited the literature of an earlier seventeenth century. The second half of the seventeenth century is often referred to as le Grand Siècle (1661-1715). Louis XIV’s reign began in 1661. The quest for a Golden Age is a permanent feature of literature, and would characterize eighteenth-century fêtes galantes. These would be oniriques, or dream-like. As for Le Sicilien ou l’Amour peintre, its main subject matter would be galanterie and the galant homme. Adraste, disguised as an artist and a Frenchman, is a galant homme. Juxtaposed to Adraste is Dom Pèdre, whose jealous nature keeps him from learning the spellbinding words of galanterie. He loves Isidore, a freed Greek slave, but he so fears losing her that he doesn’t use the words that could endear him to her. We remember l’École des femmes, The School for Wives‘ Arnolphe. 

In fact, one could sum up Le Sicilen ou l’Amour peintre by quoting The School for Wives (L’École des femmes). Arnolphe is too jealous to make himself loved. He admonishes Agnès, innocence personified, but Horace knows the appropriate “deux mots,” couple of words, that make him attractive.

Tenez, tous vos discours ne me touchent point l’âme.
Horace avec deux mots en ferait plus que vous.
Agnès à Arnolphe (V. iv, p. 73)
[All you say does not touch my heart.
Horace could do more with a couple of words.]
Agnès to Arnolphe (V. 4. p. 157)

L'école de femmes par Joullain

Le Sicilien par Ed. Héd.

Le Sicilien attribué à Edmond Hédouin (théâtre.documentation)

Le Sicilien ou l’Amour peintre (The Sicilian; or, Love Makes the Painter)

Le Sicilien ou l’Amour peintre is a one-act pastoral and comédie-ballet. The Ballet des Muses consisted of ballets mainly. Voltaire loved it. He wrote: « C’est la seule petite pièce en un acte où il y ait de la grâce. »[1] ‟It is the only little play in one act that has grace.” Molière had graced his one-act Sicilien and, although it was performed as the last ballet at Saint-Germain, it was also performed in Paris. It fared better at Saint-Germain than in Paris, which does not make it a lesser play. However, finding roots is difficult. One may grope, but Molière’s earlier plays are his main source.

Our dramatis personæ are

DON PEDRO, a Sicilian gentleman
ADRASTE, a French gentleman, in love with Isidore
ISIDORE, a Greek girl, Don Pedro’s slave.
A SENATOR. HALT, a Turk, Adraste’s slave.
ZAIDE, a young slave girl.*
*Zaïde is CLIMÈNE, Adraste’s sister.

Adraste would like to speak to Isidore.

In scene five, he complains that Don Pedre is keeping Isidore out of sight. He has seen her and believes they are in love, but he tells Hali that it seems impossible to speak to Isidore. Lovers need to speak to one another.

Quoi! tous nos soins seront, donc, inutiles? et, toujours, ce fâcheux jaloux se moquera de nos desseins?
Adraste à Hali (Sc. v, p. 6)
[What ! Shall all our trouble be for nothing ? Shall this tiresome, jealous fellow always laugh at our attempts?]
Adraste to Hali (Sc. v, p. 65)

Non, le courroux du point d’honneur me prend; il ne sera pas dit qu’on triomphe de mon adresse; ma qualité de fourbe s’indigne de tous ces obstacles; et je prétends faire éclater les talents que j’ai eus du Ciel.
Hali à Adraste (Sc. v, p. 6)
[No. I get angry, and my honour is at stake; it shall not be said that anyone has outwitted me. My reputation as a rogue disdains all these obstacles ; and I am determined to show the talents that Heaven has given me.]
Hali to Adraste (Sc. 5, p. 66)

A stratagem is planned. Pedro will be fooled into thinking that Adraste is Damon, an artist who is supposed to paint a portrait of Isidore. Don Pedro introduces the artist:

Voici un gentilhomme que Damon nous envoie, qui se veut bien donner la peine de vous peindre.
Dom Pèdre à Isidore (Sc. xi, p. 13)
[This is a gentleman whom Damon sends us, and who will be kind enough to undertake your portrait.]
Don Pedro to Isidore (Sc.12, p. 72)

When he meets Isidore, the artist embraces her, so Don Pedro is miffed. Isidore, however, “accepts this honour:”

Holà, Seigneur Français, cette façon de saluer n’est  point d’usage en ce pays. (Don Pedro)
[Hullo! Sir Frenchman, this way of saluting is not the fashion in this country.]
C’est la manière de France. (Adraste)
[It is the fashion of France.]
La manière de France est bonne pour vos femmes; mais pour les nôtres, elle est, un peu, trop familière. (Don Pedro)
[The fashion of France may suit your ladies; but for ours, it is somewhat too familiar.]
Je reçois cet honneur avec beaucoup de joie; l’aventure me surprend fort; et, pour dire le vrai, je ne m’attendais pas d’avoir un peintre si illustre. (Isidore)
[I accept this honour with much pleasure. The adventure surprises me immensely; and, to tell the truth I did not expect to have such an illustrious painter.]
(Sc. xi, p. 13/Sc.12, p. 72)

Despite the presence of Dom Pèdre, Adraste courts Isidore whom, until then, he has only seen. Isidore doesn’t know whether he is truthful, but Adraste is convincing:

Oui, charmante Isidore, mes regards vous le disent depuis plus de deux mois, et vous les avez entendus: je vous aime plus que tout ce que l’on peut aimer, et je n’ai point d’autre pensée, d’autre but, d’autre passion, que d’être à vous toute ma vie.
Adraste à Isidore (Sc. xii, p. 16)
[Yes, charming Isidore, my looks have told you as much for the last two months, and you have understood them. I love you more than aught else, and have no other thought, no other aim, no other passion, than to be yours all my life.]
Adraste to Isidore (Sc. 8, p. 75)
Je ne sais si vous dites vrai, mais vous persuadez.
Isidore à Adraste (Sc. xii, p. 16)
[I do not know whether you speak the truth ; but you make me believe you.]
Isidore to Adraste (Sc. 8, p.75)
[What are you waiting for?]
Adraste to Isidore (Sc. 14, p. 76)
[To make up my mind.]
Isidore to Adraste (Sc. 14, p. 76)
[Ah ! when people love with all their hearts, they
make up their minds quickly.]
Adraste to Isidore (Sc. 14, p. 76)
[Very well then ! yes, I consent to it.]
Isidore to Adraste (Sc. 14, p. 76)

In Scene XIV, Climène, Adraste’s sister, bursts onto the scene, asking to be protected from a jealous husband. Don Pedro is surprised. He believes Frenchmen are not jealous. But the French, it appears, excell in every way.

Les Français excellent toujours dans toutes les choses qu’ils font[.] 

So, Don Pedro lets Climène/Zaïde enter wearing a veil. He lest her join the artist and Isidore, not knowing that he will be tricked. Climène gives Isidore her veil, which is how Adraste and Isidore leave unnoticed.

