Molière’s “L’Avare:” Doublings

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

Background

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

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

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

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

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L’Avare (www.gettyimages.fr)

The dramatis personæ is:

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

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

Act One

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

A Comedy of Manners and A Comedy of Intrigue

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

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

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

Obstacles to Two Marriages

  • “genre” art
  • a family tyrant

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

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

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

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

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

Harpagon’s Rigidity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Comedy of Intrigue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doublings

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

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

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

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

Comments

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

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

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

When his father falls, accidentally, Cléante is worried:

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Love to everyone

RELATED ARTICLES

Molière

Commedia dell’arte

Farce

Sources and Resources

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

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

The Miser

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

© Micheline Walker
1 December 2016
WordPress

Molière’s “L’École des maris,” “The School for Husbands” (Part One)

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L’École des maris was a great success for Molière, but it is a three-act farce written in verse, the twelve-syllable, or “pieds,” alexandrine verse. The play has ancient roots. It was written by Menander (born c. 342—died c. 292 BCE) and featured two brothers. Menander’s play was entitled (the) Adelphoe (The Brothers). Menander was the foremost dramatist of Greek New Comedy. According to Britannica, Menander’s “Second Adelphoe (Les Adelphes) constitutes perhaps his greatest achievement.” L’École des maris’ Greek roots may explain the use of le vers noble and, therefore the degree of tension characterizing the play. We associate the celebrated Aristophanes (c. 446 – c. 386 BCE) with Old Comedy.

Roman playwrights Terence (c. 195/185 – c. 159? BC) and Plautus were influenced by Greek comedy, but they wrote comedies which were considered erudite by Renaissance playwrights: commedia sostenuta. Terences Adelphoe is rooted in Menander’s play and features two brothers. It may have been Molière main source. The play also borrows from Giovanni Boccacio’s Decameron (Book III, 3). Boccacio’s (16 June 1313 – 21 December 1375) The Decameron was a main source of stories. These are plague stories devised by individuals who have fled Florence to avoid the plague.

Closer to Molière are Juan Ruiz de Alarcón y Mendoza’s (1581-1639) Le Mari fait la femme (The Husband makes the Wife), Dorimond’s La Femme industrieuse (1661), Larivey’s Les Esprits (1653) and Boisrobert’s Le Comble de l’impossible (The Height of the Impossible), which borrowed from Lope de Vega.

Molière dans Sganarelle de l'école des maris (3)

Sganarelle dans L’École des maris (théâtre-documentation.com)

Our characters are:

  • Sganarelle, 40 years old (Molière)
  • Ariste, 60 years old and Sganarelle’s older brother
  • Valère, in love with Isabella
  • Ergaste, Valère’s valet
  • A Magistrate
  • A Notary
  • Isabella, in ward to Sganarelle
  • Léonor, Isabella’s sister, in ward to Ariste
  • Lisette, Leonor’s maidservant

ACT ONE

  • two brothers & two world views (Weltanshauung)
  • enters Valère, the young lover

In Act One of The School for Husbands, the spectator-reader is introduced to Molière’s two brothers and, whatever the source of the play, the brothers are Molière’s brothers and the comedy altogether Molière’s. Sganarelle will develop into The School for Wives’ Arnolphe, but he is the coarse Arnolphe and altogether selfish and cruel. He is putting  Isabelle into the service of his needs.

Il me semble, et je le dis tout haut,
Que sur un tel sujet, c’est parler comme il faut.
Vous souffrez que la vôtre, aille leste et pimpante,
Je le veux bien: qu’elle ait, et laquais, et suivante,
J’y consens: qu’elle coure, aime l’oisiveté,
Et soit des damoiseaux fleurée en liberté;
J’en suis fort satisfait; mais j’entends que la mienne,
Vive à ma fantaisie, et non pas à la sienne;
Que d’une serge honnête, elle ait son vêtement,
Et ne porte le noir, qu’aux bons jours seulement.
Qu’enfermée au logis en personne bien sage,
Elle s’applique toute aux choses du ménage;
À recoudre mon linge aux heures de loisir,
Ou bien à tricoter quelque bas par plaisir;
Qu’aux discours des muguets, elle ferme l’oreille,
Et ne sorte jamais sans avoir qui la veille.
Enfin la chair est faible, et j’entends tous les bruits,
Je ne veux point porter de cornes, si je puis,
Et comme à m’épouser sa fortune l’appelle,
Je prétends corps pour corps, pouvoir répondre d’elle.
Sganarelle à Ariste (I. ii, pp. 5-6)
[It seems to me, and I say it openly, that is the right way to speak on such a subject. You let your ward go about gaily and stylishly ; I am content. You let her have footmen and a maid; I agree. You let her gad about, love idleness, be freely courted by dandies ; I am quite satisfied. But I intend that mine shall live according to my fancy, and not according to her own ; that she shall be dressed in honest serge, and wear only black on holidays ; that, shut up in the house, prudent in bearing, she shall apply herself entirely to domestic concerns, mend my linen in her leisure hours, or else knit stockings for amusement; that she shall close her ears to the talk of young sparks, and never go out without some one to watch her. In short, flesh is weak; I know what stories are going about. I have no mind to wear horns, if I can help it ; and as her lot requires her to marry me, I mean to be as certain of her as I am of myself.]
Sganarelle to Ariste (I. 2, p. 13)

Isabelle tries to say something, but she is told to keep quiet:

Taisez-vous; Je vous apprendrai bien s’il faut sortir sans nous.
Sganarelle à Isabelle (I. ii, p. 6)
Hold your tongue; I shall teach you how to go out without us.
Sganarelle to Isabelle (I. 2, p. 13)

Moreover, Sganarelle is days away from forcing Isabelle into a marriage she loathes. Ariste and Sganarelle signed a contract that gave them the right not only to bring up their respective ward as they pleased, but also stipulated that they marry their wards. Molière has introduced the contract George Dandin brandishes claiming he has a right to his wife.

Mon Dieu, chacun raisonne, et fait comme il lui plaît.
Elles sont sans parents, et notre ami leur père,
Nous commit leur conduite à son heure dernière;
Et nous chargeant tous deux, ou de les épouser,
Ou sur notre refus un jour d’en disposer,
Sur elles par contrat, nous sut dès leur enfance,
Et de père, et d’époux donner pleine puissance;
D’élever celle-là, vous prîtes le souci,
Et moi je me chargeai du soin de celle-ci;
Selon vos volontés vous gouvernez la vôtre,
Laissez-moi, je vous prie, à mon gré régir l’autre.
Sganarelle (I. ii, p. 5)

[By Heaven! each one argues and does as he likes. They are without relatives, They are without relatives, and their father, our friend, entrusted them to us in his last hour, charging us both either to marry them, or, if we declined, to dispose of them hereafter. He gave us, in writing, the full authority of a father and a husband over them, from their infancy. You undertook to bring up that one ; I charged myself with the care of this one. You govern yours at your pleasure. Leave me, I pray, to manage the other as I think best.]
Sganarelle to Ariste (I. 2, p. 13)

Ariste has been a kind and easy-going father and, despite the contract, he is not planning a forced marriage:

Qu’il nous faut en riant instruire la jeunesse,
Reprendre ses défauts avec grande douceur,
Et du nom de vertu ne lui point faire peur;
Mes soins pour Léonor ont suivi ces maximes,
Des moindres libertés je n’ai point fait des crimes,
À ses jeunes désirs j’ai toujours consenti,
Et je ne m’en suis point, grâce au Ciel, repenti;
J’ai souffert qu’elle ait vu les belles compagnies,
Les divertissements, les bals, les comédies;
Ce sont choses, pour moi, que je tiens de tout temps,
Fort propres à former l’esprit des jeunes gens;
Et l’école du monde en l’air dont il faut vivre,
Instruit mieux à mon gré que ne fait aucun livre:
Elle aime à dépenser en habits, linge, et nœuds,
Que voulez-vous, je tâche à contenter ses vœux,
Et ce sont des plaisirs qu’on peut dans nos familles,
Lorsque l’on a du bien, permettre aux jeunes filles.
Un ordre paternel l’oblige à m’épouser;
Mais mon dessein n’est pas de la tyranniser,
Je sais bien que nos ans ne se rapportent guère,
Et je laisse à son choix liberté tout entière,
Si quatre mille écus de rente bien venants,
Une grande tendresse, et des soins
Si quatre mille écus de rente bien venants,
Une grande tendresse, et des soins complaisants,
Peuvent à son avis pour un tel mariage,
Réparer entre nous l’inégalité d’âge;
Elle peut m’épouser, sinon choisir ailleurs,
Je consens que sans moi ses destins soient meilleurs,
Et j’aime mieux la voir sous un autre hyménée,
Que si contre son gré sa main m’était donnée.
Ariste à tous (I. ii, p. 8)
[Have it so; but still I maintain that we should instruct youth pleasantly, chide their faults with great tenderness, and not make them afraid of the name of virtue. Leonor’s education has been based on these maxims. I have not made crimes of the smallest acts of liberty, I have always assented to her youthful wishes, and, thank Heaven, I never repented of it. I have allowed her to see good company, to go to amusements, balls, plays. These are things which, for my part, I think are calculated to form the minds of the young; the world is a school which, in my opinion, teaches them better how to live than any book. Does she like to spend money on clothes, linen, ribands what then? I endeavour to gratify her wishes; these are pleasures which, when we are well-off, we may permit to the girls of our family. Her father’s command requires her to marry me; but it is not my intention to tyrannize over her. I am quite aware that our years hardly suit, and I leave her complete liberty of choice. If a safe income of four thousand crowns a-year, great affection and consideration for her, may, in her opinion, counterbalance in marriage the inequality of our age, she may take me for her husband; if not she may choose elsewhere. If she can be happier without me, I do not object; I prefer to see her with another husband rather than that her hand should be given to me against her will.]
Ariste to all (I. 2, pp. 14-15)

l'école des maris 4

L’École des maris (théâtre-documentation.com)

Valère

In fact, far from teaching Isabelle obedience, privations and confinement have prepared her to flee at any cost. As for Sganarelle, he has acted much as the School for Wives Arnolphe will. He has kept Agnès away from the world believing she would be a loving wife and never turn him into a cuckold.

Agnès will grow into a woman and fall in love when she meets Horace, as does the School for Husband’s Isabelle when she meets Valère. A scientist must be methodical, but we cannot separate reason from instinct, or intuition.

Well, although Isabelle has received very little education and has not been exposed to the world, she uses Sganarelle himself as the means of contacting Valère and escaping. Sganarelle is about to force Isabelle into a marriage with a man she loathes, so she uses the means to justify the end. Both Ariste and Sganarelle have a right to marry their wards, Ariste, however would not coerce Leonor into marrying him.

However, Isabelle will find a way to speak to Valère and, ironically, she will use
Sganarelle to the young man she has seen and is attracted to. Their eyes have spoken for four months.

At the end of Act One, Valère and his valet, Ergaste, return to their home to dream up a stratagem that will liberate Isabelle.

What am I to do to rid myself of this vast difficulty, and to learn whether the fair one has perceived that I love her ? Tell me some means or other.
Valère to Ergaste (I. 6. p. 19)
That is what we have to discover.
Let us go in for a while the better to think over.
Ergaste to Valère (I. 6. p. 19)

I will break here and go through the plot in my next post. Molière’s L’École des maris is considered a comédie d’intrigue: twists and turns. Until now, it has been a comedy of manners (une comédie de mœurs): two conflicting views on how to raise a young woman have been expressed. We will now see how an extremely clever Isabelle frees herself, with a little help for Léonor, and uses Sganarelle to achieve her goal.

Sources and Resources

_________________________
[1] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Menander
Encyclopædia Britannica (last edited February 05, 2019)
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Menander-Greek-dramatist
(accessed July 17, 2019)

Love to everyone 💕

J’avois crû qu’en vous aymant. Brunete (Paris, 1703)
Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien (dir. François Lazarevitch)
Claire Lefilliâtre (soprano)

l'école des maris par Desenne (3)

L’École des maris, Gravure Desenne (théâtre-documentation.com) BnF

© Micheline Walker
19 July 2019
WordPress

 

 

Vive la France

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640px-Eugène_Delacroix_-_La_liberté_guidant_le_peuple

La Liberté guidant le peuple par Eugène Delacroix, 1830 (Wiki2.org)

Eugène Delacroix‘ “Liberty Guiding the People,” is a symbol of France and, perhaps, its main pursuit: liberté. Delacroix, an illegitimate son of Talleyrand, chronicled the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire.

However, “Liberty Guiding the People” is associated with the July Revolution, when France toppled Charles X. The Revolution lasted three days. The new king would be Louis-Philippe, Duc d’Orléans. The Orléans were the cadet branch of the Bourbon kings. Louis-Philippe was the son of Philippe Égalité who espoused early objectives of the French Revolution: equality. He voted in favour of the execution, by guillotine, of Louis XVI, his cousin. Louis-Philippe II, duc d’Orléans, was guillotined on 6 November 1793.

On 14 July 1789, a crowd stormed the Bastille Prison. But the Revolution had begun on 20 June 1789. Delegates to the Estates General had found the door to the room where they met locked. They took refuge in an interior tennis court and vowed “not to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the kingdom is established.” (See Tennis Court Oath, Le Serment du Jeu de Paume, Wiki2.org.)

