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

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

The Miser

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

© Micheline Walker
1 December 2016
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Molière’s “L’Amour Médecin”

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Molière par Pierre Mignard (Wiki2.org)

Dr. Love
F.  J. Morlock, translator
(I numbered scenes.)

Our dramatis personæ are

Sganarelle (father of Lucinda) (Moliere)
Lucinda
Clitandre (lover to Lucinda)
Lucrece (cousin of Sganarelle)
Lisette (Lucinda’s servant)
Aminte (neighbor of Sganarelle)
Mr. Guillame (a seller of tapestry)
Mr. Josse
Dr. Tomes
Dr. Des Fernandes
Dr. Macroton
Dr. Bahays
Mr. Filerin
A Notary
Champagne (Sganarelle’s valet)

LE BALLET

Frontispice [cover] de l’édition de 1682 drawn and engraved by François Chauveau (BnF)

L’Amour médecin (Dr. Love or Dr. Cupid), is

As a farce, L’Amour médecin was written in prose and contains three acts. Farces allow some physical comedy. As a comedy of manners, it is Molière’s second satire on medicine, the first is Le Médecin volant (The Flying Doctor), written in 1645 and played in 1659. The third and fourth are Le Médecin malgré lui (1666) and Le Malade imaginaire imaginaire (1673). L’Amour médecin is rooted in Le Médecin volant, in Charles Sorel’s Olynthie, a short story, and in earlier farces.

Venue

L’Amour médecin was first performed at Versailles on 15 September 1665. Molière’s troupe was la troupe du Roi and Louis was demanding. L’Amour médecin was written, and roles learned and rehearsed, in five days. After it premièred at Versailles, L’Amour médecin was performed at the théâtre du Palais-Royal, la troupe du Roi‘s main venue.

Sganarelle

In L’Amour médecin, the role of Sganarelle, created in Le Médecin volantis that of heavy father. Sganarelle was played by Molière during Molière’s life time. In Dom Juan, he is a valet.

Four Doctors

It should be noted that L’Amour médecins doctors were given the names of real doctors. They were not simple miroirs publics. They have identifiable names and are known doctors, but all reflect Molière’s and many of his contemporaries’ view of doctors. Doctors killed, but did so officially, according to established covenants, and wearing the clothes that match the job. In the case of doctors, Molière had Guy Patin in mind, and Les Femmes savantes Trissotin, a pedant, is modeled after l’abbé Charles Cotin, a learned gentleman, but …

At any rate, L’Amour médecin was a very successful comedy and, despite a cast of several doctors, the plot was simple, a characteristic of Molière’s plays. 

A physician holding the hand of a female patient in a scene from Molière’s play L’Amour médecin. Line block by Yves & Barret after L. Leloir (Commons.Wikimedia.org)

ACT ONE

In L’Amour médecin, Lucinde is feigning illness, but her father believes she is very sick. Neighbours and relatives have their opinion to give. Monsieur Guillaume, who sells tapestries, thinks a tapestry showing a forest should adorn her room. Monsieur Josse thinks the gift of “finery and fancy dress,” as well as jewels may save Lucinde’s life. Aminte believes that Lucinde should marry, but Lucrèce objects. Pregnancies would kill Lucinde, given her humeur, the four temperaments.

Et moi, je tiens que votre fille n’est point du tout propre pour le mariage. Elle est d’une complexion [humeur] trop délicate et trop peu saine, et c’est la vouloir envoyer bientôt en l’autre monde, que de l’exposer comme elle est à faire des enfants. Le monde n’est point du tout son fait, et je vous conseille de la mettre dans un couvent, où elle trouvera des divertissements qui seront mieux de son humeur.
Lucrèce à tous (I. i, p. 3)
[And as for me, I hold that your daughter is not at all fit for marriage. She has a very delicate complexion [humor] and not very healthy and it would be a determination to send her soon to the other world by exposing her, the way she is — to having children. The world is not at all her thing — and I advise you to put her in a convent — where she will find diversions more in accord with her humor.]
Lucrèce to all (I, 1, p.7)

Sganarelle feels that, the remedies they propose show that his niece, neighbours and friends have something to gain by following Sganarelle’s advice. He uses the word intéressé.[1]

Tous ces conseils sont admirables assurément: mais je les tiens un peu
intéressés … (.)
Sganarelle à tous
[… you advise me quite well for yourselves …(.)] (I. 1, p.7)
Sganarelle to all

Sganarelle dismisses them all saying that his plan is to keep his daughter.  He and Lucinde have a conversation.