Ah! Seigneur cavalier, sauvez-moi, s’il vous plaît, des mains d’un mari furieux dont je suis poursuivie. Sa jalousie est incroyable, et passe dans ses mouvements tout ce qu’on peut imaginer. Il va jusques à vouloir que je sois, toujours, voilée; et pour m’avoir trouvée le visage un peu découvert, il a mis l’épée à la main, et m’a réduite à me jeter chez vous, pour vous demander votre appui contre son injustice. Mais je le vois paraître. De grâce, Seigneur cavalier, sauvez-moi de sa fureur.
Climène/Zaïde à Dom Pèdre (Sc. xiv, p. 18)
[Ah, Sir, save me, I beseech you, from the hands of an enraged husband who is close upon my heels. His jealousy is incredible, and surpasses in its violence every-thing imaginable. He carries it so far as to wish me to be always veiled ; and for having found me with my face a little uncovered he has drawn his sword, and he has compelled me to throw myself upon you, and to ask for your protection against his injustice. But I see him coming ; for heaven’s sake, honoured Sir, save me from his fury.]
Zaïde/Climène to Don Pedro (Sc. 15, p. 77)
Entrez là-dedans, avec elle, et n’appréhendez rien.
Dom Pèdre à Climène/Zaïde (Sc. xiv, p. 18)
[Go in there with her, and fear nothing.]
Don Pedro to Zaïde/Climène (Sc. 15, p. 77)


Salons” nurtured both l’honnête homme and le galant homme. Le galant homme is not un homme galant, a womanizer. Le galant homme is refined and knows how to please a woman, as does l’honnête homme. Charles Sorel is the author of Les Lois de la galanterie (1644), and Nicolas Faret wrote L’Honnête homme ou l’Art de plaire à la cour (1630). Molière himself sought to please … an audience.

In short, in Le Sicilien, Molière remembers jealous and possessive men. These men court women speaking the language of accountants. Moreover, they often resort to the law. They have rights. Don Pedro speaks to the Senator who can only think of a mascarade he has written. It’s a dialogue de sourds. Molière remembers Arnolphe. He also remembers Horace who tells each one of his plans to Arnolphe, but defeats Arnolphe.

According to Marcel Gutwirth, Molière main characters are le Jaloux, jealous men, l’Imposteur (le faux dévot) and the zanni, clever servants and fourbes, tricksters.[2] However, among these three types are Argan (The Imaginary Invalid), Harpagon (The Miser) and Arnolphe. These characters are obsessed. Harpagon is quite happy to retrieve his cassette.

Molière did not finish Mélicerte and destroyed La Comédie pastorale, the Comic Pastoral‘s theatrical scenes. As for Le Sicilien ou l’amour peintre, The Sicilian; or, Love Makes the Painter, it was an afterthought, or so it appears. But we have just read three humble, but delightful little plays, as moliéresque as can be.

Would that I had written: “Quand l’hiver a glacé nos guérets, …” (La Pastorale comique)


Sources and Resources
Le Sicilien ou l’Amour peintre is a toutmoliè publication
The Sicilian; or, Loves makes the Painter is and Internet Archive publication, translator Henri van Laun
Images belong to théâtre.documentation

[1] Maurice Rat, ed., Les Œuvres complètes de Molière (Paris: Gallimard [La Pléiade], 1956), p. 950.
[2] Marcel Gutwirth, Molière ou l’invention comique (Paris: Ménard, 1966), p. 24.

Love to everyone 💕

Le Ballet des Muses — Jean-Baptiste Lully


Le Ballet des MusesThe Complete Play FR

© Micheline Walker
14 May 2019

Molière’s “Pastorale comique” (“The Comic Pastoral”)


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La Pastorale comique (théâ

La Pastorale comique by anonymous (théâ

Molière’s Pastorals

Mélicerte was the third entrée in Isaac de Benserade‘s Ballet des Muses. It was performed on 2 December 1666. As for La Pastorale comique, it replaced Mélicerte on 5 January 1667. In both plays, the action takes place at Thessaly, in the Vale of Tempe. Moreover, both Mélicerte and the Pastorale comique are dedicated to Thalia, the muse of comedy. The music was composed by Jean-Baptiste LullyLe Sicilien, ou l’Amour peintre was a bit of an afterthought. It was added to the thirteen entrées of Isaac de Benserade Ballet des Muses. It is a fourteenth entrée. So, our pastorals are:

The Ballet des Muses

The Ballet des muses had been written to celebrate the end of the period of mourning that followed the death of the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria. It was performed at Saint-Germain-en-Laye from 2 December 1666 to 19 February 1667. Louis and members of his court remained at Saint-Germain during the entire festivity. So did Molière’s troupe, la Troupe du Roi.

These comedies are considered entertainement (divertissement) and have often escaped the scrutiny of scholars. So have Les Amants magnifiques (1670) and Psyché (1671), a play Molière wrote in collaboration with Pierre Corneille.


Thalia, Muse of Comedy by Jean-Marc Nattier (

La Pastorale comique

  • has thirteen scenes (formerly fifteen)
  • eight entrées de ballet (formerly six)
  • professional singers were hired (see La Pastorale comique FR)
  • demons, magicians, peasants, etc., and l’Égyptienne,
    Its missing scenes are described.

In Henri van Laun‘s translation,
the Dramatis Personae are:

LYCAS, a rich shepherd in love with Iris.
PHILENE, a rich shepherd in love with Iris.
CORYDON, a young shepherd, friend of Lycas, in love with Iris.
A HERDSMAN, friend of Philene.
IRIS, a young shepherdess.


In toutmoliè, the Dramatis Personae are:

IRIS, jeune bergère. Mlle de Brie
LYCAS, riche pasteur (herdsman). Molière 
FILÈNE, riche pasteur. le sieur d’Estival (bass)
CORIDON, jeune berger. La Grange
BERGER ENJOUÉ. Blondel (tenor)
UN PÂTRE. (Châteauneuf).

Professional singers played roles: Le sieur d’Estival, or Destival, a prominent bass, Blondel, a tenor (a playful shepherd) and Noblet l’aîné (l’Égyptienne). (See La Pastorale comique, footnote 3 [toutmoliè].) Moreover, Molière sang and Louis XIV danced.

The Plot

In La Pastorale comique, Lycas and Filène court Iris, but are rejected (rebutés). Iris chooses the shepherd Coridon. Both Lycas and Filène are running to their death, when a playful shepherd sings:

Ha! quelle folie
De quitter la vie
Pour une beauté
Dont on est rebuté!

On peut, pour un objet aimable
Dont le cœur nous est favorable,
Vouloir perdre la clarté;
Mais quitter la vie
Pour une beauté
Dont on est rebuté,
Ha! quelle folie!
La Pastorale comique,
p. 6.  