RELATED ARTICLES 

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Hector Berlioz‘s La Marseillaise

Earliest known picture of Jeu de Paume from a Book of Hours (c. 1300)

Earliest known picture of Jeu de Paume from a Book of Hours (c. 1300) (commons.wikimedia)

© Micheline Walker
14 July 2019
WordPress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molière’s “Forced Marriage,” “Le Mariage forcé”

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, , , , , , , , ,

Dorimène (Le mariage forcé)

Dorimène, Le Mariage forcé (théâtre.documentation)

Le Mariage forcé

Molière and Lully’s Le Mariage forcé (The Forced Marriage), is a farce and a comédie-ballet, in prose. It was first performed on 29 January 1664 in the Queen Mother’s apartments, at the Louvre. On 15 February 1664, it was performed at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, where it proved less popular. It closed after 12 performances. It was performed again on 12 May 1664 during festivities known as Les Plaisirs de l’Île enchantée, The Pleasures of the Enchanted Island. Louis XIV wanted to show Versailles at an early date. He had hired architect Louis Le Vau, landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun. These gentlemen had built Nicolas Fouquet‘s castle at Vaux-le-Vicomte. Molière’s La Princesse d’Élide and Tartuffe also premièred during Les Plaisirs de l’Île enchantée, on 8 May 1664. In its original form, The Forced Marriage was a three-act comédie-ballet, by Molière and Lully It did not use figures from a mythology in which it differed from earlier comédies-ballets. At Versailles, King Louis XIV and other aristocrats performed in the comedy. In 1664, Louis was very much in love with Louise de La Vallière who lived at Versailles, in the small castle used as a hunting-lodge by the very private Louis XIII.

Molière transformed Le Mariage forcé into a one-act play in 1668, which is Le Mariage forcé as we know it. However, it was reborn as a comédie-ballet in 1672. Lully having broken with Molière, the music was composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

In his Preface to the Forced Marriage, Henri van Laun provides information concerning the posterity of the play. Sganarelle is Sir Toby Doubtful in Love’s Contrivance, a play by Mrs. Carroll, born Susanna Centlivre (c. 1667–1670 – 1 December 1723).

Parnurge_par_Alfred_Albert

Panurge by Albrecht Dürer (BnF)

Origins

  • other
  • Gallic
  • Rabelais
  • pedants & philosophy: Aristotle and Pyrrho (doubt)

Although Molière drew some of his material from Spanish author Lope de Vega’s Intermède du sacristain [sacristan] Soguizo, and Giordano Bruno’s[1] Candelaio, or The Candle Bearer, entitled Boniface et le Pédant in French, Le Mariage forcé belongs mainly to a French tradition.

The Forced Marriage is rooted primarily in Rabelais‘ Gargantua and Pantagruel, the Third of Five Books [EBook #1200]. Molière’s Sganarelle reminds us of Panurge, as featured in Chapter Three of the Third Book of Gargantua and Pantagruel.

 How Panurge asketh counsel of Pantagruel whether he should marry, yea, or no. 

Affinities between Molière and Rabelais leap off the page, and so does Pantagruel’s advice to Panurge. Pantagruel urges Panurge not to marry, which is Géronimo’s initial response, until he learns that Sganarelle has obtained permission to marry Dorimène from Alcantor, her father. In the Third Book, Panurge has decided to marry, but revisits his decision. In Rabelais’ Third Book, Panurge also seeks the advice of Trouillogan, the model for Molière’s Marphurius, a Pyrrhonian philosopher, and a pedant. He prefigures The Learned Ladies, or Femmes savantes Trissotin and Vadius. The mouton de Panurge is featured in the fourth of five books constituting Pantagruel and Gargantua. A mouton de Panurge, “describes an individual that will blindly follow others regardless of the consequences.” (See Panurge, Wiki2.org.) We cannot exclude Sganarelle.

Molière’s Mariage Forcé also has affinities with Guez de Balzac’s Socrate chrétien. Théophile de Viau’s Fragments d’une histoire comique, Dorimond’s L’École des cocus (the School for Cuckolds)and Charles Sorel’s Polyandre (see polyandry, Wiki2.org). These are 17th-century French authors.[2]

 

 

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ.

SGANARELLE. (Molière)
GÉRONIMO.
ALCANTOR, father to Dorimène.
ALCIDAS, brother to Dorimène.
LYCASTE, in love with Dorimène.
PANCRACE, an Aristotelian Philosopher.
MARPHURIUS, a Pyrrhonian Philosopher.
DORIMÈNE, a young coquette betrothed to Sganarelle.
Two GIPSIES.
The Scene is in a Public Place.

The Plot

  • Dorimène surprises us
  • la race des Sganarelles

Scene One of Le Mariage Forcé, Sganarelle, Molière’s mask, wants to know from his friend Géronimo whether he should marry. Sganarelle has already sought and obtained from Dorimène’s father, Alcantor, permission to marry Dorimène. Alcantor has agreed. In his mind, the mind of a pater familias, le Seigneur Sganarelle, a well-to-do 53-year-old gentleman, is a perfect match for his daughter.

However, Dorimène surprises us. One would expect her to oppose her tyrannical father, but she differs from other ingénues, forced to marry or be thrown in a convent. Young Dorimène is une mondaine who thinks a marriage to Sganarelle will allow her to escape her father. When she and Sganarelle meet in Scene II, she makes it clear that she wishes to be free. In fact, as we will see later, she has a lover, Lycaste, who cannot understand why she is marrying Sganarelle. She reassures Lycaste. Sganarelle is an older gentleman who has no more than six months “in his belly.” She wants to be a widow, the privileged women of 17th-century France. Widows were free to marry whom they pleased, or not to marry. Le Misanthrope‘s Célimène is a widow.

Yet, although arrangements are being made for Dorimène to marry Sganarelle that very day, Sganarelle would like to discuss marriage with his friend Géronimo, which should have happened earlier. When Géronimo learns that the bride-to-be is the lovely Dorimène and that she is not opposing Alcantor, her father, Géronimo has little left to do than exclaim:

Mariez-vous promptement; je ne dis plus rien.
Géronimo to Sganarelle (Scene I, p. 9)
[Make haste and get married.]
Géronimo to Sganarelle (Scene Four, p. 227)

The most amusing lines of Scene One are Sganarelle’s:

Outre la joie que j’aurai de posséder une belle femme, qui me fera mille caresses; qui me dorlotera, et me viendra frotter, lorsque je serai las; outre cette joie, dis-je, je considère, qu’en demeurant comme je suis, je laisse périr dans le monde la race [3] des Sganarelles; et qu’en me mariant, je pourrai me voir revivre en d’autres moi-mêmes… [4]
Sganarelle à Géronimo (Scene I, p. 8)
[Besides the pleasures I shall have in possessing a wife to fondle me when I am tired; besides this pleasure, I consider that, by remaining as I am, I suffer the race of the Sganarelles to become extinct ; whilst, by marrying, I may see myself reproduced, and shall have the joy of seeing children sprung from me…
Sganarelle to Géronimo (Scene Two, p.  226)

Marriage and Marriage

Matters change. Sganarelle believed he would own Dorimène:

Hé bien, ma belle, c’est maintenant que nous allons être heureux l’un et l’autre. Vous ne serez plus en droit de me rien refuser; …
Sganarelle à Dorimène (Scène II, pp. 9-10)
[Well, my dear, both of us are going to be happy now. You will no longer have a right to refuse me anything; and I can do with you just as I please, without any one being shocked. You will be mine from head to foot, and I shall be master of everything, of your little sparkling eyes, your little roguish nose, your tempting lips, your lovely ears, your pretty little chin, your little round breasts, your … ]
Sganarelle to Dorimène (Scene Four, pp. 227-228)

Dorimène, however, wants to escape her father’s tyranny and would not accept to marry a tyrannical Sganarelle. Two contrary discourses are juxtaposed. The second all be erases the first. Sganarelle realizes that he has made a mistake.

Tout à fait aise, je vous jure: car enfin la sévérité de mon père m’a tenue jusques ici dans une sujétion la plus fâcheuse du monde. Il y a je ne sais combien que j’enrage du peu de liberté, qu’il me donne; et j’ai cent fois souhaité qu’il me mariât, pour sortir promptement de la contrainte, où j’étais avec lui, et me voir en état de faire ce que je voudrai.
Dorimène à Sganarelle (Scene II, p. 10)
[Immensely glad, I assure you. For, indeed, my father’s severity has kept me hitherto in the most grievous subjection. I have been raging, I do not know how long, at the scanty liberty he allows me ; I have wished a hundred times that he would get me a husband, so that I might quickly escape from the durance in which I have been kept by him, and be able to do as I pleased.
Dorimène to Sganarelle (Scene Four, pp. 228-229)

The Dream

In Scene Three (FR), Géronimo returns. He has found a jeweler who has a beautiful diamond for sale. Sganarelle is no longer so eager to marry. He would like to confide that he has had a dream:

Avant que de passer plus avant, je voudrais bien agiter à fond cette matière; et que l’on m’expliquât un songe que j’ai fait cette nuit, et qui vient tout à l’heure de me revenir dans l’esprit.
Sganarelle à Géronimo (Scene III, p. 11)
[Before going farther I wish to sift this matter to the bottom, and to have interpreted to me a dream which I had last night, and which just recurred to me.]
Sganarelle to Géronimo (Scene Five, p. 229)

Dreams are mentioned in Rabelais.

Trouillogan : [estampe] ([Fumé]) / G. Doré

Trouillogan by Gustave Doré (BnF)

Pancrace and Marphurius (Trouillogan)

In Scene Three (FR), Géronimo returns. He has found a jeweller who has a beautiful diamond for sale. Sganarelle is no longer so eager to marry. He would like to confide that he has had a dream:

Avant que de passer plus avant, je voudrais bien agiter à fond cette matière; et que l’on m’expliquât un songe que j’ai fait cette nuit, et qui vient tout à l’heure de me revenir dans l’esprit.
Sganarelle à Géronimo (Scene Three, p. 11)
[Before going farther I wish to sift this matter to the bottom, and to have interpreted to me a dream which I had last night, and which just recurred to me.]
Sganarelle to Géronimo (Scene Five, p. 229)

Pancrace & Marphurius

Géronimo is too busy, so he asks Sganarelle to speak to his neighbours: Pancrace, an Aristotelian philosopher and Marphurius, a Pyrrhonean philosoper. Sganarelle fears cuckolding. It so happens that Pancrace is also busy. He is wondering whether one should use the word “form” or “figure” concerning the shape of a hat. Moreover, Sganarelle pressures Pancrace a little. Pancrace nevertheless delays the process by asking Sganarelle which tongue he will use. Sganarelle says that he will use the tongue (la langue) in his mouth, but Pancrace means “language” (la langue). Matters deteriorate, so Sganarelle leaves.

Parbleu, de la langue que j’ai dans la bouche; je crois que je n’irai pas
emprunter celle de mon voisin.
Sganarelle à Pancrace (Scene IV, p. 15)
[Zounds! The tongue I have in my mouth.]
Sganarelle to Pancrace (Scene Six, p. 232)

So, as of “Zounds,” matters truly deteriorate. Sganarelle leaves. (I am not discussing the quotations in Latin.)

Sganarelle then visits another neighbour, a Pyrrhonian skeptic. This character reflects Sganarelle’s uncertainty and adds to his distress. Doubt has entered Sganarelle’s mind and matters will not improve. When Sganarelle says: “[I]t seems to me,” (il me semble que), Marphurius corrects him. “Me” expresses certainty, which is wrong.  “Nous devons douter de tout” (we must doubt everything), says Marphurius. Sganarelle is so frustrated that he ends up hitting Marphurius with a stick and speaks Marphurius’ language:

Corrigez, s’il vous plaît, cette manière de parler. Il faut douter de toutes choses; et vous ne devez pas dire que je vous ai battu; mais qu’il vous semble que je vous ai battu.
Sganarelle à Marphurius (Scène V, p. 22)
[Pray, correct this manner of speaking. We are to doubt everything; and you ought not to say that I have beaten you, but that it seems I have beaten you.]
Sganarelle to Marphurius (Scene Ten, p. 238)

Marphurius is Rabelais’ Trouillogan. He doubts everything (Chapter 3.XXXV)

 How the philosopher Trouillogan handleth the difficulty of marriage.

Sganarelle has entered a cul-de-sac.

Cuckoldry and Widowhood

Le Mariage Forcé was a comédie-ballet, with music by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Unlike other comédies-ballets, Le Mariage forcé did not use characters inhabiting mythologies. In Scene Twelve, Sganarelle asks three Égyptiennes (Gypsies) whether he will be cuckolded.

In Scene Twelve, Lycaste, who loves Dorimène, wonders why she is marrying Sganarelle. She reassures him. Not only will she be free, but she expects Sganarelle to die within a few months. She looks forward to widowhood. In 17th-century France, widowhood freed women who have married against their will.

Je vous le garantis défunt dans le temps que je dis; et je n’aurai pas longuement à demander pour moi au Ciel, l’heureux état de veuve.
Dorimène à Lycaste (Scene XII, p. 25)
[I guarantee that he is dead in the time I say. I shall not long have to pray Heaven for the happy state of widowhood.]
Dorimène to Lycaste (Scene Twelve, p. 240)

Sganarelle has heard everything. Lycaste gets away as does Dom Juan. Dom Juan’s father, Dom Louis tell his son that “la naissance n’est rien où la vertu n’est pas,IV. iv (Birth is nothing without virtue, IV. 4).  Dom Juan’s response is appalling. He invites his father to sit down so he will be more comfortable. Dom Louis is speechless. Lycaste’s obsequious response to Sganarelle, also leaves Sganarelle speechless. It is formulaic.

Agréez, Monsieur, que je vous félicite de votre mariage, et vous présente en même temps mes très humbles services. Je vous assure que vous épousez là une très honnête personne.
Lycaste à Sganarelle (Scene VII, p. 25)
[Allow me, sir, to congratulate you on your marriage, and at the same time to offer you my most humble services. Let me tell you that the lady, whom you are marrying, possesses great merits…]
Lycaste to Sganarelle (Scene Twelve, p. 240)

Lycaste then goes away, having silenced Sganarelle.

A Forced Marriage

The remaining scenes feature Dorimène’s family. Alcantor will not allow Sganarelle to roll back his promise to marry Dorimène.

Seigneur Alcantor, j’ai demandé votre fille en mariage, il est vrai; et vous me l’avez accordée: mais je me trouve un peu avancé en âge pour elle; et je considère que je ne suis point du tout son fait.
Sganarelle à Alcantor (Scene VIII, p. 27)
[Mr. Alcantor, it is true I asked your daughter in marriage, and you granted my request; but I find that I am rather old ; I think that I am by no means a proper match for her.]
Sganarelle to Alcantor (Scene Fourteen, p. 241)

Vous vous êtes engagé avec moi, pour épouser ma fille; et tout est préparé pour cela. Mais puisque vous voulez retirer votre parole, je vais voir ce qu’il y a à faire; et vous aurez bientôt de mes nouvelles.