However, after asking Lucinde what could cure her, Lucinda nods when Sganarelle asks:

Aimerais-tu quelqu’un et souhaiterais-tu d’être mariée?
Sganarelle à Lucinde (I. ii, p. 3)
[Might you be in love and wish to be married?]
(my translation)
In 17th-century France and in Molière’s comedies, jealousy transforms a lover’s discourse into imprecations that alienate a young woman, the ingénue. Incestual love is out of the question. Sganarelle loves his daughter as fathers do. So, let us suggest a twist on the reversal all comedies feature. Comedies promotes the marriage of the young lovers. Le blondin berne le barbon. (The young man fools the old man.) In L’Amour médecin, the young man is Clitandre. Lucinde has not told Lisette about Clitandre, which may reveal hopelessness. In comedy, maids, servants, valets, and, at times, siblings are the brilliant minds who ensure that a young woman is not handed over to a man she does not love

I re-read a few chapters (préciosité) of one of Georges Mongrédien’s books on the 17th century in France. According to Mongrédien,[2] Molière did not oppose préciosité, despite his Précieuses ridicules. These were affected ladies whom he simply humiliated. Although comedy is rooted in ancient fertility riduals, Molière, does not allow young women to be forced into marrying men they find repulsive. At that time in history, women often died in childbirth or were pregnant year after year, which could lead to a premature death. However, we are alive. So, many women have survived pregnancies and many, if not most have never been subjected to yearly pregnancies.

In short, L’Amour médecin is comedy as usual, which the title of the play suggests. In fact, L’Amour médecin is Molière’s only comedy the contents of which are revealed in the title. Lucinde wishes to live a normal life and, for many women, life has long been considered improbable without the company of a man. L’honnête homme was born in the salons and salons also shaped galanterieMademoiselle de Scudéry‘s Carte de Tendre is a product of the salons. However, although our pater familias is the alazṓn of Greek old comedy, he wishes to keep his daughterfor himself, which is absurd.

A-t-on jamais rien vu de plus tyrannique que cette coutume où l’on veut assujettir les pères? Rien de plus impertinent, et de plus ridicule, que d’amasser du bien avec de grands travaux, et élever une fille avec beaucoup de soin et de tendresse, pour se dépouiller de l’un et de l’autre entre les mains d’un homme qui ne nous touche de rien? Non, non, je me moque de cet usage, et je veux garder mon bien et ma fille pour moi.
Sganarelle à Lisette et Lucinde (I. v, p. 6)
[Has there ever been seen a greater tyranny than this custom they want to impose on fathers, nothing more impertinent and more ridiculous than to amass wealth with great work and to raise a daughter with great care and tenderness to be despoiled of both by the hands of a man who pays us nothing? No, no — I mock that custom and I intend to keep my wealth and my daughter for myself.]
Sganarelle to Lisette and Lucinde (I. p. 10)

ACT TWO

The Doctors

  • blood-letting
  • an emitic
  • enemas & broths

In Act 2, Lisette fumes when she hears that Sganarelle is calling in a team of doctors.

Ma foi, Monsieur, notre chat est réchappé depuis peu, d’un saut qu’il fit du haut de la maison dans la rue, et il fut trois jours sans manger, et sans pouvoir remuer ni pied ni patte; mais il est bien heureux de ce qu’il n’y a point de chats médecins: car ses affaires étaient faites, et ils n’auraient pas manqué de le purger, et de le saigner.
Lisette à Sganarelle (II. i, p. 8)
[My word, sir, our cat survived a jump from the roof of a house to a street, and it went 3 days without eating and it couldn’t move foot or paw — but it was really lucky there were no cat doctors, for her affair would have been done — and they wouldn’t have failed to purge and bleed her.]
Lisette to Sganarelle (II.1, p.3)

The cure is blood-letting according to Monsieur Tomés. An emetic is required, claims Monsieur De Fonandrés. As for Monsieur Macroton, the remedy at hand are enemas and broths