[THE SHEPHERD (sings). What folly to quit life for a fair one who rejects us ! We might wish to quit this life for a lovely object’s sake, whose heart favours us, but to die for the fair one who rejects us, is folly ! ]
The Pastoral Comedyp. 51.

Lycas and Filène will not commit suicide, La Pastorale comique being comique. An aria follows the above, which I am omitting, but I should quote the second aria. It is a carpe diem.

Croyez-moi, hâtons-nous, ma Sylvie,
Usons bien des moments précieux;
Contentons ici notre envie,
De nos ans le feu nous y convie:
Nous ne saurions, vous et moi, faire mieux
Quand l’hiver a glacé nos guérets,
Le printemps vient reprendre sa place,
Et ramène à nos champs leurs attraits;
Mais, hélas! quand l’âge nous glace,
Nos beaux jours ne reviennent jamais.//
Ne cherchons tous les jours qu’à nous plaire,
Soyons-y l’un et l’autre empressés;
Du plaisir faisons notre affaire,
Des chagrins songeons à nous défaire:
Il vient un temps où l’on en prend assez.
(return to Quand l’hiver …)
La Pastorale comique, p. 7.

[Believe me, let us hasten, my Sylvia, and profit well by the precious time ; let us here  satisfy our desires. The passions of our age invite us ; you and I could not do better. Winter has covered our fields with ice, Spring comes to take her place again, and to our pastures gives their charms. But when, alas ! old age has chilled us; our happy days return no more. // Let us seek all day naught but what pleases us ; let us both be earnest about it ; let pleasures be our business ; let us get rid of all our troubles; a time will come when we shall have enough of them.] (Return to “Winter has covered”)
The Pastoral Comedy, pp. 51-52.


According to the members of the Molière21 (Sorbonne) research group, whose work is authoritative, we know very little about the Ballet des Muses and Molière’s pastorals.  However, as a genre, pastorals are important. In pastorals, “a pastoral lifestyle,” the lifestyle of shepherds, “lends its name to a genre of literature, art, and music that depicts such life in an idealized manner, typically for urban audiences.” (See Pastoral, Toile de Jouy often uses a pastoral motif. So do tapestries and various ornaments, including dishes. It is innocence versus experience, simplicity in a complex world and a golden age, forever remembered.

Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony No 6 is a hymn to nature. Beethoven once heard the many voices of birds as he walked in wooded areas and he undoubtedly experienced nature’s newness following thunderstorms. Wikipedia uses Christopher Marlowe‘s The Passionate Shepherd to His Love as an example of the pastoral in literature.


Sources and Resources

Love to everyone 


© Micheline Walker
10 May 2019


Monday …


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Walter J. PHILLIPS R.C.A. (Can. 1884 – 1963) (Invaluable)

I love Mr. Phillips’ tree. This is the work of a very good artist. I am reminded of the West Coast of Canada, where I lived for several happy years. Looking at that tree cheered me up. It is an old tree, but age has graced it.

Let me tell a story. Monday, I had a doctor’s appointment. I took a cab. I have been feeling a little depressed and feared driving. So many drivers exceed the speed limit or will not allow a person to change lanes.

On my way back home, the cab driver, who was not an immigrant, many are, told me that, if immigrants were unhappy here, they should go back home. We didn’t need them.

So, I told him that they were home. 



Fortunately, the Royal baby was born on an otherwise sad Monday. I was very happy to learn that the Duchess of Sussex was delivered of her baby boy safely. I was afraid it would be a difficult birth and hoped she would give birth in a hospital.

Prince Harry said that he was very proud of his wife. I am also very proud of Meghan. The baby is beautiful, and I have never seen a happier Prince Harry. 

Congratulations to the happy parents and their Royal baby: Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. I love him.

This is a short post. My next post is nearly ready. I am not discussing Mélicerte, but Mélicerte and La Pastorale comique were both performed at Saint-Germain-en-Laye and the action of both plays takes place in the Vale of Tempe, in Greece.

These two plays were never performed at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, la troupe du roi‘s Paris venue. Le Sicilien ou l’Amour peintre was performed at both locations: Saint-Germain, successfully, and the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, less successfully.  

Love to everyone 💕
(I edited or eliminated comments I made in the Comments section of my post on Molière’s Mélicerte. There are events I should forget. I’m still alive.)


Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, HWV 74
Alison Balsam and Lestyn Davies
The English Concert, Trevor Pinnoc

Walter J. PHILLIPS R.C.A. (Can. 1884 – 1963) (Invaluable)

© Micheline Walker
8 May 2019






Molière’s “Mélicerte”


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Mélicerte is:

  • a two-act heroic pastoral comedy inhabited by shepherds and shepherdesses.
  • It is an incomplete comédie pastorale/comédie d’intrigue written by
  • Molière, in alexandrine verses, le vers noble.
  • Mélicerte is the third of thirteen “entrées” in
  • Isaac de Benserade‘s Ballet des Muses.
  • Thalia is the muse of comedy.
  • The music was composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully.
  • Molière drew his inspiration from an épisode in Le Grand Cyrus, a novel by Madeleine de Scudéry (Sapho) who had a salon. Guests visited on Saturday. It was la Société du samedi, the Saturday Society.
  • Mélicerte was performed for the court on 2 December 1666, at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a royal residence.

melicerte1 (2)

Myrtil and Mélicerte, (Documents iconographiques, BnF) 

Our dramatis personæ are:

MYRTIL, in love with Melicerte. ACANTHE, in love with Daphne.
TYRONE, in love with Eroxene.
LYCARSIS, herdsman, supposed father to Myrtil?
NICANDRE, shepherd.
MOPSE, shepherd, supposed uncle to Melicerte. MELICERTE, shepherdess.
DAPHNE, shepherdess.
EROXENE, shepherdess.
CORINNE, confidante of Melicerte.
Scene. THESSALY, IN THE VALLEY OF TEMPE, the Vale of Tempe


As noted above, Mélicerte is a pastorale comique héroïque, a heroic pastoral comedy. It is the third of thirteen entrées in Isaac de Benserade‘s Ballet des Muses. Mélicerte was well-received by the King, which suggests that it was performed in its entirety.

Molière wrote the first two acts of Mélicerte. No copy of a third act, written by Molière, was ever found. However, the events of the first two acts allow us to expect an anagnorisis, a scene during which a character’s real identity is revealed. In comedy, such revelations often allow the marriage of the young lovers. I am using the word anagnorisis in its broadest acceptation: recognition or a character’s real identity. 