Alcantor à Sganarelle (Scene VIII, p. 28)
[You gave me your word that you would marry my daughter, and everything is prepared for the wedding; but since you wish to withdraw, I shall go and see what can be done in the matter; you shall hear from me presently.]
Alcantor to Sganarelle (Scene Fourteen, p. 242)

During Scene IX, Sganarelle refuses to fight Alcidas, Dorimène’s brother, who has brought swords. In the end, Sganarelle is compelled to marry.

Hé bien! j’épouserai, j’épouserai…
Sganarelle à Alcidas  (Scene IX, p. 30)
Well then, I will marry, I will marry!
Sganarelle to Alcidas (Scene Fourteen, p. 244)

 

Conclusion

The Forced Marriage turns matters upside down:

  • Sganarelle makes wedding arrangements before seeking advice from Géronimo, or taking matters into consideration.
  • An older gentleman is forced to marry.
  • Dorimène is pleased to marry a senex iratus. She will be a widow.
  • Sganarelle is a cocu (cuckolded) before he marries.
  • Our philosophers have long left reality. Molière has created Les Femmes savantes Trissotin and Vadius.

We are therefore reminded of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World: carnival and grotesque. We are also reminded of the comic genre’s plasticity. It isn’t always an “all’s well  that ends well,” a tout est bien qui finit bien. And we are not dealing with Rabelais’ giants.

Floating just below the surface of this play is the farcical trompeur trompé, the deceiver deceived. How can Lycaste ever trust Dorimène? The extremely polite manner he uses to greet Sganarelle could be read as a criticism of Dorimène’s ploy. It is “affected.” As for Dorimène, she is her own senex iratus and will not change. Besides, destiny rules. She should be prepared to love the husband she has married and to give birth to a petit Sganarelle.

The play also features pedants. Pancrace’s pursuit of a correct term, forme or figure, for the shape of hats is trivial. As for Marphurius, he is Rabelais Trouillogan (See Chapter 3, XXXVI) in Gutenberg’s [EBook #1200])

I am leaving behind the comédie-ballet, as written and composed in 1664. This post is already too long. But it is interesting to know that at Versailles, the King and aristocrats played roles in the comédie-ballet.

Poor Sganarelle!

Sources and Resources

____________________

[1] Giordano Bruno was tortured and burned at the stake by the Inquisition. Among other notions, Bruno perceived the plurality of worlds, as would French philosophe Fontenelle, a century later.
[2] Maurice Rat, ed., Œuvres complètes de Molière (Paris: Gallimard, collection La Pléiade, 1956), pp. 878-884.
[3] In the French language race means race, breed, and, occasionally, line.
[4] Cf. Rabelais.

Love to everyone 💕

This post did not reach all of my readers.  Hence, the second edition and revisions.

Baroque Music – Bourrée du Mariage Forcé (Jean-Baptiste Lully)

© Micheline Walker
5 July 2019
WordPress

Molière’s “Forced Marriage,” “Le Mariage forcé”

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Dorimène (Le mariage forcé)

Dorimène, Le Mariage forcé (théâtre.documentation)

Le Mariage forcé

Molière and Lully’s Le Mariage forcé (The Forced Marriage), is a farce and a comédie-ballet, in prose. It was first performed on 29 January 1664 in the Queen Mother’s apartments, at the Louvre. On 15 February 1664, it was performed at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, where it proved less popular. It closed after 12 performances. It was performed again on 12 May 1664 during festivities known as Les Plaisirs de l’Île enchantée, The Pleasures of the Enchanted Island. Louis XIV wanted to show Versailles at an early date. He had hired architect Louis Le Vau, landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun. These gentlemen had built Nicolas Fouquet‘s castle at Vaux-le-Vicomte. Molière’s La Princesse d’Élide and Tartuffe also premièred during Les Plaisirs de l’Île enchantée, on 8 May 1664. In its original form, The Forced Marriage was a three-act comédie-ballet, by Molière and Lully It did not use figures from a mythology, in which it differed from earlier comédies-ballets. At Versailles, King Louis XIV and other aristocrats performed in the comedy. In 1664, Louis was very much in love with Louise de La Vallière who lived at Versailles, in the small castle used as a hunting-lodge by the very private Louis XIII.

Molière transformed Le Mariage forcé into a one-act play in 1668, which is Le Mariage forcé as we know it. However, it was reborn as a comédie-ballet in 1672. Lully having broken with Molière, the music was composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

In his Preface to the Forced Marriage, Henri van Laun provides information concerning the posterity of the play. Sganarelle is Sir Toby Doubtful in Love’s Contrivance, a play by Mrs. Carroll, born Susanna Centlivre (c. 1667–1670 – 1 December 1723).

Parnurge_par_Alfred_Albert

Panurge by Albrecht Dürer (BnF)

Origins

  • other
  • Gallic
  • Rabelais
  • pedants & philosophy: Aristotle and Pyrrho (doubt)

Although Molière drew some of his material from Spanish author Lope de Vega’s Intermède du sacristain [sacristan] Soguizo, and Giordano Bruno’s[1] Candelaio, or The Candle Bearer, entitled Boniface et le Pédant in French, Le Mariage forcé belongs mainly to a French tradition.

The Forced Marriage is rooted primarily in Rabelais‘ Gargantua and Pantagruel, the Third of Five Books [EBook #1200]. Molière’s Sganarelle reminds us of Panurge, as featured in Chapter Three of the Third Book (of Five) of Gargantua and Pantagruel.

 How Panurge asketh counsel of Pantagruel whether he should marry, yea, or no. 

Affinities between Molière and Rabelais leap off the page, and so does Pantagruel’s advice to Panurge. Pantagruel urges Panurge not to marry, which is Géronimo’s initial response, until he learns that Sganarelle has obtained permission to marry Dorimène from Alcantor, her father. In the Third Book, Panurge has decided to marry, but revisits his decision. In Rabelais’ Third Book, Panurge also seeks the advice of Trouillogan, the model for Molière’s Marphurius, a Pyrrhonian philosopher and a pedant. He prefigures The Learned Ladies, or Femmes savantes Trissotin and Vadius. The mouton de Panurge is featured in the fourth of five books constituting Pantagruel and Gargantua. A mouton de Panurge, “describes an individual that will blindly follow others regardless of the consequences.” (See Panurge, Wiki2.org.) We cannot exclude Sganarelle.

Molière’s Mariage Forcé also has affinities with Guez de Balzac’s Socrate chrétien. Théophile de Viau’s Fragments d’une histoire comique, Dorimond’s L’École des cocus (the School for Cuckolds)and Charles Sorel’s Polyandre (see polyandry, Wiki2.org). These are 17th-century French authors.[2]

 

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ.

SGANARELLE. (Molière)
GÉRONIMO.
ALCANTOR, father to Dorimène.
ALCIDAS, brother to Dorimène.
LYCASTE, in love with Dorimène.
PANCRACE, an Aristotelian Philosopher.
MARPHURIUS, a Pyrrhonian Philosopher.
DORIMÈNE, a young coquette betrothed to Sganarelle.
Two GIPSIES.
The Scene is in a Public Place.

The Plot

  • Dorimène surprises us
  • la race des Sganarelles

Scene One of Le Mariage Forcé, Sganarelle, Molière’s mask, wants to know from his friend Géronimo whether he should marry. Sganarelle has already sought and obtained from Dorimène’s father, Alcantor, permission to marry Dorimène. Alcantor has agreed. In his mind, the mind of a pater familias, le Seigneur Sganarelle, a well-to-do 53-year-old gentleman, is a perfect match for his daughter.

However, Dorimène surprises us. One would expect her to oppose her tyrannical father, but she differs from other ingénues, who are forced to marry or be thrown in a convent. Young Dorimène is une mondaine who thinks a marriage to Sganarelle will allow her to escape her father. When she and Sganarelle meet in Scene II, she makes it clear that she wishes to be free. In fact, as we will see later, she has a lover, Lycaste, who cannot understand why she is marrying Sganarelle. She reassures Lycaste. Sganarelle is an older gentleman who has no more than six months “in his belly.” She wants to be a widow who were  privileged women in 17th-century France. Widows were free to marry whom they pleased, or not to marry. Le Misanthrope‘s Célimène is a widow.

Yet, although arrangements are being made for Dorimène to marry Sganarelle that very day, Sganarelle would like to discuss marriage with his friend Géronimo, which should have happened earlier. When Géronimo learns that the bride-to-be is the lovely Dorimène and that she is not opposing Alcantor, her father, Géronimo has little left to do than exclaim:

Mariez-vous promptement; je ne dis plus rien.
Géronimo to Sganarelle (Scene I, p. 9)
[Make haste and get married.]
Géronimo to Sganarelle (Scene Four, p. 227)

The most amusing lines of Scene One are Sganarelle’s:

Outre la joie que j’aurai de posséder une belle femme, qui me fera mille caresses; qui me dorlotera, et me viendra frotter, lorsque je serai las; outre cette joie, dis-je, je considère, qu’en demeurant comme je suis, je laisse périr dans le monde la race [3] des Sganarelles; et qu’en me mariant, je pourrai me voir revivre en d’autres moi-mêmes… [4]
Sganarelle à Géronimo (Scene I, p. 8)
[Besides the pleasures I shall have in possessing a wife to fondle me when I am tired; besides this pleasure, I consider that, by remaining as I am, I suffer the race of the Sganarelles to become extinct ; whilst, by marrying, I may see myself reproduced, and shall have the joy of seeing children sprung from me…
Sganarelle to Géronimo (Scene Two, p.  226)

Marriage and Marriage

Matters change. Sganarelle believed he would own Dorimène:

Hé bien, ma belle, c’est maintenant que nous allons être heureux l’un et l’autre. Vous ne serez plus en droit de me rien refuser; …
Sganarelle à Dorimène (Scène II, pp. 9-10)
[Well, my dear, both of us are going to be happy now. You will no longer have a right to refuse me anything; and I can do with you just as I please, without any one being shocked. You will be mine from head to foot, and I shall be master of everything, of your little sparkling eyes, your little roguish nose, your tempting lips, your lovely ears, your pretty little chin, your little round breasts, your … ]
Sganarelle to Dorimène (Scene Four, pp. 227-228)

Dorimène, however, wants to escape her father’s tyranny and would not accept to marry a tyrannical Sganarelle. Two contrary discourses are juxtaposed. The second all be erases the first. Sganarelle realizes that he has made a mistake.

Tout à fait aise, je vous jure: car enfin la sévérité de mon père m’a tenue jusques ici dans une sujétion la plus fâcheuse du monde. Il y a je ne sais combien que j’enrage du peu de liberté, qu’il me donne; et j’ai cent fois souhaité qu’il me mariât, pour sortir promptement de la contrainte, où j’étais avec lui, et me voir en état de faire ce que je voudrai.
Dorimène à Sganarelle (Scene II, p. 10)
[Immensely glad, I assure you. For, indeed, my father’s severity has kept me hitherto in the most grievous subjection. I have been raging, I do not know how long, at the scanty liberty he allows me ; I have wished a hundred times that he would get me a husband, so that I might quickly escape from the durance in which I have been kept by him, and be able to do as I pleased.
Dorimène to Sganarelle (Scene Four, pp. 228-229)

The Dream

In Scene Three (FR), Géronimo returns. He has found a jeweler who has a beautiful diamond for sale. Sganarelle is no longer so eager to marry. He would like to confide that he has had a dream:

Avant que de passer plus avant, je voudrais bien agiter à fond cette matière; et que l’on m’expliquât un songe que j’ai fait cette nuit, et qui vient tout à l’heure de me revenir dans l’esprit.
Sganarelle à Géronimo (Scene III, p. 11)
[Before going farther I wish to sift this matter to the bottom, and to have interpreted to me a dream which I had last night, and which just recurred to me.]
Sganarelle to Géronimo (Scene Five, p. 229)

The dream also occurs in Rabelais.

Trouillogan : [estampe] ([Fumé]) / G. Doré

Trouillogan by Gustave Doré (BnF)

Pancrace and Marphurius (Trouillogan)

Géronimo is too busy to converse. So, he urges Sganarelle to speak to Pancrace, an Aristotelian philosopher, and to Marphurius, a skeptic. Sganarelle fears cuckolding. Unfortunately, Pancrace is also busy. He is wondering whether one should use the word “form” or “figure” concerning the shape of a hat. Moreover, Sganarelle pressures Pancrace a little. Pancrace delays matters by asking Sganarelle, which tongue he will use. The tongue (la langue) in his mouth, exclaims Sganarelle, but Pancrace means “language” (la langue):

Parbleu, de la langue que j’ai dans la bouche; je crois que je n’irai pas
emprunter celle de mon voisin.
Sganarelle à Pancrace (Scene IV, p. 15)
[Zounds! The tongue I have in my mouth.]
Sganarelle to Pancrace (Scene Six, p. 232)

Therefore, as of “Zounds,” matters truly deteriorate. Sganarelle leaves. (I am not discussing the quotations in Latin.)

Sganarelle then visits another neighbour, a Pyrrhonian skeptic. This character reflects Sganarelle’s uncertainty and adds to his distress. Doubt further enters Sganarelle’s mind. When Sganarelle says “it seems to me,” (il me semble que), Marphurius corrects him. “Me” expresses certainty, but, says Marphurius, “[n]ous devons douter de tout” (we must doubt everything). Sganarelle is so frustrated that he ends up hitting Marphurius with a stick. Marphurius is defenceless. Sganarelle turns himself into a skeptic, mocking Marphurius:

Corrigez, s’il vous plaît, cette manière de parler. Il faut douter de toutes choses; et vous ne devez pas dire que je vous ai battu; mais qu’il vous semble que je vous ai battu.
Sganarelle à Marphurius (Scène V, p. 22)
[Pray, correct this manner of speaking. We are to doubt everything; and you ought not to say that I have beaten you, but that it seems I have beaten you.]
Sganarelle to Marphurius (Scene Ten, p. 238)

Marphurius is Rabelais’ Trouillogan. He doubts everything (Chapter 3.XXXV)

 How the philosopher Trouillogan handleth the difficulty of marriage.