Il vaut mieux mourir selon les règles, que de réchapper [to recover] contre les règles.
Monsieur Bahys aux médecins et à Sganarelle (II. v, p. 13)
[It’s better to die according to the rules than to escape despite the rules.]
Monsieur Bahys to colleagues (II. 5, p. 16)

ACT THREE

  • the doctors
  • Clitandre as doctor
  • Sganarelle is fooled

During Act 2, the doctors disagree. So, at the beginning of Act 3, they reflect upon their quarrel and conclude that they are endangering their profession. They could not cure, not in the 17th century, but human beings who fell ill consulted and this is how doctors made a comfortable living. So, to a large extent, doctors preyed on vulnerable human beings and thus constituted a group of impostors, a dramatist’s target. They worked for the money.

Je n’en parle pas pour mon intérêt. Car, Dieu merci, j’ai déjà établi mes petites affaires. Qu’il vente, qu’il pleuve, qu’il grêle, ceux qui sont morts sont morts, et j’ai de quoi me passer des vivants. Mais enfin, toutes ces disputes ne valent rien pour la médecine.
Monsieur Filerin aux autres médecins (III. i, p. 15)
[I’m not speaking only for my interest, for thank God, I’m very well off — let it snow, let it pour, let it hail. Those who are dead are dead and I have somewhat to spend with the livery — but in the end all these disputes are not good for medicine.]
Doctor Filerin other to colleagues (III. 1, p. 19)

Yet, a new doctor is introduced. Lisette and Clitandre have organized a stratagem. Clitandre will make believe he is a doctor and he will be a doctor who has already cured Lucinde. Lisette introduces him and Sganarelle notices that there is not much beard to this doctor. Clitandre tells Sganarelle that he treats both the mind and the body. He has succeeded in curing Lucinde by learning that she wanted to marry. What a silly thought! Sganarelle agrees. A very astute Clitandre takes Sganarelle’s pulse and tells him that his daughter is very sick. Sganarelle is surprised, but Clitandre explains that there is sympathy between a father and a daughter.

Sg. Vous connaissez cela ici?
Cl. Oui, par la sympathie qu’il y a entre le père et la fille.
Sganarelle et la réponse de Clitandre (III. v, p. 18)
[Cl. (taking Sganarelle’s pulse) Your daughter is really sick]
Clitandre to Sganarelle (III. 5, p. 21)

The plan is to make Lucinde believe she is getting married. As you know, in Molière, one plays along with a patient’s fancy, which is what Toinette and Béralde will do in Le Malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid), to help the young lovers and Argan. She will enable Clitandre to speak with Lucinde, Lisette tells Sganarelle that Clitandre must speak to his patient alone. 

The cure is a marriage. It will not be a real marriage, in Sganarelle’s eyes, but he will be made to sign the documents, as will Lucinde. Clitandre has arrived, ring in hand and a notary waiting outside. Sganarelle is going: “folle, folle, folle” as he himself marries off his daughter, endowing her generously.

Sg. Oh! la folle! Oh! la folle! Oh! la folle! (III. vi, p. 20)
[Sg. Oh — madwoman — madwoman!] (III. 5, p. 23)
The spectator can hear Lisette’s “un mari, un mari, un mari.L’Amour médecin is a comédie-ballet so Clitandre invites Sganarelle to be entertained.

Li. Un mari, un mari, un mari. (I. iii, p. 5)
[Li. A husband, a husband, a husband.] (I. 3, p. 9)

Sganarelle has been fooled into allowing his daughter to marry. Illusion was reality. A play rescued Lucinde.

Sg. Voilà une plaisante façon de guérir. Où est donc ma fille et le médecin?
Li. Ils sont allés achever le reste du mariage.
Sganarette et Lisette (III. Scène dernière, pp. 21-22)

[Sg. Here’s a pleasant way of curing! Where are the doctor and my daughter?
Li. They want to consummate the marriage.]
Sganarelle and Lisette (III. Last scene, p. 24)

Conclusion

Molière’s L’Amour médecin is one of the finest illustrations of the comic scenario. The blocking-character is “hoisted by his own petard.” A maid helps the young lovers.  Clitandre is a psychologist. The father is fooled, but he will no doubt recover. So, basically, “all’s well that ends well.”