Mélicerte par Lalauze (Document iconographique)

Adolphe Lalauze (Documents iconographiques) – BnF
Mélicerte (


In Scene One, the shepherdesses and Nymphs, Daphné and Éroxène, are running away from Acante and Tyrène, two young men who seek the Nymphs’ love. In Scene Two, Daphné and Éroxène learn from one another, showing matching portraits, that they both love Myrtil. However, in Scene Three, the news is that the King has come to Tempe:

Le Roi vient d’honorer Tempé de sa présence[.]
Lycarsis à Nicandre (I. iii, p. 10)
[You shall not know, then, that the King has come
to honour Tempe with his presence…]
Lycarsis to Nicandre (I. 3, p. 26)

Tension is building. Why is the King in Tempe?

Daphné and Éroxène do not know that the King has travelled to Tempe. So they ask Lycarsis, Myrtil’s supposed father, to reveal to Myrtil that both are in love with him and that they would like Myrtil to choose which of the two Nymphs he will marry. Only in pastorals and “a long time ago,” would a woman accept to be rejected by Myrtil, who also happens to be of lower birth.

At first, Lycarsis believes the nymphs are revealing their love for him. This figure is a quiproquo, a misunderstanding, a device Molière uses frequently. When Lycarsis realises that the Nymphs love Myrtil, he says he is of the opinion that his son is too young for matrimony. However, Daphné has seen him following Mélicerte. Myrtil, she claims, is not a child:

Il [Myrtil] n’est point tant enfant, qu’à le voir chaque jour,
Je ne le croie atteint déjà d’un peu d’amour,
Et plus d’une aventure à mes yeux s’est offerte,
Où j’ai connu qu’il suit la jeune Mélicerte.
Daphné à Éroxène et Lycarsis (I. iv, p. 15)
[He is not such a child but that I, who see him every day, believe him somewhat love-sick already ; and I have noticed many a thing that shows that he is after young Melicerte.]
Daphné to Éroxène and Lycarsis (I. 4, p. 29)

Lycarsis accepts to serve the two Nymphs and says the rejected one may marry him, if she wishes to:

Je consens que son choix règle votre dispute, 
Et celle qu’à l’écart laissera cet arrêt,
Pourra pour son recours m’épouser, s’il lui plaît.
Lycarsis aux deux nymphes (I. iv, p. 16)
[I consent that his choice shall adjust your dispute ; and she, whom his decree shall set aside, may marry me in compensation, if she likes.]
Lycarsis to the two nymphs (I. 5, p. 29)

Scene Five

At the beginning of Scene Five, Myrtil is putting a sparrow in a cage intending to give it to Mélicerte. Scene Five is a lovely pastoral scene, but it is interrupted by Lycarsis, Daphné, and Éroxène. The Nymphs themselves ask Myrtle to wed one of them. He feels honoured because he is of lower birth, but he is in love. He wishes to marry Mélicerte.

Lycarsis is slighty miffed. It is for a father to decide whom a son marries:

Quoi? les pères n’ont pas des droits supérieurs? (I. vi, p. 20)
What ! has not a father superior rights? (I. 5, p 32)

For her part, Daphné suggests inequality between the Nymphs and Mélicerte.

Le choix d’elle et de nous est assez inégal. (I. v, p. 21)
The choice between her and us is unequal enough. (I. 5, p. 32)

Nymphes, au nom des Dieux, n’en dites point de mal,
Daignez considérer, de grâce, que je l’aime, …
[Nymphs, in Heaven’s name, do not say any ill of her. Pray consider that I love her, and do not upset my mind. If, by loving her, I outrage your heavenly charms, she  has no part in that crime ; all the offence comes from me, if you please. It is true that I know the difference between you and her ; but we cannot escape our fate.]
Myrtil to Daphné and Éroxène (I. v. p. 32)

Mélicerte par Ed. Héd. (1)

Edmond Hédouin (Documents iconographiques) – BnF
Mélicerte (


Mélicerte is worried. She tells Corinne, her confidante, that her lower rank puts her at a disadvantage. Corinne, is of litte help. In a soliloquy, Mélicerte remembers her mother’s (Bélise) words:

“Ma fille, songe à toi: l’amour aux jeunes cœurs
Se présente toujours entouré de douceurs.
D’abord il n’offre aux yeux que choses agréables;
Mais il traîne après lui des troubles effroyables.
Et si tu veux passer tes jours dans quelque paix,
Toujours comme d’un mal défends-toi de ses traits.”
Mélicerte seule (II. ii, p. 25)
[Beware, daughter ; Love always comes to young hearts surrounded by sweet guiles. At first it offers nought but what is agreeable ; but it drags horrible troubles after it ; and if you wish to pass your days in peace, ever defend yourself from its darts, as from an evil.”]
Mélicerte alone (II. 2, p. 34)

Myrtil arrives carrying the sparrow, but Mélicerte is sad. She has learned that Daphné et Éroxène want to marry Myrtil. They belong to a higher class. Myrtle swears his love for Mélicerte:

Non, chère Mélicerte, il n’est père ni Dieux
Qui me puissent forcer à quitter vos beaux yeux,
Et toujours de mes vœux, reine comme vous êtes
Myrtil à Mélicerte (II. iii, p. 28)
[No, dear Melicerte, neither father nor gods shall force me to discard your lovely eyes ; for ever, queen of my heart, as you are . . .]
Myrtil to Mélicerte (II. 3. p. 36)

Mélicerte is all too aware that sons and daughters are at the mercy of their parents. They have no liberty. At this point, Lycarsis enters finding Myrtil and Mélicerte speaking as lovers do. He condemns this outrage and wishes to speak to Mélicerte. Myrtil will not let him hurt Mélicerte. He has sought her love. She is innocent.

Je ne souffrirai point que vous la maltraitiez.
[I will not allow her to be abused.]
Myrtil à Lycarsis (II. 4, p. 36)

Myrtil does not believe one can give life to only to take it. Myrtil cannot envisage life without Mélicerte.

Le jour est un présent que j’ai reçu de vous;
Mais de quoi vous serai-je aujourd’hui redevable,
Si vous me l’allez rendre, hélas! insupportable?
Il est sans Mélicerte un supplice à mes yeux:
Sans ses divins appas, rien ne m’est précieux,
Ils font tout mon bonheur, et toute mon envie,
Et si vous me l’ôtez, vous m’arrachez la vie.
Myrtil à Lycarsis (II. v, p. 31)
[I owe my being to you ; but shall I be indebted to you this day if you render life unbearable to me ? Without Mélicerte, it becomes a torment ; nothing is of value to me without her divine charms. They contain all my happiness and all my desires, and if you take them away, you take life itself.]
Myrtil to Lycarsis (II. 5, p. 37)

Myrtil’s supposed father did allow his son to marry Mélicerte earlier in the play. He does again. But will his father keep his promise?