Sganarelle has entered a cul-de-sac.

Cuckoldry and Widowhood

Let us remember that Le Mariage Forcé was a comédie-ballet, with music by Jean-Baptiste Lully. However, unlike other comédies-ballets, Le Mariage forcé did not use characters inhabiting mythologies. In Scene Twelve, the ballet, Sganarelle asks three Égyptiennes (Gypsies) whether he will be cuckolded.

In Scene Twelve, comedy, Lycaste, who loves Dorimène, wonders why she is marrying Sganarelle. She reassures him. Not only will she be free, but she expects Sganarelle to die within a few months. She is looking forward to widowhood. In 17th-century France, widowhood freed women who had married against their will.

Je vous le garantis défunt dans le temps que je dis; et je n’aurai pas longuement à demander pour moi au Ciel, l’heureux état de veuve.
Dorimène à Lycaste (Scene XII, p. 25)
[I guarantee that he is dead in the time I say. I shall not long have to pray Heaven for the happy state of widowhood.]
Dorimène to Lycaste (Scene Twelve, p. 240)

Sganarelle, who was nearby, but unseen, has heard the conversation. He appears as Lycaste is leaving. Lycaste does as Dom Juan will do. Dom Juan’s father, Dom Louis, tells his son that:

La naissance n’est rien où la vertu n’est pas.
Dom Louis (IV. iv)
[Birth is nothing without virtue.]
Don Louis (IV. 4)

Dom Juan does not answer. He simply invites his father to sit down to be more comfortable. This is formulaic, as is Lycaste’s obsequious:

Agréez, Monsieur, que je vous félicite de votre mariage, et vous présente en même temps mes très humbles services. Je vous assure que vous épousez là une très honnête personne.
Lycaste à Sganarelle (Scene VII, p. 25)
[Allow me, sir, to congratulate you on your marriage, and at the same time to offer you my most humble services. Let me tell you that the lady, whom you are marrying, possesses great merits…]
Lycaste to Sganarelle (Scene Twelve, p. 240)

Lycaste then goes away, having silenced Sganarelle.

A Forced Marriage

The remaining scenes feature Dorimène’s family. Alcantor will not allow Sganarelle to roll back his promise to marry Dorimène:

Seigneur Alcantor, j’ai demandé votre fille en mariage, il est vrai; et vous me l’avez accordée: mais je me trouve un peu avancé en âge pour elle; et je considère que je ne suis point du tout son fait.
Sganarelle à Alcantor (Scene VIII, p. 27)
[Mr. Alcantor, it is true I asked your daughter in marriage, and you granted my request; but I find that I am rather old ; I think that I am by no means a proper match for her.]
Sganarelle to Alcantor (Scene Fourteen, p. 241)

Vous vous êtes engagé avec moi, pour épouser ma fille; et tout est préparé pour cela. Mais puisque vous voulez retirer votre parole, je vais voir ce qu’il y a à faire; et vous aurez bientôt de mes nouvelles.

Alcantor à Sganarelle (Scene VIII, p. 28)
[You gave me your word that you would marry my daughter, and everything is prepared for the wedding; but since you wish to withdraw, I shall go and see what can be done in the matter; you shall hear from me presently.]
Alcantor to Sganarelle (Scene Fourteen, p. 242)

During Scene IX, Sganarelle refuses to fight Alcidas, Dorimène’s brother, who has brought swords. In the end, Sganarelle is compelled to marry and he has much to fear:

Hé bien! j’épouserai, j’épouserai…
Sganarelle à Alcidas  (Scene IX, p. 30)
Well then, I will marry, I will marry!
Sganarelle to Alcidas (Scene Fourteen, p. 244)

Conclusion

The Forced Marriage turns matters upside down:

  • Sganarelle makes wedding arrangements before seeking advice from Géronimo, or taking matters into consideration.
  • An older gentleman is forced to marry.
  • Dorimène is pleased to marry a senex iratus. She will be a widow.
  • Sganarelle is a cocu (cuckolded) before he marries.
  • Our philosophers have long left reality. Molière has created Les Femmes savantes Trissotin and Vadius.

We are therefore reminded of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World: carnival and grotesque. We are also reminded of the comic genre’s plasticity. It isn’t always an “all’s well  that ends well,” a tout est bien qui finit bien. And we are not dealing with Rabelais’ giants.

Floating just below the surface of this play is the farcical trompeur trompé, the deceiver deceived. How can Lycaste ever trust Dorimène? The extremely polite manner he uses to greet Sganarelle could be read as a criticism of Dorimène’s ploy. It is “affected.” As for Dorimène, she is her own senex iratus and will not change. Besides, destiny rules. She should be prepared to love the husband she has married and to give birth to a petit Sganarelle.

The play also features pedants. Pancrace’s pursuit of a correct term, forme or figure, for the shape of hats is trivial. As for Marphurius, he is Rabelais Trouillogan (See Chapter 3, XXXVI) in Gutenberg’s [EBook #1200])

I am leaving behind the comédie-ballet, as written and composed in 1664. This post is already too long. But it is interesting to know that, at Versailles, the King and aristocrats played roles in the comédie-ballet.

Poor Sganarelle!

Sources and Resources

____________________

[1] Giordano Bruno was tortured and burned at the stake by the Inquisition. Among other notions, Bruno perceived the plurality of worlds, as would French philosophe Fontenelle, a century later.
[2] Maurice Rat, ed., Œuvres complètes de Molière (Paris: Gallimard, collection La Pléiade, 1956), pp. 878-884.
[3] In the French language race means race, breed, and, occasionally, line.
[4] Cf. Rabelais.

Love to everyone 💕

Baroque Music – Bourrée du Mariage Forcé (Jean-Baptiste Lully)

© Micheline Walker
5 July 2019
revised 8 July 2019
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A Bad Week

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Last sun rays by Félix Vallotton, 1911 (Wikiart.org)

Our next play is Le Mariage forcé, a one act comédie-ballet featuring Sganarelle. It is delightful.

I have read your comments and will answer in the morning and then write my post. But first I would like to share an experience. 

I underwent a nasty health procedure and  met a very strange doctor. Today, I wrote a letter describing inappropriate behaviour on the part of a medical doctor and put it in the mail. Fortunately, we are entering a three-day weekend, which will allow me return to normal life and work on Molière.  

interior-bedroom-with-two-figures-1904.jpg!Large

Bedroom with two figures by Fèlix Vallotton, 1904 (Wikiart.org)

I am recovering from an intrusive medical procedure, that made me feel worthless. The doctor, a woman, did not take into consideration confidential information my doctor had provided. This was a procedure that could trigger suicidal ideation, because of events that occurred when I was a child and defenseless.

This doctor did not introduce herself. She did not make sure I had been sedated. It may be that the sedation did not work, but I don’t think I was sedated. She did not provide the privacy I needed. She left one polyp inside me, which she wants to remove later: another colonoscopy. No! When I left, she failed to ask me whether I was well enough to return home. I wasn’t.

The message she conveyed was that I was worthless, that no doctor was to tell her to be careful and that if I required a discrete and painless intervention, she was going to settle that matter once and for all. I was a number and I should know.

My doctor had reported sexual abuse and humiliation I suffered as a child, which precluded a colonoscopy, were it not that a test had revealed bleeding. Polyps were removed and will be analyzed. But she left one behind, which means undergoing another colonoscopy. I did not want to undergo that procedure.

This is how it unfolded.

Before undergoing such a procedure, one is asked not to eat, except a clear broth or two, and not to drink, except clear liquids. One must then drink two litres of a special fluid: one litre the day before the procedure and one litre four hours before the procedure, one glass at a time, every ten minutes.

When I went to bed the night before the dreaded colonoscopy, I was bloated and felt nauseous. On the day of the procedure, I felt so nauseous that my stomach rejected the fluid. I was lying down when suddenly the liquid burst out of me, wetting the bed and my clothes. I then took a bath that unleashed several explosions of a liquid that became increasingly yellow. A volunteer was picking me up, but I wasn’t ready. I left late.

Once, I was at the hospital, I reported the accidents. I was told that any remaining fluid would be removed and that, if I was not ready, the procedure would be postponed. I put on a gown, lied on a bed and a needle was inserted in my wrist. In theory, it was a sedative that would put me to sleep, but the sedative did not take effect and I now suspect it was not a sedative. During the procedure, I asked the doctor to please relieve the pain, but she said I would stop breathing.

When the procedure was over, she did not ask if I felt well enough to return home. All she said is that she would perform a second colonoscopy later and remove the polyp she left inside my body. I cannot believe she willfully left a polyp inside me. Is she sadistic, and what if it is cancer?

The volunteer took me to the building where I live. I went up, opened the door to my apartment and fainted. I had not eaten for two days. I ate and then spent hours cleaning the mess.

I wrote her a letter and mailed it to her. I will send copies to various offices. This was abuse of the elderly—I was made to feel worthless, pain was inflicted on me, and I may have met a very sick woman.

Love to everyone  💕


Debussy plays Debussy | Clair de Lune (1913)

Undergrowth by Félix Vallotton, 1904 (Wikiart.org)

© Micheline Walker
28 June 2019
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Sganarelle’s Wife, etc.

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Sganarelle ou le Cocu imaginaire de Molière : « Allez, fripier d’écrits, impudent plagiaire. » Œuvres: Dessins par Lorentz, Jules David, etc. Gravures par les meilleurs artistes, Paris, Schneider, 1850.  (Wiki2.org)

—ooo—

I wrote a very long post on Sganarelle, ou le Cocu imaginaire and apologize. Yet there are points I would like to underline, the first of which is Célie’s suivante’s praise of marriage.

Célie’s Suivante: a Praise of Marriage

In those pleasant times, which flew away like lightning, I went to bed, in the very depth of winter, without kindling a fire in the room; even airing the sheets appeared then to me ridiculous; but now I shiver even in the dog days. In short, madam, believe me there is nothing like having a husband at night by one’s side, were it only for the pleasure of hearing him say, “God bless you,” whenever one may happen to sneeze. Clélie’s suivante praise of marriage (Scene 2).

Can this praise of marriage reassure Célie? She faints and drops her portrait of Lélie.

Sganarelle’s Wife: Jealousy or Love

I did write that Sganarelle’s wife was jealous, but did not quote her. When she sees Sganarelle helping Célie who has fainted, Sganarelle’s wife thinks he is unfaithful to her.

Ah! what do I see? My husband, holding in his arms… But I shall go down; he is false to me most certainly; I should be glad to catch him.
Sganarelle’s wife (Scene 4)

Moreover, Sganarelle’s wife knows that her husband is not a handsome man. She says that the young man the portrait depicts is the kind of person a woman would find attractive.  

Que n’ai-je un mari d’une aussi bonne mine,
Au lieu de mon pelé, de mon rustre…
Sganarelle’s wife, (Sc. 6, p. 6)
Alas! why have I not a handsome man like this for my husband instead of my booby, my clod-hopper…?
Sganarelle’s wife (Scene 6)

Yet, in the “recognition” scene (Scene 22), an anagnorisis, Sganarelle’s wife asks Célie not to seduce her husband’s heart. She is fond of her husband despite poor looks.

I am not inclined, Madam, to show that I am over-jealous; but I am no fool, and can see what is going on. There are certain amours which appear very strange; you should be better employed than in seducing a heart which ought to be mine alone.
Sganarelle’s wife to Célie (Scene 22)

Sganarelle viewed by Lélie

But Lélie is confused. Not only has Célie chosen Sganarelle, but the man is ugly, uglier than Lélie was told. How could Célie have found qualities in Sganarelle?

Alas! what have I heard! The report then was true that her husband was the ugliest of all his sex. Even if your faithless lips had never sworn me more than a thousand times eternal love, the disgust you should have felt at such a base and shameful choice might have sufficiently secured me against the loss of your affection… But this great insult, and the fatigues of a pretty long journey, produce all at once such a violent effect upon me, that I feel faint, and can hardly bear up under it.
Lélie, alone (Scene 10)

Lélie cannot see Sganarelle’s heart. He thinks his good looks should have served him. He doesn’t know the “other” man is Valère, nor does he know that “the cœur has its reasons, which reason doesn’t know.” (“Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.”) (Blaise Pascal)

It is at this point that Célie’s maid decides to “interfere.” She knows that Célie loves Lélie and that Gorgibus has decided his daughter would marry Valère, rather than Lélie. What Célie’s suivante does not appear to know is that Célie dropped her portrait of Lélie and that Sganarelle’s wife picked it up and admired it. Hearing his wife praise the portrait, Sganarelle snatched the portrait and became extremely jealous.

Célie’s suivante (maid) “interferes”

Célie’s suivante knows that Célie is in love with Lélie, but that her father wants her to marry Valère.

Upon my word, I do not know when this entanglement will be unravelled. I have tried for a pretty long time to comprehend it, but the more I hear the less I understand. Really I think I must interfere at last. (Placing herself between Lelio and Celia). Answer me one after another, and (To Lelio) allow me to ask what do you accuse this lady of?
Célia’s maid to Lélie (Scene 22)

In other words she knows that Célie is not Sganarelle’s lover and that his wife is keeping him on a short leash.

But, the plot is as Lélie says, except that Célie has not married Sganarelle. Célie dropped the portrait which is in Sganarelle’s hands when Lélie talks to him.

As soon as I heard she was going to be married I hastened hither, carried away by an irrepressible love, and not believing I could be forgotten; but discovered, when I arrived here, that she was married to Sganarelle.
Lélie to Clélie’s suivante (Scene 22)

Lélie does have a rival, but the rival is an invisible Valère. That is why he was riding back to Paris as quickly as possible. So there is a blondin berne le barbon (the young man fools the old man)But as the plot unfolds, Gorgibus does not seem a blocking-character. The blondin berne le barbon seems to provide a frame story. The themes are jealousy, cuckolding, and false appearances. Sganarelle imagines that he is a cocu, and he can’t resist his bile.