Among friends and colleagues, La Mothe Le Vayer, in particular, Molière accepted that nature was both good and bad, but that it couldn’t be changed. La Mothe le Vayer wrote a letter defending Molière’s Tartuffe.

____________________
[1] In 17th-century France, La Rochefoucauld is associated with the discourse on self-interest (intérêt).
[2] Georges Mongrédien, La Vie littéraire au XVIISiècle (Paris : Taillandier, 1956), pp. 187-253.

—ooo—

Love to every one 💕

Jean Rondeau records “Vertigo” (Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer [et Rameau])

François de La Mothe Le Vayer (Wiki2.org)

© Micheline Walker
23 April 2019
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Secularism in Quebec

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Jean-Paul Lemieux (Galerie Michel Bigue)

Just a few words.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-laicity-secularism-bill-1.5075547

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-will-require-bare-face-for-service-1.913095

Under Premier François Legault and several members his Coalition Avenir Quebec, Quebec is again trying to secularise its already secularised society. All faces are bare in Quebec. Muslim women wear a discreet veil. However, if Bill 21 is enacted, they would be required to remove their discreet veil or, perhaps, if not certainly, lose their position.

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People gesture during a demonstration in Montreal, Sunday, April 7, 2019, in opposition to the Quebec government’s newly tabled Bill 21. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

Given its rigidity and Quebec’s preexisting laïcité, Premier Legault’s, Bill 21 is unacceptable. If there existed a genuine threat of terrorism, which there isn’t, a society could forbid the niqāb to make faces visible. It would be a matter of security. But, if enacted, Bill 21 could be interpreted not only as Islamophobia, but as an expression of religious intolerance across-the-board.

Some employees wear uniforms in order for the public to recognize that they are policemen, bus drivers, firemen, etc. So did school children when I was a child: navy blue and white. We looked like the young girl depicted by Jean-Paul Lemieux, including the hairdo.

Alexandre Bissonnette

  • sentence
  • Premier Philippe Couillard

He will appeal his sentence, but as things stand, Alexandre Bissonnette, who killed 6 Muslims worshipping at a Quebec City Mosque, will not be eligible for parole for the next 40 years.

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/day6/episode-428-bissonnette-s-sentence-art-forgery-k-pop-at-the-grammys-leolist-human-trafficking-and-more-1.5009885/how-alexandre-bissonette-s-sentence-could-fuel-canada-s-far-right-1.5009894

When Alexandre Bissonnette killed, he was not affiliated with a terrorist group and, to my knowledge, he has not joined such a group since he has been detained.

At the time, Quebec Premier Dr Philippe Couillard reassured Quebecers and Canadians.

 

The Consequences

As for my Muslim ladies, their daughters may wish to remove their veil. They may find it cumbersome. However, if their mother was forced to remove her veil or be unemployed,  her children may insist on wearing their veil, if they have not left Quebec. If Bill 21 is enacted, Quebec could be divided along religious lines.

Under Bills 22, enacted in 1974, and 101 enacted in 1977, Quebec declared itself unilingual and would not allow immigrants to enrol their children in English-language schools. Therefore, Quebec’s best immigrants were North Africans who spoke French fluently. However, to a very large extent, they were Muslims. French-speaking Muslim immigrants to Quebec did Quebec a service. Has Quebec forgotten?

Religious Intolerance Across-the-Board

Bill 21 smacks of religious intolerance. All display of adherence to a religion would be forbidden. Some of us are atheists. Others are not. They believe in God and many find a refuge in spirituality. We are a diverse society and will grow more diverse.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-bill-21-opposition-1.5083340

Students and staff at Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School in Montreal’s West Island, held a protest against Bill 21 over their lunch break on Friday. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

Conclusion

I will close by suggesting, boldly, that Bill 21 may not be entirely what it seems. I suspect that it is and isn’t about religious affiliation. Quebec’s two referendums (1980; 1995) have not given the government of Quebec a mandate to negotiate sovereignty. But the province is drifting away using all means it can dig out. For instance, Quebec has yet to sign the Constitution Act of 1982.