Ah! que pour ses enfants un père a de faiblesse!
Peut-on rien refuser à leurs mots de tendresse?
Et ne se sent-on pas certains mouvements doux,
Quand on vient à songer que cela sort de vous?
Lycarsis, seul (II. v, p. 32)
[Ah ! how weak a father is for his children ! Can we refuse aught to their tender words ? Do we not feel some sweet emotions within us, when we reflect that they are part of ourselves?]
Lycarsis, alone (ii. 5, p. 38)

Me tiendrez-vous au moins la parole avancée?
Ne changerez-vous point, dites-moi, de pensée?
Myril à Lycarsis (II. v, p. 32)
[But will you keep your given promise ? Tell me
that you will not change your mind.]
Myrtil to Lycarsis (II. 5, p. 38)

Acante and Tyrène can breathe again. Myrtil has chosen Mélicerte. The shepherds are free to court Daphné and Éroxène (Scene 6).

However, Mélicerte has disappeared. Nicandre is looking for her.

Ce sont des incidents grands et mystérieux:
Oui, le Roi vient chercher Mélicerte en ces lieux;
Et l’on dit qu’autrefois feu Bélise, sa mère,
Dont tout Tempé croyait que Mopse était le frère…
Mais je me suis chargé de la chercher partout,
Vous saurez tout cela tantôt, de bout en bout.
Nicandre à Myrtil  (II. vii, p. 36)
[They are important and mysterious events. Yes, the King has come to seek Melicerte in these spots, and they say that formerly her mother Belise, of whom all Tempe believed Mopse to be the brother . . . But I have undertaken to look for her everywhere. You shall know all about it by and bye.]
Nicandre to Myrtil (II. 7, p. 39)


According to the Molière21 research team, the, Mélicerte will find out that she is a princess and Myrtil will learn that he is the son of a great Lord. Mélicerte contains elements of fairy tales, which is not uncommon in comedies of intrigue. Henri van Laun, whose translation I have used (in PDF), was a Molière scholar. In his Prefatory Notice, Mr. van Laun writes that he wishes Molière had left us a written copy of the third act. Mélicerte is a lovely play, albeit incomplete.

“But the charm of his writing, the exquisite delicacy of the sentiment, and the freshness of the pastoral scenes, cause us to regret that Moliere wrote only the two first acts of this play, and never finished it.” (p. 17)

Mélicerte was published in the 1682 edition of Molière’s works. A third act, written by Molière, was never found.

Moreover, although Molière borrowed an episode from Artamène ou Le Grand Cyrus, by Madeleine de Scudéry, other ancestors to Mélicerte are Guarini‘s Pastor Fido (1590) and Honoré d’Urfé‘s L’Astrée (1607-1627), poems, and several “petits romans.”

I will conclude by mentioning that Mélicerte has inspired artists. The play is rather well known, incomplete as it is. More importantly, in Molière’s comedies, few young lovers so oppose parents choosing a spouse for their children as does Myrtil. We are in a distant land and “a long time ago” and the King is in Tempe looking for Mélicerte. The matter of rank plays an unusually important role in Mélicerte. It is as though one were reading a fairy tale. Cinderella has two sisters.

I agree with Mr. van Laun. Would that Molière had completed the play!

Love to everyone 💕

I apologize for the long delay. It’s depression, would you believe. My cat Belaud is looking after me.

Ballet des Muses : “Trop indiscret Amour” [Euridice]

melicerte1 (2)

© Micheline Walker
3 May 2019

Molière’s “Mélicerte” (Introduction)


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Mélicerte is a:

  • two-act heroic pastoral comedy inhabited by shepherds and shepherdesses.
  • It is an incomplete (two acts out of three) heroic pastoral comedy
  • Molière wrote Mélicerte in alexandrine verses, le vers noble.
  • Molière’s Mélicerte is the third of thirteen “entrées” in Isaac de Benserade‘s Ballet des Muses.
  • Thalia is the muse of comedy.
  • The music was composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully.
  • Molière drew his inspiration from an épisode of Le Grand Cyrus, a novel by Madeleine de Scudéry (Sapho) who had a salon. Guests visited on Saturday. It was la Société du samedi, the Saturday Society.
  • Mélicerte was performed for the court on 2 December 1666, at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a royal residence.
melicerte1 (2)

Mélicerte, anonymous (théâ

This post is incomplete. To continue reading, please click on [read more].

Love to everyone

Beethoven – 6th Symphony – Pastoral

th (2)

© Micheline Walker
1 May 2019

Molière: Odds and Ends


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Et in Arcadia ego (Les Bergers d’Arcadie), Nicolas Poussin, 1637-1639 (

George Dandin and Molière’s Pastorals

We have read all the plays in which Molière satirised doctors and we know why. In  17th century Europe, medicine was not sufficiently advanced for doctors to help patients. However, there were doctors. The sick sought their assistance believing they could be cured. They could not be cured and doctors knew. Yet, doctors collected fees that made many of them wealthy. As well, there were charlatans. I omitted a short scene in which L’Amour médecin’s Sganarelle goes to buy orviétan[1] from a charlatan.

(seul) Me voilà justement un peu plus incertain que je n’étais auparavant. Morbleu, il me vient une fantaisie. Il faut que j’aille acheter de l’orviétan, et que je lui en fasse prendre. L’orviétan est un remède dont beaucoup de gens se sont bien trouvés.
Sganarelle (II. vi, p. 13)
[(the two doctors leave) Here I am now a little more uncertain than I was before. The devil! A fantasy has come to me. I have to go buy some snake oil and make her take it — snake oil is a remedy which many people are very fond of.]
Sganarelle (II. 6, pp. 16-17)

I have also omitted a scene in Le Médecin malgré lui.

Thibaut and his son Perrin consult Sganarelle, who has been made into a doctor. Thibaut tells Sganarelle that Perrin’s mother suffers from hypocrisie (hypocrisy).

Alle est malade d’hypocrisie, Monsieu.
Thibaut to Sganarelle (III. ii, p. 24)
[She’s got the hypocrisy, Sir.]
Thibaut to Sganarelle (III. 2, p. 24)

The use of the word hypocrisie instead of hydropisie is ironic, but consistent with Molière’s satirical portrayal of doctors. Moreover, Sganarelle is not hearing anything because he has yet to be paid. After he is paid deux écus, Sganarelle can hear, which is another satirical element:

Voilà un garçon qui parle clairement, qui s’explique comme il faut. Vous dites que votre mère est malade d’hydropisie, qu’elle est enflée par tout le corps, qu’elle a la fièvre, avec des douleurs dans les jambes : et qu’il lui prend, parfois, des syncopes, et des convulsions, c’est-à-dire des évanouissements ?
Sganarelle to Perrin (III. ii, p. 24)
[Now I understand! Here’s a boy who speaks clearly and explains things as he should. You say your mother is suffering from hydropsia, is swollen everywhere, and has a fever, with pains in the legs, and sometime she is taken with fits and convulsions, that is to say, with fainting?]
Sganarelle to Perrin (III. 2, p. 39)

Sganarelle has learned that doctors collect first. However, he can hear hydropisie, dropsy, instead of hypocrisie and his diagnostic could be accurate.