Comments

By the way, yes Les Précieuses ridicules were extremely successful when the farce was first performed, on 18 November 1659. But, in the long run, Sganarelle, ou le Cocu imaginaire has been the more popular play. It’s progeny is truly impressive. I have unearthed more sources, but Sganarelle was paraphrased, imitated and adapted time and again. (See The Imaginary CuckoldLe Cocu imaginaire, Wiki2.org.) During Molière’s life time, or from 1660 to 1673, Sganarelle was played 122 times.[1] 

The fact that Sganarelle’s wife loves her husband says a great deal about Molière. Sganarelle, played by Molière, may not be handsome in the eyes of other persons. In fact, his wife knows that he is not handsome, but he is her man.

Célie’s suivante unravels the mess, and her praise of marriage makes sense. A good husband provides warmth and reassurance. A man and wife are a household. They operate a small business and may become the best of friends. We will be looking at Les Quinze joyes de mariage (The Fifteen Joys of Marriage) a satire, but… Molière read it. It’s an Internet Archive publication, in old French, but I had to study old French.

320px-Blaise_Pascal_Versailles

Painting of Blaise Pascal made by François II Quesnel for Gérard Edelinck in 1691

Imagination

As for Blaise Pascal on imagination, see Section two #82 of his Pensées. It is Gutenberg [eBook #18269].

Imagination. It is that deceitful part in man, that mistress of error and falsity, the more deceptive that she is not always so; for she would be an infallible rule of truth, if she were an infallible rule of falsehood. But being most generally false, she gives no sign of her nature, impressing the same character on the true and the false.

—ooo—

The computer works quite well, but be very careful. Internet criminals are now very convincing. They use a form of terrorism. They say they want to protect you from the “bad guys” who are already helping themselves to your pension fund and stealing your identity. This isn’t true. They are the “bad guys.”

Yesterday, I realized I could not copy passages from my usual internet publications, such as toutmolière.net. I hope this is a temporary setback.

I apologize for not reading your posts. I could not use the computer.

Sources and Resources

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[1] Maurice Rat, ed., Les Œuvres complètes de Molière (Paris: Gallimard, collection La Pléiade, 1956), pp. 850-855.

Love to everyone 💕

 Lalande – Symphonies pour les soupers du Roi: Caprice de Villers-Cotterets (Part 1) (beautiful music)

© Micheline Walker
21 Juin 2019
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Molière’s “Sganarelle,” or “The Imaginary Cuckold”

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Sganarelle ou le Cocu imaginaire (The Imaginary Cuckold) is a one-act play consisting of twenty-four (24) scenes. It premièred on 28 May 1660, at the Théâtre du Petit-Bourbon, the first theater the troupe of Molière used after their return to Paris, in 1658. Molière’s comedians had found patronage, that of Monsieur frère unique du Roi, Louis XIV’s only brother. Monsieur‘s theater was the Petit-Bourbon, a theater Molière shared with la Comédie-Italienne, which is still a theater. Plays are performed in Italian. Molière’s comedians had become la troupe de Monsieur.

Molière’s Sganarelle ou le Cocu imaginaire was staged in the wake of his very successful  Précieuses ridicules, which had premièred on 18 November 1659. Molière’s Précieuses ridicules earned his troupe considerable notoriety. Although Sganarelle, ou le Cocu imaginaire was not as successful as Les Précieuses ridicules, Sganarelle as a type is one of Molière’s perplexing characters: Arnolphe (The School for Wifes), Tartuffe‘s Orgon, The Misanthrope‘s Alceste, L’Avare‘s miser, The Imaginary Invalid‘s Argan and, above all, the jaloux among them. According to scholar Paul Bénichou,[1] these characters, the jaloux above all, blend in almost equal proportions vanity and insecurity: vanité et inquiétude.

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

1002869-Molière_en_habit_de_Sganarelle (1)

Molière as Sganarelle (Wiki2.org)

Sources

Sganarelle ou le Cocu imaginaire has been associated with Boisrobert’s Les Apparences trompeuses (1656) and Scarron’s La Fausse Apparence (1657). Deceptive appearances are a familiar theme in 17th-century French literature. In his Pensées, Blaise Pascal writes that human beings are at the mercy of puissances trompeuses, deceptive powers, one of which is imagination. Sganarelle is an imaginaire, thirteen years before Le Malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid)

Therefore, although appearances may be deceptive, in Le Cocu imaginaire, Sganarelle is an imaginaire whose jealousy so thwarts reality that seeing his wife admiring the finely encased portrait of a good-looking young man triggers a series of misunderstandings, quiproquos, to which there does not seem to be an end.

It remains that Sganarelle ou le Cocu imaginaire‘s comedic plot formula is the usual all’s well that ends well, le tout est bien qui finit bien. However, the main obstacle to the young lover’s marriage does not appear to be Célie’s tyrannical father, a pater familias, but the imbroglio in which the self-deceived Sganarelle ensnares most members of the society of the play. 

Given its depiction of jealousy, the play is a comedy of manners, but its numerous  péripéties, twists and turns, also make it a comedy of intrigue. In fact, the mess is such that Célie’s suivante calls it a galimatias, a shemozzle. Célie’s suivante is the zanni of the comedy.

42e49878d25a93d19d51075a675f2d6b-4 (3)

Sganarelle par François Boucher (dessin) et Laurent Cars (gravure) (Pinterest)

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

GORGIBUS, a citizen of Paris.
LELIO, in love with Celia. (Lélie)
SGANARELLE, a citizen of Paris and the self-deceived husband.
VILLEBREQUIN, father to Valère.
GROS-RENÉ, servant to Lelio.
A RELATIVE OF SGANARELLE’S WIFE.
CELIA, daughter of Gorgibus.(Clélie)
SGANARELLE’S WIFE.
CELIA’S MAID.

A PUBLICK PLACE IN PARIS.

A Pater Familias

As the curtain lifts, Clélie is crying because her father wishes to force a marriage with a man she does not love. Clélie loves Lélie:

Ah ! n’espérez jamais que mon cœur y consente
Clélie à Gorgibus (I. i.)
[Ah! never expect my heart to consent to that.]
Clélie to Gorgibus (I. 1) or Sganarelle, p. 47
Que marmottez-vous là, petite impertinente ?

Vous prétendez choquer ce que j’ai résolu ?
Je n’aurai pas sur vous un pouvoir absolu ?
Et par sottes raisons, votre jeune cervelle
Voudrait régler ici la raison paternelle ?
Gorgibus à Clélie (I. i) (Sganarelle)
[What do you mutter, you little impertinent girl? Do you suppose you can thwart my resolution? Have I not absolute power over you? And shall your youthful brain control my fatherly discretion by foolish arguments?]
Gorgibus to Clélie (I. 1)

It turns out, however, that Gorgibus has already agreed to a marriage between his daughter Célie and Lélie, a promise he cannot break on a whim.

J’aurais tort si, sans vous, je disposais de moi ;
Mais vous-même à ses vœux engageâtes ma foi.

Clélie à Gorgibus (I. i)
[Do you suppose, dear father, I can ever forget that unchangeable affection I owe to Lelio? I should be wrong to dispose of my hand against your will, but you yourself engaged me to him.]
Clélie to Gorgibus (I. 1).

The Portrait

After Célie’s conversation with Gorgibus and her suivante‘s comment to the effect that Lélie has been away too long, Célie faints and drops her portrait of Lélie. Sganarelle helps Célie.

Votre Lélie aussi, n’est ma foi qu’une bête,
Puisque si hors de temps son voyage l’arrête,
Et la grande longueur de son éloignement
Me le fait soupçonner de quelque changement
Suivante à Célie (I. ii)
[Upon my word, your Lelio is a mere fool to stay away the very time he is wanted; his long absence makes me very much suspect some change in his affection.]
Suivante à Lélie (I. 2)
Et cependant il faut… ah ! soutiens-moi.
Laissant tomber le portrait de Lélie.
Célie à sa suivante (I. ii)
[And yet I must—Ah! support me.]
(She lets fall the portrait of Lelio.)
Célie (I. 2)

Sganarelle’s Wife and the Portrait

Sganarelle’s wife suspects he is unfaithful. She has seen him help Célie when she fainted next to her suivante.
However, it so happens that she picks up the exquisitely encased, a jewel, portrait of a fine-looking young man and comments, aloud, that she has never seen anything more beautiful, praising both the workmanship and the young man’s likeness:

(En ramassant le portrait que Célie avait laissé tomber.)
Mais quel est ce bijou que le sort me présente,
L’émail en est fort beau, la gravure charmante,
Ouvrons.
Femme de Sg. (I. v) (p. 5)
(Taking up the picture which Celia had let fall.) But what a pretty thing has fortune sent me here; the enamel of it is most beautiful, the workmanship delightful; let me open it?)
Sg’s wife (I. 5)

…, sans l’apercevoir, continue.
Jamais rien de plus beau ne s’offrit à ma vue.

Le travail plus que l’or s’en doit encor priser.
Hon que cela sent bon.
Femme de Sg. (I. vi) (p. 6)
[(Not seeing her husband). I never saw anything more beautiful in my life! The workmanship is even of greater value than the gold! Oh, how sweet it smells!]
Sg’s wife (I. 6)

Now, Sganarelle is furious. This must be the portrait of the man cuckolding him:

Tu ne m’entends que trop, Madame la carogne ;
Sganarelle, est un nom qu’on ne me dira plus,
Et l’on va m’appeler seigneur Cornelius :
J’en suis pour mon honneur ; mais à toi qui me l’ôtes,
Je t’en ferai du moins pour un bras ou deux côtes.
Sg à sa femme (I. vi)
[(Snatching the portrait from her.) What, hussey! have I caught you in the very act, slandering your honourable and darling husband? According to you, most worthy spouse, and everything well considered, the husband is not as good as the wife?)
Sg to his wife (I. 6)

Lélie’s Return

Meanwhile, having been detained, Lélie and Gros-René are rushing back to Paris because rumours have arisen concerning Lélie’s marriage to Célie. It could be endangered, which it is. The first person he sees is Sganarelle who soon recognizes him. Sganarelle has Lélie’s portrait, a pledge given to Célie. Sganarelle  is holding a portrait which, is a portrait of him given as a gage, a pledge to Célie.

Je ne m’abuse point, c’est mon portrait lui-même.
Lélie, seul (I. ix)
[Heavens! what do I see? If that be my picture, what then must I believe?]
What do you say? She from whom you received this pledge…
Lélie to Sganarelle (I. 9)

Puis-je obtenir de vous, de savoir l’aventure,
Qui fait dedans vos mains trouver cette peinture.
Lélie à Sg. (I. ix) (p. 10)
[Will you inform me by what accident that picture came into your hands?]
Lélie to Sg. (I. 9)

(À part) D’où lui vient ce désir ; mais je m’avise ici…
Ah ! ma foi, me voilà de son trouble éclairci,
Sa surprise à présent n’étonne plus mon âme,
C’est mon homme, ou plutôt c’est celui de ma femme.

Lélie à Sg. (I. ix) ou (p.10 toutmolière.net))
[(Aside). Why does he wish to know? But I am thinking… (Looking at Lelio and at the portrait in his hand). Oh! upon my word, I know the cause of his anxiety; I no longer wonder at his surprise. This is my man, or rather, my wife’s man.]
Sganarelle, alone (I. 9)

Retirez-moi de peine et dites d’où vous vient…
[Pray, relieve my distracted mind, and tell me how you come by…]
Lélie à Sganarelle (I. ix)

Sganarelle hesitates:

…Mais faites-moi celui [l’honneur] de cesser désormais
Un amour qu’un mari peut trouver fort mauvais,
Et songez que les nœuds du sacré mariage…
Sg à Lélie (I. ix)
[… but henceforth, be kind enough to break off an intrigue, which a husband may not approve of; and consider that the holy bonds of wedlock…]
Sg to Lelio (I. 9)

Quoi, celle dites-vous dont vous tenez ce gage.
Lélie à Sg. (I. ix)
[What do you say? She from whom you received this pledge…]
Sg to Lélie (I. 9)
Est ma femme, et je suis son mari.
[Is my wife, and I am her husband.]
Sg to Lélie (I. 9)

Sganarelle needs a witness. In a scene reminiscent of George Dandin, he runs to fetch a relative, leaving behind a puzzled Lélie.

Ah ! que viens-je d’entendre ?
On me l’avait bien dit, et que c’était de tous
L’homme le plus mal fait qu’elle avait pour époux.
Lélie, seul (I. x) (pp. 12-23)
Alas! what have I heard! The report then was true that her husband was the ugliest of all his sex.
Lélie, alone (I. 10)

So astonished is Lelio that he nearly faints. As Sganarelle leaves, his wife looks after a distressed Lélie. 

Sganarelle’s Return

Sganarelle’s relative has good advice, but our jaloux thinks he has caught his wife, “in the act.” She is with Lélie.

… poursuit.
Tâchons donc par nos soins… Ah ! que vois-je, je meure,

Il n’est plus question de portrait à cette heure,
Voici ma foi la chose en propre original.
Sg seul (I. xiv) (p. 14)
[Aside seeing them. Ha! what do I see? Zounds! there can be no more question about the portrait, for upon my word here stands the very man, in propria persona.]
Sg alone (I. 14)

Lélie is at his wit’s end. Destiny has betrayed him:

Ah ! mon âme s’émeut et cet objet m’inspire…
Mais je dois condamner cet injuste transport,
Et n’imputer mes maux qu’aux rigueurs de mon sort.
Envions seulement le bonheur de sa flamme.
(Passant auprès de lui, et le regardant.)
Oh ! trop heureux d’avoir une si belle femme.
Lélie seeing Sg. (I. xv) (pp. 14-15)
[Oh! my soul is moved! this sight inspires me with … but I ought to blame this unjust resentment, and only ascribe my sufferings to my merciless fate; yet I cannot help envying the success that has crowned his passion. (Approaching Sganarelle). O too happy mortal in having so beautiful a wife.]
Lélie, to himself, seeing and looking at Sg. (I. 15)

Célie has seen and heard Lélie, but he has not visited her. She decides to speak to Sganarelle and asks whether Sganarelle knows him.