Could it be that, once again, Quebec wants to differ, Bill in hand … ?  If Quebec wants to differ, let it not be at the expense of its law-abiding and French-speaking Muslim women. Immigrants from everywhere, first generation immigrants in particular, mourn their country. Many have lost everything. Let us not think that we have done them a favour. Such an attitude would be insensitive and, in fact, arrogant.

Our duty is to respect everyone, despite colour, faith, language and other differences. These are superficial differences. Let our immigrants belong. All of us are human beings and merely passing …

Love to everyone 💕

We are returning to Molière. But laïcité weighed on my mind. I have friends who are supporters of Bill 21. I hope they will forgive me. They know that Quebec is a lay society. This post may seem somewhat different than the one you have read. The one you read was not the original post. The original post disappeared and returned.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux chante “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix”
Camille Saint-Saëns  — Samson and Delilah op. 47

640px-Samson_and_Delilah_Gustav_Dore_ca._1860

Samson and Delilah, by Gustave Doréc. 1860

© Micheline Walker
19 April 2019
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Molière’s “Le Médecin volant” or “The Flying Doctor”

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four-temperaments (2)

The Four Temperaments (Psychologia.co)

Medicine in the 17th Century

There had been progress. Ambroise Paré, a barber-surgeon who lived in the 16th century had advanced medicine, especially surgery. He is considered the father of surgery. One should also mentioned Guy Patin, who was doyen (dean) of the Faculty of Medicine in Paris (1650–1652) and professor in the Collège de France starting in 1655. He died one year before Molière’s Le Malade imaginaire (1673) was first performed. Although he was a rather poor doctor, he wrote a body of letters that are “an important document for historians of medicine.” (See Guy Patin, Wiki2.org.) It is believed Molière mocked Patin.

The Greeks investigated medicine. Hippocrates is considered the father of medicine. He coined the term Hippocratic Oath. In particular, Græco-Arabic medicine was based on humourism, or the idea that humans belonged to one of four temperaments: sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic. (See Psychologia.co)

Molière ridiculed blood-letting, the use of emitics, as well as the use of enemas. The use of enemas is now considered sexual assault, if the “patient” does not consent. Enemas are also used as a means of torture and humiliation.

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Molière as Sganarelle, Gravure de Simonin (Larousse)

Molière

Molière wrote four comedies in which he mocked doctors.

  1. Le Médecin volant (1645) (The Flying Doctor)
  2. L’Amour médecin (1665) (Dr Cupid)
  3. Le Médecin malgré lui (1666) (The Doctor in spite of himself)
  4. Le Malade imaginaire (1673) (The Imaginary Invalid)

I have removed L’Impromptu de Versailles from an earlier list. In the Imaginary Invalid, Béralde explains Molière. But characters in our first three plays do not refer to Molière. L’Impromptu de Versailles is an example of théâtre dans le théâtre.

It should be noted however that Sganarelle was played by Molière and would always be played by Molière until the dramatist’s death. The Flying Doctor originates in Italian comedy. 

Le Médecin volant (The Flying Doctor) is

  • a one-act farce (15 scenes) by Molière
  • written in 1645
  • its Paris premiere took place on 18 April 1659
  • it is of Italian origin featuring characters from the commedia dell’arte
    These are:
  • Gorgibus, an old nobleman, the father of Lucile (Pantalone),
  • Lucile, daughter of Gorgibus, engaged to Villebrequin (Innamorata),
  • Gros-René : Gorgibus’ servant, role created by René Berthelot,
  • Sabine, Lucile’s cousin, the source of all the intrigue in the play (Columbina),
  • Valère, Lucile’s lover (Innamorato),
  • Sganarelle, hero of the play, valet to Valère (Arlecchino), role created by Molière,
  • A Lawyer (Il Dottore).