I will insert these omissions in their appropriate posts.

George Dandin and Pastorals

I wrote one chapter of my thesis on George Dandin. I re-read it during the week-end and I had the feeling I was reading a text written by an author other than myself. I have also written a post on George Dandin. He is an agroikós, a rustic character, featured in Middle Greek comedy. The comedy of Ancient Greece, Attic comedy, is usually divided into three periods and I will associate at least one writer which each period. Greece’s best-known comic playwrights are:

  • Aristophanes (c. 446 – c. 386 BCE) is associated with Old Comedy,
  • Antiphanes (c. 408 to 334 BCE), with Middle Comedy (the agroikos), and
  • Menander (c. 342/41 – c. 290 BCE) with New Comedy.

I should also mention Philemon (c. 362 BCE– c. 262 BCE). He is associated with New Comedy.

But so much is lost of Ancient Greece’ theatre.

Stock Characters

In comedy, stock characters are the

Molière was also familiar with Rome’s Atellan farce and with the comedies of Rome’s Plautus (c. 254 – 184 BCE) and Terence (c. 195/185 – c. 159? BC). As well, he knew the commedia dell’arte‘s stock characters. These may be archetypes and are discussed in Northrop Frye‘s Anatomy of Criticism (1959), which, I believe, is essential reading. We have seen the alazṓn, the blocking character of comedyand the eirôn, the alazṓn’s opponent. The alazṓn has many names. I have also mentioned the pharmakós. The pharmakós is the scapegoat.

George Dandin is an agroikos. This play was discussed in a post, but the pastorals were not. They are:


Sources and Resources

[1] L’orviétan était un remède miracle, une sorte de panacée qu’un charlatan italien, Jeronimo Ferranti, prétendait avoir apporté d’Orvieto et qui fut vendu avec beaucoup de succès par lui-même et ses descendants jusqu’au XVIIIe siècle. [Orvietan was a miracle cure, a sort of panacea that an Italian charlatan, Jeronimo Ferranti, claimed he brought from Orvieto, and which he and his descendants sold successfully until the 18th century.]

[2] I have used the word agôn. It means struggle and appears in several contexts. (See Agôn,

Love to everyone 💕

Nicolas Poussin

Dance to the Music of Time  (Danse à la musique du Temps), Nicolas Poussin, 1634 (

© Micheline Walker
29 April 2019

Molière’s “Médecin malgré lui”


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Sganarelle (Le médecin malgré lui)

Le Médecin malgré lui, Edmond Geoffroy


Our dramatis personæ are

Géronte, père (father) de Lucinde.
Lucinde, fille (daughter) de Géronte.
Léandre, amant (lover) de Lucinde.
Sganarelle, mari (husband) de Martine.
Martine, femme (wife) de Sganarelle.
M. Robert, voisin (neighbour) de Sganarelle.
Valère, domestique (servant) de Géronte.
Lucas, mari (husband) de Jacqueline.
Jacqueline, nourrice (wet-nurse) chez Géronte, et femme de Lucas.
Thibaud, père (father) de Perrin. (peasant)
Perrin, fils (son) de Perrin.

Le Médecin malgré lui is:

  • a three-act comedy;
  • rooted in Le Vilain Mire (mire = doctor), a 13th-century fabliau (most are obscene and some are scatological);
  • it was performed during the years Molière spent outside Paris, under different titles, and, before 1666, in Paris, under different titles;
  • it premièred in Paris, as Le Médecin malgré lui, on 6 August 1666, at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal;
  • according to Maurice Rat[1], it was preceded by, or played along a version of La Médecin malgré lui written by Donneau de Visé, entitled La Mère coquette (1665);
  • in the Vilain Mire, the king’s daughter can no longer speak because she has swallowed a fishbone;
  • other antecedents are Italian stories and El Acero de Madrid (Lope de Vega) and Tirso de Molina‘s La Fingida Arcadia;
  • Voltaire called it “très gaie et très bouffonne;” 
  • much is borrowed or belongs to an oral tradition;
  • Henry Fielding‘s Mock Doctor is a translation and adaptation of Le Médecin malgré lui. 
  • French composer Charles Gounod wrote an opera based on Le Médecin malgré lui.
Le médecin malgré lui par F. Boucher

Le Médecin malgré lui, François Boucher


  • Martine beaten
  • neighbour intervenes
  • Martine’s revenge

Molière’s Médecin malgré lui (The Doctor in spite of himself) differs from Le Médecin volant (The Flying Doctor) and L’Amour médecin. Yes, mere clothes will transform Martine’s abusive husband into a doctor and will turn Léandre, our young lover, into an apothicary. But we have left the houses of well-to-do bourgeois to enter the dilapidated home Sganarelle shares with Martine and their children. He drinks away the money he earns as a woodcutter, while his wife takes care of four children.

J’ai quatre pauvres petits enfants sur les bras.
Martine à Sganarelle (I. I, p. 2)
[I have four little children on my hands.]
Martine to Sganarelle (I. 1, p. 4)

So he tells her to put them down:

Met-les à terre.
Martine à Sganarelle
(I. I, p. 2)
[Try putting them down.]
Sganarelle à Martine (I. 1, p. 4)

A neighbour, who has heard screams, tries to rescue Martine, but she and Sganarelle push him away, which may indicate fear on the part of Martine:

Mêlez-vous de vos affaires
Martine à Monsieur Robert (I. ii, p. 4)
[Mind your own business.]
Martine à Monsieur Robert (I. 2, p. 4)

Yet, Martine resents being married to Sganarelle and says so in I. iii, p. 5: I. 3, p. 9. Cocuage, cuckolding is used in mis-marriages. But Martine has a harsher revenge in mind and is mulling the question. 

At this point, she bumps into Valère and Lucas who are employees of Géronte, an older man, as the word suggests, and a well-to-do bourgeois. They are looking for a doctor who would cure Lucinde, Géronte’s daughter. She know longer speaks. Martine claims her husband is the man they need, but that he will resist and may have to be beaten.

La folie de celui-ci est plus grande qu’on ne peut croire: car elle va, parfois, jusqu’à vouloir être battu, pour demeurer d’accord de sa capacité: et je vous donne avis que vous n’en viendrez pas à bout, qu’il n’avouera jamais, qu’il est médecin, s’il se le met en fantaisie, que vous ne preniez, chacun, un bâton, et ne le réduisiez à force de coups, à vous confesser à la fin, ce qu’il vous cachera d’abord. C’est ainsi que nous en usons, quand nous avons besoin de lui.
Martine à Valère et Lucas (I. iv, p. 7)
[This one’s even crazier than you might think, because he will even let himself be beaten while denying who he is, and I advise you not to ask him point blank, because he will never admit he is a doctor, so great is his eccentricity, unless you take a stick and reduce him by repeated blows to admit to you at last what he denied before. That’s how we go about it when we need his services.]
Martine to Valère and Lucas (I. 4, p. 11)

So beating Sganarelle is what Valère and Lucas must do to convince him that he is a doctor.