Quoi, Lélie a paru tout à l’heure à mes yeux,
Qui pourrait me cacher son retour en ces lieux.

Clélie (I. xvi) (p. 15)
[Who can that be? Just now I saw Lelio.
Why does he conceal his return from me?]
Célie (I. 16)

Celui qui maintenant devers vous est venu
Et qui vous a parlé, d’où vous est-il connu ?
Célie à Sganarelle (I. xvi) (p. 15)
[Pray, sir, how came you to know this gentleman who went away just now and spoke to you?]
Célie to Sganarelle (I. 16)

Sgnarelle says he doesn’t him, but that his wife does. The young man is cuckolding him. Célie probes further. Why does Sganarelle look so sad?

Si je suis affligé, ce n’est pas pour des prunes
Et je le donnerais à bien d’autres qu’à moi
De se voir sans chagrin au point où je me voi.
Des maris malheureux, vous voyez le modèle,
On dérobe l’honneur au pauvre Sganarelle ;
Mais c’est peu que l’honneur dans mon affliction
L’on me dérobe encor la réputation
.
Sganarelle à Célie (I. xvi)
[If I am sad it is not for a trifle: I challenge other people not to grieve, if they found themselves in my condition. You see in me the model of unhappy husbands. Poor Sganarelle’s honour is taken from him; but the loss of my honour would be small—they deprive me of my reputation also.]
Sg to Célie (I. 16)

Célie is very disturbed. Being in love with Sganarelle’s wife could explain Lélie’s secret return. She says that she was right!

Ah ! j’avais bien jugé que ce secret retour
Ne pouvait me couvrir que quelque lâche tour,
Et j’ai tremblé d’abord en le voyant paraître,
Par un pressentiment de ce qui devait être.

Célie (I. xvi)
[Ah! I find I was right when I thought his returning secretly only concealed some base design; I trembled the minute I saw him, from a sad foreboding of what would happen.]
Célie (I. 16)

Sganarelle bares his grief, in a soliloquy. However, he realizes that he is not the only husband to have been betrayed and that his affliction it is not worth dying for.

La bière [the grave] est un séjour par trop mélancolique
Et trop malsain pour ceux qui craignent la colique,
Et quant à moi je trouve, ayant tout compassé,
Qu’il vaut mieux être encor cocu que trépassé[.]

Sganarelle, seul (I. xvii)
[The grave is too melancholy an abode, and too unwholesome for people who are afraid of the colic; as for me, I find, all things considered, that it is, after all, better to be a cuckold than to be dead.]
Sganarelle, alone (I. 17)

But he is resentful and to avenge himself, he will tell everyone that his wife lies with Lélie.  Morever, his bile is making him consider “some manly action.”  He will return bearing arms, he will be incapable of using (scene 21).

Je me sens là, pourtant remuer une bile
Qui veut me conseiller quelque action virile[.]
Sganarelle, seul (I. xvii) (p. 18)
[I feel, however, my bile is stirred up here; it almost persuades me to do some manly action.]
Sganarelle, alone (I. 17)

Meanwhile, a spiteful Célie, dépit amoureux, tells her father that she will do her duty and marry Valère.

Faites quand vous voudrez signer cet hyménée,
À suivre mon devoir je suis déterminée,
Je prétends gourmander mes propres sentiments
Et me soumettre en tout à vos commandements.
Célie à Gorgibus (I. xviii) (p. 19-20)
[…I will sign the marriage contract whenever you please, for I am now determined to perform my duty. I can Célie to Gorgibus command my own inclinations, and shall do whatever you order me.]
Célie to Gorgibus (I. 18)

Célie’s suivante

Lélie thinks mistakenly that Célie loves Sganarelle. Sganarelle thinks mistakenly that Lélio loves his wife. Sganarelle has returned bearing arms. Why is Lélie being attacked? Célie’s suivante is perplexed.

Ce changement m’étonne.
Suivante (I. xix) (p. 21)
[This change surprises me.]
Suivante (I. 19)
Et lorsque tu sauras
Par quel motif j’agis tu m’en estimeras.
Suivante à Célie (I. xix)
[When you come to know why I act thus, you will esteem me for it.]
Suivante à Célie (I. 19)
Apprends donc que Lélie,
A pu blesser mon cœur par une perfidie,
Qu’il était en ces lieux sans…
Célie à sa suivante (I. xix)
[Know then that Lelio has wounded my heart by his treacherous behaviour, and has been in this neighbourhood without…]
Célie to her suivante  (I. 19)

Lélie asks Célie to remain where she is. (I. xx) (I. 20)

In Scene 21 Sganarelle returns bearing arms.

entre armé. Guerre, guerre mortelle, à ce larron d’honneur
Qui sans miséricorde a souillé notre honneur.
Sganarelle (I. xxi) (p. 20)
[I wage war, a war of extermination against this robber of my honour, who without mercy has sullied my fair name.]
À qui donc en veut-on?
(Turning round). Against whom do you bear such a grudge?
Lélie (I. xxi) (p. 20)

In scene 22, Sganarelle’s wife is angry at Célie, whom she suspects is her husband’s lover. But finally, Célie’s suivante decides to clear up the misunderstanding. Lélie and Célie are undeceived, but Célie has accepted to marry Valère. Lélie comforts her. Her father will keep his word, which Gorgibus is not ready to do. (I. 23)

But in scene 24, the last scene, Villebrequin, Valère’s father, comes to announce that Valère has married secretly, which frees Célie and Lélie.

So, all’s well that ends well. A “bonheur éternel” (eternal bliss) awaits our young lovers.

1002920-Molière

Molière par Pierre Mignard (Larousse)

Conclusion

Molière seldom signed documents, but this dénouement is Molière’s signature. No one suffers and nearly everyone has been blinded. Molière is not punitive. All are preparing for the forthcoming wedding.

As for Sganarelle, he is not the only character to have been deceived. He gives the entire adventure a moral, as though the play were a moralité.

A-t-on mieux cru jamais être cocu que moi.
Vous voyez qu’en ce fait la plus forte apparence
Peut jeter dans l’esprit une fausse créance :
De cet exemple-ci, ressouvenez-vous bien,
Et quand vous verriez tout, ne croyez jamais rien.
Sganarelle, à part
[Was there ever a man who had more cause to think himself victimized? You perceive that in such matters the strongest probability may create in the mind a wrong belief. Therefore remember, never to believe anything even if you should see everything.]
Sganarelle, aside

Sources and Resources

Love to everyone 💕

My computer is working, but I am feeling rather fragile. You will find errors in this post and it is very long, due mainly to the bilingual translations. I apologize. Further articles on Molière will be shorter.

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

Sganarelle

Micheline Walker
15 June 2019
WordPress

 

A Moment of Grace

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The Family of Trees
Félix Vallotton – 1922

I did not intend to write an article today. But I just realized that today is the anniversary of D-Day, and I have a story to tell. In fact, it is a story I have already told, but … 

One of my uncles survived D-Day for reasons he cannot understand. He then went north to Holland where he was asked to accompany prisoners of war who were being transported. They were seated at the back of a truck. All was well.

Out of the blue, one of the prisoners leaped from his seat and lowered my uncle’s body. My uncle nearly fell and he lost his rifle. The prisoner of war then helped him get up and retrieved the rifle. My uncle could not understand what had happened. So, the soldier showed him a metal wire the truck had just driven past. It would have decapitated my uncle had this “enemy” not seen it and acted promptly. 

This was a moment of grace and innocence. It was a moment so precious that my uncle never forgot. In peacetime, the two young men would have enjoyed a long conversation over coffee. War had separated them.

It has been seventy-five years. Yet, tears still come to my uncle’s eyes when he remembers. 

Schubert, Trio op. 100 – Andante con moto
Par le Trio Wanderer (Voyage d’hiver 2007 – Carte Blanche au Trio Wanderer, réalisation Jean-Pierre Barizien – CLC Productions)

Chrysanthemums and Autumn Foliage
Félix Vallotton – 1922

© Micheline Walker
6 June 2019
WordPress

 

And what about Perrin Dandin?

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l huitre et les plaideurs

L’Huître et les Plaideurs, illustration de Calvet-Rogniat (informations.documents.com)

Rabelais’ Perrin Dandin

There have been many Dandins. I remember François Rabelais‘ Perrin Dandin (Pantagruel, Third Book XLI), perhaps an early Dandin. Given the oral tradition, this Perrin Dandin may not be the first.

However, there is a Perrin Dandin in Racine’s Les Plaideurs (1668) and in La Fontaine’s “L’Huître et les Plaideurs” (“The Oyster and the Litigants”). La Fontaine’s “Oyster and the Litigants” was published in his second volume of fables (1678), but may date back to the early 1670s.

Perrin Dandin is a simple citizen in the “Pantagruel” of Rabelais, who seats himself judge-wise on the first stump that offers, and passes off hand a sentence in any matter of litigation; a character who figures similarly in a comedy of Racine’s, and in a fable of La Fontaine’s.

The Nuttall Encyclopædia(en.wikisource.org) (see James Wood [encyclopædist], Wikipedia.)

Jean Racine’s Perrin Dandin

Ironically, Jean Racine‘s Les Plaideurs was first performed in November 1668, at l’Hôtel de Bourgogne, Paris’ most prominent venue. It therefore premiered, in Paris, the same month as Molière’s George Dandin. Molière’s George Dandin is not a judge, but whenener he runs to his in-laws, he brandishes a contract. I have pointed out that in Paris, George Dandin was no longer a comédie-ballet and pastoral. It was a three-act farce in which a peasant lived the consequences of a marriage which, he thought, would elevate him to gentilhommerie. George Dandin’s Gentilhommerie is the Sotenvilles. “Sot” means stupid (and related adjectives).

A sotie is classified as a medieval farce and morality. Some argue, however, that it is a separate genre. Marrying Angélique, whom he had not courted (galanterie), was une sottise (foolish or silly) on the part of George Dandin. Could he not see sot in her parents’ name? They are Monsieur and Madame de Sotenville (from sot), and Madame de Sotenville was born a La Prudoterie, from prude. In Molière’s Le Misanthrope, Arsinoé is the opposite of Célimène. The prude is the opposite of the mondaine. Moreover, names such as Sotenville do not seem real. They seem and may be allegorical.

Whereas the characters in a farce would be distinguished individuals with proper names, the characters in the soties were pure allegories. The characters had names such as “First Fool” and Second Fool”, or Everyman”, Pilgrim” etc. Sometime there would be a leader of the fools, calledMother Fool(Mère Sotte).[1]

(See Sotie, Wikipedia.)
[1] Mère Sotte was the papacy. Soties were banned.

Geroge Dandin par J.M. Moreau (2)

Perrin Dandin, illustration de Moreau le Jeune (théâtre.information.com)

The above Dandin is not Molière’s George Dandin. It is Jean Racine’s Perrin Dandin featured in Les Plaideurs (1668). Racine’s Dandin is a besotted judge who has to judge at all times. While judging dogs, he allows his son Léandre to marry Chicanneau’s daughter Isabelle.

DANDIN : judge,
LÉANDRE : son of Dandin, fils de Dandin.
CHICANNEAU : bourgeois.
ISABELLE : Chicanneau’s daughter, fille de Chicanneau (chinanery).
LA COMTESSE. PETIT JEAN : portier. L’INTIMÉ : secrétaire. LE SOUFFLEUR (prompt).

LA FONTAINE

L’Huître et les Plaideurs

In my opinion, the best-known Dandin is Jean de La Fontaine’s. He is featured in L’Huître et les Plaideurs (The Oyster and the Litigants). Two pèlerins find an oyster. They both claim ownership of the oyster. Perrin Dandin walks by our pèlerins who decide he should judge who is the owner of the oyster. Perrin Dandin eats the oyster and takes our pilgrims’ money.

L’Huître et les Plaideurs

Un jour deux Pèlerins sur le sable rencontrent
Une Huître que le flot y venait d’apporter :
Ils l’avalent des yeux, du doigt ils se la montrent ;
A l’égard de la dent il fallut contester.
(read more)

Pendant tout ce bel incident,
Perrin Dandin arrive : ils le prennent pour juge.
Perrin fort gravement ouvre l’Huître, et la gruge,
Nos deux Messieurs le regardant.
Ce repas fait, il dit d’un ton de Président :
Tenez, la cour vous donne à chacun une écaille
Sans dépens, et qu’en paix chacun chez soi s’en aille.
Mettez ce qu’il en coûte à plaider aujourd’hui ;
Comptez ce qu’il en reste à beaucoup de familles ;
Vous verrez que Perrin tire l’argent à lui,
Et ne laisse aux plaideurs que le sac et les quilles.
JEAN DE LA FONTAINE
Livre 9, fable 9
1678

Jean de La Fontaine.PNG

Jean de La Fontaine par Hyacinthe Rigaud, en 1690 (Wiki2.org)

The Oyster and the Litigants

Two pilgrims on the sand espied
An oyster thrown up by the tide.
In hope, both swallowed ocean’s fruit;
But before the fact there came dispute.
(read more)

Amidst this sweet affair,
Arrived a person very big,
Ycleped Sir Nincom Periwig.
They made him judge, to set the matter square.
Sir Nincom, with a solemn face,
Took up the oyster and the case:
In opening both, the first he swallowed,
And, in due time, his judgment followed.
“Attend: the court awards you each a shell
Cost free; depart in peace, and use them well.”
Foot up the cost of suits at law,
The leavings reckon and awards,
The cash you’ll see Sir Nincom draw,
And leave the parties—purse and cards.
JEAN DE LA FONTAINE
Book 9, Fable 9
1678

L’Huître et les Plaideurs, illustration de Gustave Doré gravée par Louis Édouard Fournier, édition Louis Hachette, 1868 (informations.documents.com)

L’Huître et les Plaideurs, illustration de Jean-Baptiste Oudry (site officiel)

Conclusion

I wrote that comedy has redeeming mechanisms, such as the deceiver deceived, or trompeur trompé. In l’École des femmesdespite raising a wife, Agnès, Arnolphe loses her when she meets young Horace. Her instinct leads Agnès to fall in love with Horace and find safety in his presence. Yet, one sympathizes with Arnolphe. He loves Agnès, but he doesn’t know galanterie. The comedy ends in the traditional marriage. But comedy has more than one plot formula. Farces are circular. Dandin will forever plead his cause, but what if he had opened the bolted door when Angélique was desperate, and comforted her. Beauty loves Beast.