In the first three plays mentioned above, love is the cure to a young woman’s feigned or real illness triggered by a heavy father who wishes to marry his daughter to a person the daughter does not love. Villebrequin is an older gentleman who may have fine qualities. However, Lucile wants to marry Valère. The dreaded marriage is approaching

Since Gorgibus, the father, believes his daughter is truly sick, he must find a doctor. Lucile’s cousin, Sabine, tells her story to Valère, the young lover (jeune premier) who asks Sganarelle (a role performed by Molière) to make believe he is a doctor. Gros-René, Gorgibus’ valet, is looking for a doctor. Sganarelle will be the suitable candidate. He need only wear the disguise. He hesitates, but money, dix pistoles, convinces him that he can play the role. The doctor is to advise Lucile to go outdoors to a little pavilion. She needs fresh air. Valère would go to the pavilion and take her away. In Le Médecin volant, the plan is as follows:

SABINE.— Vraiment, il y a bien des nouvelles. Mon oncle veut résolument que ma cousine épouse Villebrequin, et les affaires sont tellement avancées, que je crois qu’ils eussent été mariés dès aujourd’hui, si vous n’étiez aimé; mais comme ma cousine m’a confié le secret de l’amour qu’elle vous porte, et que nous nous sommes vues à l’extrémité par l’avarice de mon vilain oncle, nous nous sommes avisées d’une bonne invention pour différer le mariage. C’est que ma cousine, dès l’heure que je vous parle, contrefait la malade; et le bon vieillard, qui est assez crédule, m’envoie quérir un médecin. Si vous en pouviez envoyer quelqu’un qui fût de vos bons amis et qui fût de notre intelligence, il conseillerait à la malade de prendre l’air à la campagne. Le bonhomme ne manquera pas de faire loger ma cousine à ce pavillon qui est au bout de notre jardin, et par ce moyen vous pourriez l’entretenir à l’insu de notre vieillard, l’épouser, et le laisser pester tout son soûl avec Villebrequin.
Sabine à Valère (Sc I, p. 1)

[I have really much to tell you. My uncle is bent upon marrying my cousin to Villebrequin, and things have gone so far, that I believe the wedding would have taken place to-day if you were not loved by her. However, as my cousin told me the secret of all the love she feels for you, and as we were almost driven to desperation through the avarice of our niggardly uncle, we thought of a capital device to prevent the marriage: at the present moment my cousin affects to be ill, and the foolish old man, who is easily deceived, has just sent me to fetch a doctor. Could you not find one, some friend of yours, who would be on our side, and order the invalid to go into the country for a change of air? The old man will be sure to send my cousin to live in the pavilion, which is at the bottom of our garden. In that way you will be able to see her, unknown to our uncle, and marry her; then let him and Villebrequin curse as much as they please.]
Sabine to Valère (Sc. 1)

The above ploy is successful. Sganarelle accepts to play doctor after being given ten pistoles. Gros-René is sent to look for a doctor, but meanwhile Sabine, Lucile’s cousin, has managed to lead Sganarelle to Gorgibus’ home. Sganarelle meets a lawyer whose opinion of doctors is consistent with the views expressed by Molière’s characters. If one gets better, it has nothing to do with the remedies or knowledge of a doctor.

Ce n’est pas qu’on doive mépriser un médecin qui n’aurait pas rendu la santé à son malade, parce qu’elle ne dépend pas absolument de ses remèdes, ni de son savoir[.]
L’avocat à Sganarelle (Sc. 8, p. 7)[1]

[Not that any one should despise a doctor who has not given back health to his patient, since health does not altogether depend on his remedies or his knowledge: interdum docta plus valet arte malum.]
The lawyer to Sganarelle (Sc. 8)

However, a problem arises when Gorgibus meets Sganarelle wearing his valet clothes. Suddenly Sganarelle must play two roles: a doctor and a valet. Sganarelle tells Gorgibus that he has an identical twin and that they are not on good terms. Could Gorgibus help? Sganarelle goes in and out of a window, dressed as valet and then as a doctor. However, Gros-René picks up the doctor’s costume. There is but one Sganarelle: the valet.

Sganarelle fears being hanged[2] and tells Gorgibus that Valère is definitely “sortable,” a suitable husband.

In the final scene of the play, Gorgibus forgives Lucile and Valère and allows them to marry.

RELATED ARTICLES

Sources and Resources

____________________
[1] Interdum docta plus valet arte malum: parfois le mal est plus fort que l’art
et que la science. (Ovide, OvidPontiques, livre Ier, chant III, v. 18).

[2] Cf. Le Médecin malgré lui.

Love to everyone 💕

I intended to discuss The Flying Doctor and L’Amour médecin in one post, but there were interruptions. Also, I prefer working on one play at a time, even though I also provide general information. I am slowing down.