V. Puisque vous le voulez, il faut s’y résoudre. Ils prennent un bâton, et le frappent.
Sg. Ah! ah! ah! Messieurs, je suis tout ce qu’il vous plaira.
Valère à Sganarelle (I. v. p. 11)
[V. Since you insist on having it this way, then, we must convince you.
(They each take a stick and beat him.)]
Valère to Sganarelle (I. 5, pp. 17-18)

Valère and Lucas threaten more blows, so Sganarelle ends up accepting to be a doctor.   

le-mc3a9decin-malgrc3a9-lui-par-ed.-hc3a9d. (2)
Le Médecin malgré lui, Edmond Hédouin


  • Jacqueline to Géronte (marriage)
  • Sganarelle hits Géronte
  • meets Lucinde
  • flirts with the mild-maid
  • the young lovers
  • Léandre as apothecary
  • Sganarelle will help him

Sganarelle is about to be introduced to Géronte, but Jacqueline protests. All Lucinde needs is:  

un biau et bon mari, pour qui elle eût de l’amiquié
Jacqueline à Géronte  (II. i, p. 13)
[a fine, handsome husband, one that she even likes.]
Jacqueline to Géronte (II. 1, p. 22)

 Géronte insists that Léandre is not what Lucinde needs. Léandre has no money.

Ja. Que ne preniais-vous ce Monsieu Liandre, qui li touchait au cœur? Alle aurait été fort obéissante: et je m’en vas gager qu’il la prendrait li, comme alle est, si vous la li vouillais donner.
Gé. Ce Léandre n’est pas ce qu’il lui faut: il n’a pas du bien comme l’autre.
Jacqueline à Géronte (II. i, pp. 13-14)

[Ja. Why could you not contract with Mister Leandre, who touches her heart? She would have been very obedient; and I’d bet that he’d take her – even as is – if you arranged to give her to him.
Gé. This Leandre does not have what it takes. He lacks the means of the other.]
Jacqueline to Géronte (II. 1, p. 22)

When Sganarelle meets Géronte, he hits him with a bat (un bâton), which turns him into a doctor. They make up. He notices Jacqueline, the wet-nurse, and would like to be the baby she is looking after. Lucas, Jacqueline’s husband, objects:

Avec moi, tant qu’il vous plaira: mais avec ma femme, trêve de sarimonie.
Lucas à Sganarelle (II. ii, p.16)
[With me, share as much as you like. But with my wife, drop the ceremony.]
Lucas to Sganarelle (II. 2, p. 27)

Sganarelle meets Lucinde and says:

Voilà une malade qui n’est pas tant dégoûtante: et je tiens qu’un homme
bien sain s’en accommoderait assez.
Sganarelle à tous (II. iv, p. 17)
[This patient’s not too terribly repulsive, and I think a good healthy man might well improve her condition.]
Sganarelle to all (II. 4, p. 28)

Sganarelle speaks Latin, states that the liver is on the left side and the heart, on the right side. He uses a Hebrew word. Everyone is impressed. But Géronte tells him that one thing shocks him. The heart is on the left side and the liver on the right side. Sganarelle explains that doctors are using a new method.

He then suggests that Lucinde be served bread dipped in wine. However, he would like to examine Jacqueline who says she is just fine. He suggests a little blood-letting and a clyster, an enema. People who look very healthy may be sick. Géronte gives him money which he refuses as he takes it.

Léandre walks in to ask for Sganarelle’s assistance. Sganarelle is as uncouth as ever, but having learned that Lucinde is feigning illness to avoid marrying a man she does not love, Sganarelle accepts to assist in bringing the lovers together.


  • clothes make the man (doctor, apothicary)
  • Sganarelle will be a doctor
  • Lucinde speaks
  • Léandre takes Lucinde away
  • Sganarelle to be hanged
  • Martine returns
  • Lovers return, Léandre’s inheritance
  • Géronte will allow the lovers to marry

Léandre is dressed as an apothecary. He hopes he will not be recognized and would appreciate knowing a few medical terms.

Il me semble que je ne suis pas mal ainsi, pour un apothicaire: et comme le
père ne m’a guère vu, ce changement d’habit, et de perruque, est assez capable, je crois, de me déguiser à ses yeux.
Léandre à Sganarelle (III. i, p. 23)
[It seems to me that I wouldn’t make a bad apothecary; and as her father has barely ever seen me, these clothes and this wig should be enough, I think, to disguise me.]
Léandre to Sganarelle (III. 1, p. 37)

Sganarelle tells him that he was made into a doctor, putting the clothes on, and will remain a doctor because it pays. Léandre pays him and everyone believes he is “a gifted man.”

Je ne sais point sur quoi cette imagination leur est venue: mais quand j’ai vu qu’à toute force, ils voulaient que je fusse médecin, je me suis résolu de l’être, aux dépens de qui il appartiendra. Cependant, vous ne sauriez croire comment l’erreur s’est répandue: et de quelle façon, chacun est endiablé à me croire habile homme
Sganarelle à Léandre (III. ii, p. 23)
[I don’t know how this idea came to them; but when I saw that they would stop at nothing to have me be a doctor, I resolved to become one, at no matter whose expense. You wouldn’t believe how the error spread, and in what way each person was bound and determined to believe that I was a gifted man.]
Sganarelle to Léandre (III. 2, p. 38)

Thibaut and his son Perrin visit Sganarelle. Thibaut says that Perrin’s mother suffers from “hypocrisie,” (hypocrisy). Sganarelle will not hear Perrin until he is given deux écus. He then diagnoses hydropisie (dropsy).  It could be that Perrin’s mother suffers from dropsy. (III. ii, p. 23-24; III. 2, p.


Géronte cannot find his daugther, nor Jacqueline, her husband. (Sc. 4.) But Géronte finds Sganarelle. The remedy prescribed by Sganarelle has not worked. He then sees the apothecary, whom Sganarelle needs. (Sc. 5.)

Jacqueline notices that Lucinde is walking. Géronte believes this will do her good. Meanwhile Sganarelle pulls Géronte away and holds him preventing him from seeing what the apothecary and his daughter are doing.