But suddenly I remembered the medieval soties, not to mention Reynard the Fox, its comic trial and Bruin losing the skin of his nose when it gets wedged in an opening in a log. But it’s “no skin off my nose,” as it grows back. It’s like a cartoon. Jill Mann,[2] who translated the Ysengrimus, the birthplace of Reynard the Fox, into English, compares this phenomenon to the flattened cat of cartoons who fluffs up again. In the world of cartoons, injuries may be reversible.

George Dandin lived before cartoons, but Molière knew the sotie and the cartoonish Reynard the Fox (Le Roman de Renart).

The Wikipedia entry on sotie compares the genre to carnivals. Mikhail Baktin, who studied Rabelais, identified the carnivalesque in Rabelais, a world upside down. Molière has not broken any rule. The carnivalesque is a constante in literature. However, Molière has a way of humanizing fools and vice versa. The Misanthrope is the epitome in this æsthetics.

I will make these words, my last words on George Dandin who is both right and wrong. But he is less a fool than the Sotenvilles, or is it the reverse?

By the way, se dandiner means to waddle and Dandin is a family name. George Dandin’s name is not allegorical.

RELATED ARTICLES

Sources and Resources

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[1] Mère Sotte was the papacy. Soties were banned.
[2] Jill Mann, “The Satiric Fiction of the Ysengrimus,” in Kenneth Varty (ed.), Reynard the Fox: Social Engagement and Cultural Metamorphoses in the Beast Epic from the Middle Ages to the Present (New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2000), p. 11.

Love to everyone 💕

 

The Carnival of the AnimalsCamille Saint-Saëns

L’Huître et les Plaideurs (Creighton University)

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5 June 2019
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Molière’s “George Dandin,” revisited (2)

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George Dandin (Gravure Edmond Hédouin?)   (documentation.théâtre.com)

(This post is very long. If you have read Molière’s “George Dandin” revisited (1), go to Act Two.)

George Dandin: a Comédie-Ballet & Pastoral

George Dandin ou le Mari confondu (George Dandin or the Abashed Husband) is a comédie-ballet combining a three-act farce and a pastoral in the form of interludes mainly. The comedy and the lyrics to the pastoral were written by Molière to music by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Contemporaries loved the music to George Dandin. It premièred at Versailles on 15 July 1668, as part of a Grand Divertissement royal celebrating the French victory at Aix-la-Chapelle. The comédie-ballet was performed three times at Saint-Germain-en-Laye from 3 to 6 November. However, when, on 9 November 1668, the three-act George Dandin was given in Paris, at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, the pastoral had been removed.

Henri van Laun‘s six-volume translation of the plays of Molière, an Internet Archive publication, includes the text of a three-act play and the text of the pastoral. The two could be separated. The pastoral lightened an otherwise sombre farce. We are still using Henri van Laun’s translation of the three-act play and the toutmoliere.net’s collection of Molière’s plays.

In my post on the Jalousie du Barbouillé, I stated that the Jalousie du Barbouillé was a blueprint for George Dandin. George Dandin repeats the bolted door episode (Act Three)rom . In Molière, the unfortunate daughters of the nobility who were married against their will not be wives. Cuckoldry enters the picture. La Jalousie du Barbouillé does establish one of Molière central figures, le jaloux. It also introduces le cocu. If he marries, le jaloux faces cuckoldry.

Sources

Listed below, are sources Molière may have used when he wrote George Dandin:

*The Dolopatos was an Indian work written before the Common Era, and translated into Arabic and Hebrew (see Salon littéraire).

However, ascertaining sources for George Dandin and other plays by Molière is difficult. We know that Molière was well educated. He was a student at the Collège de Clermont, the current Lycée Louis-le-Grand. It was the finest lycée in Paris. Molière read Roman dramatists Plautus and Terrence, and may have read Greek dramatist Aristophanes. He also studied law. 

Molière’s first company, l’Illustre Théâtre, established in June 1643, went bankrupt two years later. So, in August 1645, Molière was jailed briefly, a day or so. He then left Paris and toured the provinces of France until the late 1650s. His base was Pézenas, but the répertoire of his troupe cannot be determined in an accurate manner. He didn’t write the plays members of his troupe performed. There is a story about a lost suitcase, but it seems his actors may have improvised their role, or nearly so, as did the stock characters of the Commedia dell’arte. 

However, Molière also borrowed from native French farces and fabliaux. As we have seen Le Médecin malgré lui (The Doctor in spite of himself) is rooted in the Vilain Mire, a medieval French fabliau about a doctor. By the seventeenth century, the original text of the Vilain Mire may have been a mere memory, but its subject matter had entered an oral tradition to return to a written tradition. In 1656, Barbazan published the first volume of his: Fabliaux et contes des poètes français du XIIIe, XIVe et XVe siècles. Barbazan’s collection “shares several elements with Le Médecin malgré lui, and, incidentally, Georges [sic] Dandin.” (See Molière 21). The complete French fabliaux were published in 1986. (See Molière 21.) For our purposes, the closest source of George Dandin is Molière’s own Jalousie du Barbouillé.

The Dramatis Personæ are as follows:

  • Georges Dandin (George Dandin), husband of Angelica
  • Angelica (Angélique), Georges Dandin’s wife
  • Sir Sotenville (Monsieur de Sotenville), Angelica’s father
  • Mrs Sotenville (Madame de Sotenville), Sir Sotenville’s wife
  • Clitander (Clitandre), in love with Angelica
  • Claudine, Angelica’s servant
  • Lubin, Clitandre’s servant
  • Colin, Dandin’s servant

ACT ONE

As the curtain lifts, Dandin tell spectators or readers how foolish he was to marry above his rank. He is a wealthy peasant.

Ah! qu’une femme Demoiselle est une étrange affaire, et que mon mariage est une leçon bien parlante à tous les paysans qui veulent s’élever au-dessus de leur condition, et s’allier comme j’ai fait à la maison d’un gentilhomme.
George Dandin, seul (I. i, p. 1) (or p. 349)
[Ah ! what a strange thing it is to be a woman of quality and a wife! and what an instructive lesson my marriage is to all peasants who wish to raise themselves above their condition…, and to ally themselves, as I have done, to a nobleman’s family.]
George Dandin, alone (I. 5, p. 261) ( or p. 349)

Dandin more or less bought Angélique, thereby affording the Sotenvilles money that would allow them to live up to their rank.

He complains that all he has acquired is a title: “de La Dandinière,” and being related to both the Sotenville and the La Prudoterie families. To the Sotenvilles and their daughter, he remains a peasant:   

L’alliance qu’ils font est petite avec nos personnes. C’est notre bien seul qu’ils épousent, et j’aurais bien mieux fait, tout riche que je suis, de m’allier en bonne et franche paysannerie[.]
Dandin, seul (I. i, p. 1)
[We ourselves count for very little in the match : they only marry our property; and I would have done much better[.]
Dandin, alone (I. 1, p. 261) (or p. 349)

Dandin realizes he has made a mistake:

George Dandin, George Dandin, vous avez fait une sottise la plus grande du monde.
[George Dandin! George Dandin! you have committed the greatest folly in the world.]
Dandin, alone (I. 1, p. 261) (or p. 349)

So, the action begins in scene two, when Dandin sees someone leaving his house. The person he sees is Lubin, Clitandre’s valet, who has delivered a message to Angélique. Not knowing who Dandin is, he tells him everything:

C’est que je viens de parler à la maîtresse du logis de la part d’un certain Monsieur qui lui fait les doux yeux, et il ne faut pas qu’on sache cela. Entendez-vous?
Lubin à Dandin (I. ii, p. 3)
[Because I have just been delivering a message to the mistress of the house from a certain gentleman who has an eye upon her; and it must not be known. Do you understand?]
Lubin to Dandin (I. 2, p. 261) or p. 350
Voilà la raison. On m’a enchargé de prendre garde que personne ne me vît, et je vous prie au moins de ne pas dire que vous m’ayez vu.
Lubin à Dandin (I. ii, p. 3)
[I have been told to take care that no one should see me; and let me beg of you, at least, not to say that you have seen me.]
Lubin to Dandin (I. 2, p. 262) or p. 351
Le mari, à ce qu’ils disent, est un jaloux qui ne veut pas qu’on fasse l’amour à sa femme, et il ferait le diable à quatre si cela venait à ses oreilles. Vous comprenez bien.
Lubin à Dandin (I. ii, p. 3 )
[The husband, from what they tell me, is dreadfully jealous, who will not allow his wife to be made love to; and there would be the devil to pay if it came to his ears. Now, do you understand?]
Lubin à Dandin (I. 2, p. 263) (or p. 351)

Dandin wishes to know whether Angélique sent a message back to Clitandre.

Elle m’a dit de lui dire… Attendez, je ne sais si je me souviendrai bien de tout cela. Qu’elle lui est tout à fait obligée de l’affection qu’il a pour elle, et qu’à cause de son mari qui est fantasque, il garde d’en rien faire paraître, et qu’il faudra songer à chercher quelque invention pour se pouvoir entretenir tous deux.
Lubin à Dandin (I. ii, p. 5)
[She has told me to tell him . . . stop; I do not know if I shall remember it all: that she is very much obliged to him for his affection towards her, and that he must be very  careful not to show it, on account of her husband, who is whimsical, and that he must bethink himself to invent something, so that they may converse with each other.]
Lubin to Dandin (I. 2, p. 264) (or p. 352)

Having heard Lubin, Dandin engages in another soliloquy. It appears he will be a “cocu,” which is a breech of the marriage contract. He must tell the Sotenvilles, but his in-laws find fault with the language he uses. Madame de Sotenville does not want to be called belle-mère, mother-in-law. She belongs to the nobility:

Ne vous déferez-vous jamais avec moi de la familiarité de ce mot de ma belle-mère, et ne sauriez-vous vous accoutumer à me dire Madame.
Madame de Sotenville à Dandin (I. iv. p. 6)
[Will you never divest yourself, with me, of the familiarity of that word, mother-in-law, and can you not accustom yourself to call me Madam?]
Madame de Sotenville to Dandin (I. 4, p. 255) (or p. 354)

Monsieur de Sotenville will not allow Dandin to refer to his daughter as “ma femme” (my wife). She is Madame. He also insists on being called “Sir:”

Doucement, mon gendre. Apprenez qu’il n’est pas respectueux d’appeler les gens par leur nom, et qu’à ceux qui sont au-dessus de nous il faut dire Monsieur tout court.
Monsieur de Sotenville à Dandin (I. iv, p. 6)
[Gently, son-in-law. Let me tell you that it is not respectful to address people by their names, and that we must only say, “Sir,” to those above us.]
Monsieur de Sotenville to Dandin (I. 4, p. 254) (or p. 354)

Moreover, George Dandin is told that being related to the Sotenville and the La Prudoterie families is a privilege. Madame de Sotenville is a La Prudoterie. His title has not elevated Dandin. Having been duly humiliated, he dares tell that a gentleman is in love with Angélique.

Je vous ai dit ce qui se passe pour vous faire mes plaintes, et je vous demande raison de cette affaire-là.
Dandin aux Sotenvilles (I. iv, p. 9)
[I have told you what is going on, to justify my complaints; and I ask you for satisfaction in this matter.]
Dandin to Sotenville (I. 4, p. 258) (or p. 357)

The Sotenvilles will investigate.

Nous allons éclaircir l’affaire. Suivez-moi, mon gendre, et ne vous mettez pas en peine, vous verrez de quel bois nous nous chauffons lorsqu’on s’attaque à ceux qui nous peuvent appartenir.
Sotenville à Dandin (I. iv, p. 10)
[We are going to clear the matter up. Follow me, son-in-law, and do not trouble yourself. You shall see what we are made of, when people attack those who
may belong to us.]
Sotenville to Dandin (I. 4, p. 258) (or p. 357)

Monsieur de Sotenville speaks to Clitandre who tells him that he is being slandered.

Voilà une étrange médisance. Qui vous a dit cela, Monsieur?
Clitandre à Sotenville (I. v, p. 11)
[What strange slander is this ! Who has told you
that, Sir?]
Clitandre to Sotenville (I. 5. p. 259) (or p. 359)

Having denied he sent une ambassade to Angélique, Clitandre wants to know who told Dandin that he sent une ambassade to Angélique. It could be Angélique herself: 

Est-ce donc vous, Madame, qui avez dit à votre mari que je suis amoureux de vous ?
Clitandre à Angélique (I. vi, p. 12)
[Is it you then, Madam, who have told your husband that I am in love with you?]
Clitandre to Angélique (I. 6, p. 260) (or p. 360)

She defends herself by making believe she is accusing him, but if reversed her words are an invitation to Clitandre to continue the galanterie. It’s a brilliant double entendre.

Moi, et comment lui aurais-je dit? Est-ce que cela est? Je voudrais bien le voir Je voudrais bien le voir vraiment que vous fussiez amoureux de moi. Jouez-vous-y, je vous en prie, vous trouverez à qui parler. C’est une chose que je vous conseille de faire. Ayez recours  pour voir à tous les détours des amants. Essayez un peu par plaisir à m’envoyer des ambassades, à m’écrire secrètement de petits billets doux, à épier les moments que mon mari n’y sera pas, ou le temps que je sortirai pour me parler de votre amour. Vous n’avez qu’à y venir, je vous promets que vous serez reçu comme il faut.
Angélique à Clitandre (I. vi, pp. 12-13)
[I? And how could I have told him? Is it so then? I should really like to see you in love with me. Just attempt it, pray; you will find out with whom you have to deal; I advise you to try the thing! Have recourse, by way of experiment, to all the lovers’ stratagems: just attempt to send me, for the fun of it, some messages, to write me some small love letters secretly; to watch the moments of my husband’s absence, or when I am going out to tell me of your love: you have only to set about it, I promise you you shall be received as you ought.]
Angélique to Clitandre (I. 6, p. 260) (p. 360)

After speaking with Angélique, Clitandre and Angélique both deny having sent or received a message. Clitandre is a gentilhomme and Angélique, Dandin’s wife, the daughter of the Sotenvilles. They are credible, but Dandin isn’t. Despite the money he gave the impoverished Sotenvilles, all Dandin received is a hollow title and a marriage contract, he remains a peasant. He has no credibility.

Si bien donc que si je le trouvais couché avec ma femme, il en serait quitte pour se dédire?
Dandin à Sotenville (I. vi, p. 15)
[Thus, if I had found him in bed with my wife, he would get off by simply denying it?]
Dandin to Sotenville (I. 8, p. 262) (or p. 363)

I will skip the episode where Dandin has to apologize to the Sotenvilles and Clitandre. They’ve lied, but they are “personnes de qualité,”

Head_of_a_Young_Girl_c_1745_4128

Woman’s Head by François Boucher, c. 1750 (WikiArt.org)

george dandin1

George Dandin, Alexandre-Joseph Desenne (Photo credit: Internet Archive) 

Act Two

In Greek literature, George Dandin, would be called an agroikós (rustic), a stock character. He is a peasant who has married into the upper classes and wishes to be separated from his wife when he realizes that he has simply bought a title: de la Dandinière. His marriage is a mésalliance. There have always been mésalliances. Some of us marry the wrong man or woman. In 17th-century France, aristocrats spent a fortune in an attempt to see Louis getting up (le lever) and going to bed (le coucher). They wanted to be ‘seen.’ Consequently, they spent a great deal of money and could not endow more than one of their daughters.

The Sotenvilles do not live in Paris, but they needed money and their best source was a rich peasant, the agroikós of Greek comedy. Dandin, our agroikós tells Angélique that she should live as wives live:

Je veux que vous y fassiez ce que fait une femme qui ne veut plaire qu’à son mari. Quoi qu’on en puisse dire, les galants n’obsèdent jamais que quand on le veut bien, il y a un certain air doucereux qui les attire ainsi que le miel fait les mouches, et les honnêtes femmes ont des manières qui les savent chasser d’abord.
Dandin à Angélique (II. i, p. 22)
[I wish you to do what a wife who only wishes to please her husband should do. Whatev[er people may say, gallants never trouble a woman unless she wishes it. There are certain sweet looks which attract them, as honey does flies; and virtuous women have a manner that drives them away immediately.]
Dandin to Angélique (II. 4, p. 269) (or p. 369)

Angélique disagrees: 

Moi, les [men] chasser! et par quelle raison? Je ne me scandalise point qu’on me trouve bien faite, et cela me fait du plaisir.
Angélique à Dandin (II. ii, p. 22)
[I, drive them away! and for what reason? I am not scandalised at being thought handsome, and it affords me pleasure.]
Angélique to Dandin (II.4, p. 270) (or p. 369)

Angélique thinks her husband should be pleased to know that other men admire his wife. Dandin should play that part:

Le personnage d’un honnête homme qui est bien aise de voir sa femme
considérée.
Angélique à Dandin (II. iv, p. 23)
[The part of a sensible man, who is glad to see his wife admired.]
Angélique to Dandin (II. 4, p. 270) (or p. 369)

But the Dandins do not admire wives committing adultery. Besides, does she have obligations? She claims she doesn’t and that the Dandins will get used to her lifestyle, if they want to:

Oh les Dandins s’y accoutumeront s’ils veulent. Car pour moi je vous déclare que mon dessein n’est pas de renoncer au monde, et de m’enterrer toute vive dans un mari. Comment, parce qu’un homme s’avise de nous épouser, il faut d’abord que toutes choses soient finies pour nous, et que nous rompions tout commerce avec les vivants? C’est une chose merveilleuse que cette tyrannie de Messieurs les maris, et je les trouve bons de vouloir qu’on soit morte à tous les divertissements et qu’on ne vive que pour eux. Je me moque de cela, et ne veux point mourir si jeune.
Angélique à Dandin (II. iv, p. 23)
[I declare that I do not intend to renounce the world, and to bury myself alive with a husband. What ! because a man thinks fit to marry us, everything must be at an end immediately, and we must break off all intercourse with every living being! This tyranny of husbands is a marvellous thing; and I think it very kind of them to wish that we should be dead to all amusements; and that we should live for them only! I laugh at that, and do not wish to die so young.]
Angélique to Dandin (II. 4, p. 270) (or pp. 369-370)
Moi? je ne vous l’ai point donnée de bon cœur, et vous me l’avez arrachée. M’avez-vous avant le mariage demandé mon consentement, et si je voulais bien de vous? Vous n’avez consulté pour cela que mon père, et ma mère, ce sont eux proprement qui vous ont épousé, et c’est pourquoi vous ferez bien de vous plaindre toujours à eux des torts que l’on pourra vous faire. Pour moi, qui ne vous ai point dit de vous marier avec moi, et que vous avez prise sans consulter mes sentiments, je prétends n’être point obligée à me soumettre en esclave à vos volontés, et je veux jouir, s’il vous plaît, de quelque nombre de beaux jours que m’offre la jeunesse; prendre les douces libertés, que l’âge me permet, voir un peu le beau monde, et goûter le plaisir de m’ouïr dire des douceurs. Préparez-vous-y pour votre punition, et rendez grâces au Ciel de ce que je ne suis pas capable de quelque chose de pis.
Angélique à Dandin (II. iv, p. 23)
[I did not make them willingly, and you forced them from me. Did you, before marriage, ask me my consent, and whether I cared for you ? You consulted only my father and mother. In reality, they have married you, and therefore you will do well always to complain to them about the wrongs which you may suffer. As for me, who did not tell you to marry me, and whom you took without consulting my feelings, I do not pretend to be obliged to submit, like a slave, to your will; and, by your leave, I mean to enjoy the few happy days of my youth, to take the sweet liberties which the age allows me, to see the fashionable world a little, and to taste the pleasure of having pretty things said to me. Prepare yourself for this, for your punishment; and thank Heaven that I am not capable of something worse.]
Angélique to Dandin (II. 4, p. 270) (or p. 370)

Clitandre has been prowling around and George Dandin has seen him.  He then learns from Lubin that Monsieur le Vicomte is with Angélique. George looks through the keyhole and sees Clitandre with his wife. At that very moment, kairos, the Sotenvilles arrive. Clitandre is about to leave, but he sees the Sotenvilles and Dandin. Angélique will make believe she is angry at Clitandre and will hit him with a stick. But it is her husband she hits: Dandin. The Sotenvilles are delighted to see their daughter chase Clitandre away and tell Dandin that he must be very happy.

Act Three

In Act Three, during a dark night, Lubin takes Clitandre to Dandin’s house and Claudine leads him to Angélique. Because it is dark, there is quite the chassé-croisé, a mix-up. Our lovers believe Dandin is sound asleep. He was, but he has heard his wife going down the steps and he inadvertently bumps into Lubin who thinks Dandin is Claudine and talks again. Dandin knows that the Vicomte is with Angélique. He asks Colin, his servant, to fetch the Sotenvilles and to do so as quickly as possible.

When Clitandre is about to leave Angélique, he thinks that perhaps she is a wife to Dandin.

Oui. Mais je songe qu’en me quittant, vous allez trouver un mari. Cette pensée m’assassine, et les priviléges qu’ont les maris sont des choses cruelle pour une amant  qui aime bien.
Clitandre à Angélique (III. v, p. 38)
[Yes. But I cannot help remembering that, when you leave me, you go back to a husband. This thought kills me; and a husband’s privileges are cruel things to a fond lover.]
Clitandre to Angélique (III. 5, 282) (or p. 385)
Serez-vous assez fort pour avoir cette inquiétude, et pensez-vous qu’on soit
capable d’aimer de certains maris qu’il y a. On les prend, parce qu’on ne s’en peut défendre, et que l’on dépend de parents qui n’ont des yeux que pour le bien, mais on sait leur rendre justice, et l’on se moque fort de les considérer au delà de ce qu’ils méritent.
Angélique à Clitandre (III. v, p. 38)
[Are you weak enough to have such anxiety, and do you think it possible to love a certain sort of husbands? We marry them, because we cannot help ourselves, and
because we depend upon our parents, who look only riches; but we know how to be even with them, and we take good care not to value them above their deserts.]
Angélique to Clitandre (III. 5, p. 282-283) (or p. 385)

Claudine warns Angélique that she and Clitandre must part.

Madame, si vous avez à dire du mal de votre mari, dépêchez vite, car il est tard.
Claudine à Angélique (III. v, p. 38)
[Madam, if you have any harm to say of your husband, you had better make haste, for it is getting late.]
Claudine to Angélique (III. 6, p. 283) (or p. 386)

Angélique and Claudine are returning indoors, but the door is locked. This episode was rehearsed in the Jalousie du Barbouillé. Angélique pleads with Dandin, but she must feigns suicide to re-enter the house. When the Sotenvilles arrive, Angélique is free to accuse her husband of having been out drinking.

Angélique’s father asks her to forgive Dandin:

Allons, venez, ma fille, que votre mari vous demande pardon.
Sotenville à Angélique (III. vii, p. 47)
[Come hither, daughter, that your husband may ask your pardon.]
Sotenville to Angélique (III. 14, p. 290) (or p. 393)

Moi ? lui pardonner tout ce qu’il m’a dit ? Non, non, mon père, il m’est impossible de m’y résoudre, et je vous prie de me séparer d’un mari avec lequel je ne saurais plus vivre.
Angélique to Sotenville (III. vii, p. 47)
[I! pardon him after all that he has said to me? No, no, father I cannot possibly make up my mind to it; and I beg of you to separate me from a husband with whom I can no longer live.]
Angélique to Sotenville (III. 14, p. 290) (or p. 393)

Angélique wants to end the marriage and so does Dandin, but Angélique’s father will not let her leave her husband.

Ma fille, de semblables séparations ne se font point sans grand scandale, et vous devez vous montrer plus sage que lui, et patienter encore cette fois.
[Such separations, daughter, are not brought about without a great deal of scandal; and you should show yourself wiser than he, and be patient once more.] (p. 395)
Sotenville
Comment patienter après de telles indignités? Non, mon père, c’est une chose où je ne puis consentir.
[How can I be patient after such indignities? No, father, I cannot consent to it.]
Angélique
Il le faut, ma fille, et c’est moi qui vous le commande.
[You must, daughter; I command you.] (p. 395)
Sotenville
Ce mot me ferme la bouche, et vous avez sur moi une puissance absolue.
[This word stops my mouth. You have absolute authority over me.]
Angélique
What gentleness.
Claudine
FR III. vii, p. 47
EN III. 14, p. 290-291 (or p. 395)

As for Dandin, he must kneel down and apologize to his wife, repeating, word for word, as though he were a child, what Monsieur de Sotenville says.

792336

George Dandin by François Boucher, Laurent Cars

Therefore, George says to himself that all he can do is drown himself:

Ah ! je le quitte maintenant, et je n’y vois plus de remède, lorsqu’on a comme moi épousé une méchante femme, le meilleur parti qu’on puisse prendre, c’est de s’aller jeter dans l’eau la tête la première.
Dandin (III. viii, p. 48)
[Ah! I give it up altogether, and I can see no help for it. When one has married, as I have done, a wicked wife, the best step on can take is to go and throw one’s self into the water, head foremost.]
Dandin (III. 15, p. 291) (or p. 396)

Conclusion

Angélique provides the most probable dénouement, which is the absence of a dénouement. Yet nothing is missing.

Tout ce que vous me faites faire ne servira de rien, et vous verrez que ce sera dès demain à recommencer.
Angélique à M. de Sotenville (III. vii, p. 47)
[Whatever you make me do will be of no use; we shall have to recommence to-morrow, you will see.]
Angélique to the Sotenvilles (III. 14, p. 291) (or p. 395)

If Dandin doesn’t drown, he will seek and find Angélique and Clitandre, perhaps in flagrante delicto, in the midst of it. He will run to the Sotenvilles and ask for satisfaction. There is a contract, but Angélique was never consulted. Her father probably said to her: “I command you.” Sotenville is both a pater familias and an impoverished aristocrat. All he could think of were his needs. The Sotenvilles are besotted by their rank, as we can see in Act One. As for Angélique, she was wronged, but she’s a “coquette.” However, the comedic formula used by Molière is consistent with that of farces: the deceiver deceived, except that Dandin knows he made a mistake.

J’enrage de bon cœur d’avoir tort, lorsque j’ai raison. (Dandin, I. vi, p. 15 )
[It makes me mad to be put in the wrong when I am in the right.] (I. 7. p. 262) (or p. 262)

Will Moore writes that “Dandin is essentially in the right, but he is in all actual cases made to appear in the wrong.”[2] But, according to Jules Brody, Alceste is “morally” right and “esthetically” wrong. In George Dandin, Molière remembers Le Misanthrope. Alceste is a jaloux and vain. “Je veux qu’on me distingue…” (I. i. v. 64, p. 3). “I must be singled out; to put it flatly,” (I. 1, Wikisource), but he seems “morally” right. 

Love to everyone

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Sources and Resources

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[1] There is disagreement concerning the date.
[2] See W. G. Moore, Molière: a New Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968 [1949]), p. 118.
[3] See Jules Brody, “Don Juan” and “Le Misanthrope,” or the Esthetics of Individualism in Molière,” PMLA, 84 (May 1969) pp.
539-76.

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© Micheline Walker
31 May 2019
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