Cela lui fera du bien. Allez-vous-en, Monsieur l’Apothicaire, tâter un peu son pouls, afin que je raisonne tantôt, avec vous, de sa maladie. (En cet endroit, il tire Géronte à un bout du théâtre, et lui passant un bras sur les épaules, lui rabat la main sous le menton, avec laquelle il le fait retourner vers lui, lorsqu’il veut regarder ce que sa fille et l’apothicaire font ensemble, lui tenant, cependant, le discours suivant pour l’amuser.)
Sganarelle à l’apothicaire (III. vi, p. 27)
[That will do her good. (To Leandre.) Go on then, Mister Apothecary, take her pulse, so that I can confer with you about her illness. (At this point, he pulls Géronte to one end of the stage, and putting an arm on his shoulders, he puts his free hand under his chin, which he directs towards himself, as Géronte would rather gain a glimpse of what his daughter and the apothecary are doing. In so doing, Sganarelle delivers the following distracting discourse.)]
Sganarelle to the apothecary (III. 6, p. 43)

Sganarelle has just liberated Lucinde. Her lover is leading her out of the house.

Géronte says he will make sure his daughter does not see Léandre and Sganarelle agrees. But Lucinde reappears and tells her father:

Non, je ne suis point du tout capable de changer de sentiment.
Lucinde à Géronte (III. vi, p. 27)
[No, I am not at all capable of changing my feelings.]
Lucinde to G
éronte (III. 6, p. 44)

Géronte’s first reaction is one of joy. His daughter can speak.

Voilà ma fille qui parle. Ô grande vertu du remède! Ô admirable médecin! Que je vous suis obligé, Monsieur, de cette guérison merveilleuse: et que puis-je faire pour vous après un tel service?
Géronte à Sganarelle (III. vi, p. 27)
[Look! My daughter’s talking! O great glorious remedy! O admirable doctor! How can I ever thank you for this amazing cure! And what could I ever do for you after such a service!]
Géronte to Sganarelle (III. 6, p. 44)

But now that she can speak, Lucinde speaks her mind. She will marry Léandre, not Horace.

Oui, mon père, j’ai recouvré la parole: mais je l’ai recouvrée pour vous dire, que je n’aurai jamais d’autre époux que Léandre, et que c’est inutilement que vous voulez me donner Horace. 
Lucinde à Géronte (III. vi, p. 27)
[Yes, father, I’ve recovered my speech; but I have recovered it in order to tell you that I will have no other husband than Leandre, and that it is useless for you to force Horace on me.]
Lucinde to Géronte (III. 6, p. 44)
Et je me jetterai plutôt dans un couvent que d’épouser un homme que je n’aime point. 
Lucinde à Géronte (III. vi, p. 28)
[And I would rather throw myself into a nunnery than marry a man I do not love at all.]
Lucinde to Géronte (III. 6, p. 45)
J’épouserai plutôt la mort.
Lucinde to Géronte
(III. vi, p. 28)
[I would rather marry death.]
Lucinde to Géronte (III. 6, p. 45)[2]

Sganarelle calls the apothecary and suggests “a purgative flight” and matrimonium (marriage)

Pour moi, je n’y en vois qu’un seul [remède], qui est une prise de fuite purgative, que vous mêlerez comme il faut, avec deux drachmes de matrimonium en pilules.
Sganarelle à l’apothicaire (III. vi, p. 29)
For myself, I only see one way to do it, which is the taking of a purgative flight, that you will mix as you must with two grams of matrimonium and administer in pills.
Sganarelle to the apothecary (III. 6, p. 46)

Lucas reports that Lucinde has gone away with the apothecary. Sganarelle will be hanged.

Comment, m’assassiner de la façon. Allons, un commissaire, et qu’on
empêche qu’il ne sorte. Ah traître, je vous ferai punir par la justice.
Géronte à Lucas et Sganarelle (III. viii, p. 30)
Ah par ma fi, Monsieu le Médecin, vous serez pendu, ne bougez de là seulement.
Lucas à Sganarelle (III. viii, p. 30)
[What! Kill me in this way! Immediately, get me a Commissioner! And bar him from leaving! Traitor! I will have you punished by the letter of the law.]
Géronte to Sganarelle (III. 8, p. 48)
[Yes! Sir Doctor, you will hang. Don’t budge from the spot.]
Lucas to Sganarelle (III. 8, p. 48)

le médecin malgré lui par Granville

Le Médecin malgré lui, Grandville


Martine, Sganarelle’s wife, has been looking for her husband and hears that he will be hanged. But Lucinde and Léandre return and Léandre asks for Lucinde’s hand saying that he has just come into a substantial inheritance. Hearing that Léandre has money convinces Géronte. His daughter may marry Léandre. All’s well that ends well.

Molière has used a deus ex machina and kairos so Sganarelle is not hanged. The young couple learns about Léandre’s inheritance and come to tell Géronte at exactly the right or opportune moment. Sganarelle is about to be hanged. Kairos is a device found in fairy tales, mainly. In ancient Greece, time had two dimensions: chronos and kairos. Moreover, it so happens that Martine, Sganarelle’s wife is looking for her husband. The Sganarelle Martine finds is not altogether the same as the husband who was tricked into blows. In fact, he has facilitated the young lovers’ marriage. He prescribed a quick flight and marriage, when Léandre was still an apothicary or disguised. Sganarelle is younger than Géronte, but Géronte is raising a baby. So, there also been a doubling of the father figure.

The conversation among doctors in L’Amour médecin is exemplary, but what Sganarelle has learned and told Léandre is also a good description of doctors. Doctors lack the means to cure most illnesses, but know that when a person is sick, he or she will seek the help of a doctor. Doctors get rich preying on the fear of death. They are parasites and impostors, or, simply put, hypocrites. They can only make believe they can help the sick.

My colleague Ralph Albanese Jr has written about the dynamism of fear in Molière. Lucinde would rather be dead than married to Horace. Sganarelle beats his wife; he is beaten by Valère and Lucas and he hits Géronte. Géronte fears Lucinde will not recover. This is genuine fear.

In short, Le Médecin malgré lui is a comedy, but it is farcical in that it includes physical humour: blows. But at the end of the play, the sticks have disappeared and Martine will be the wife of a respected doctor. The clothes fit and they make the man. They bring him patients and money. Most importantly, Léandre and Lucinde will marry, as comedy dictates.


Sources and Resources

[1] Maurice Rat, ed., Œuvres complètes de Molière (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, coll. La Pléiade, 1956), p. 945.
[2] Cf. Rabelais, Tiers Livre, chap. XXXIV, où la femme qui a retrouvé l’usage de sa langue parle tant et tant « que le mari retourna au médicin pour remède de la faire taire. Le médicin répondit […] remède unique estre surdité du mary contre cesty interminable parlement de femme. » (
“where a husband returns to the doctor for a remedy that will shut up his wife. The doctor responds […] that the only remedy is deafness on the part of the husband against this endless chatting of women.”

Love to everyone  💕

Charles Gounod – LE MÉDECIN MALGRÉ LUI – Sextet: “Eh bien! charmante demoiselle”
Han, hi, hon, han, han, hi, hon is Lucinde’s language.

© Micheline Walker
25 April 2019
revised 26 April 2019