Pierre_Mignard_-_Portrait_de_Jean-Baptiste_Poquelin_dit_Molière_(1622-1673)_-_Google_Art_Project_(cropped) (1)

Molière by Pierre Mignard (Wiki2.org)

© Micheline Walker
15 Avril 2019
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“Le Malade imaginaire,” an anagnorisis

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NETHERLANDS – CIRCA 2002: Angelica and Cleanthes’ duet, scene from the second act of The Imaginary Invalid by Moliere (1622-1673), 1673, by Cornelis Troost (1696-1750) oil. The Netherlands, 18th century. Berlin, Bauhaus-Archiv, Museum Für Gestaltung (Bauhaus Museum) (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

During the weekend, I reread parts of W. G. Moore’s Molière, a New Criticism and I added this sentence to my article: “[t]he plot of Le Malade Imaginaire is … little more than the various gullibilities of a hypochondriac.”[1] This sentence and the image at the top of this post simplify Le Malade Imaginaire. Argan needs help and finds a doctor in the young man his daughter wishes to marry, not to mention that he may help himself …

Early in the play, I. i & ii, Argan is counting his money and then rings for help. He is alone and he is gullible and vulnerable. When Toinette enters his room, she says to Argan that he is being milked, which explains why he needs a doctor as a relative.

In the image placed above, Angélique and Cléante are singing in order to communicate their feelings. This is is not a play-within-a-play. It is a ploy, but Argan and the doctors are watching. Argan does not want a young man, including a singing teacher, to be alone with Angélique. Argan wants Angélique to marry a doctor. Idée fixe.

An Anagnorisis

Therefore, we could look at the third and final act as a form of anagnorisis, effected through a play-within-a-play and serving Argan’s needs first, and, second, the young couple’s needs.

First, the doctors leave because they have been insulted. Argan is desperate, but in comes Toinette playing doctor. These scenes are theatrical, but Argan’s fancy will not go away. He is a hypochondriac, which is a real illness, so he needs a doctor (V. viii). By helping her master, Toinette also helps Angélique and Cléante. 

Toinette as doctor leaves and re-enters as Toinette.

Second, Argan agrees to feign death twice, although it scares him.

  • Argan’s wife is seen as a fortune hunter
  • Argan recognizes his own blood in Angélique’s grief.

Argan lifts obstacles to the marriage of the young lovers. Cléante may marry Angélique, if he agrees to become a doctor, which he does.

But Béralde also suggests that Argan could be his own doctor. Brilliant! The inference is that problems can be solved from within: 

Mais, mon frère, il me vient une pensée. Faites-vous médecin vous-même. La commodité sera encore plus grande, d’avoir en vous tout ce qu’il vous faut.
Béralde à Argan (V. scène dernière, p. 68)

[But, brother, it just strikes me; why don’t you turn doctor yourself? It would be much more convenient to have all you want within yourself.]
Béralde to Argan (V. last scene)

However, Argan needs doctors, and Cléante says he is ready to do anything.

En tout cas, je suis prêt à tout.
Cléante à tous (V. scène dernière, p. 68)

[Anyhow, I am ready for everything.]
Cléante to all (V. 5. Last scene)

The rest is an interlude during which Argan is turned into a doctor. So, all’s well that ends well.

—ooo—

Viewed as an agnanorisis, the spectacles of the final act boil down to

  • delivering Argan of parasites (not doctors), and
  • ensuring the young couple marries.

But most importantly, it is suggested that we can find help within ourselves, or within our household. Toinette and Béralde do not mistreat Argan. He is a beloved father and although comedy leads to the marriage of young lovers, which means overcoming a father’s, the pater familias, resistance, the final society of the play includes the father. Everyone accepts Argan’s fancy. We all have petites lubies, whims.

When I was a student, professors used the terms play-within-a-play and théâtre dans le théâtre interchangeably. The main example was Pierre Corneille‘s L’Illusion comique (1636), which was also considered a mise en abyme. Additionally we read Jean Rotrou‘s Le Véritable Saint-Genest (1647). In fact, Rotrou wrote a play entitled L’Hypochondriaque (1631), but it is not a forerunner of Le Malade imaginaire. 

Antecedents to The Imaginary Invalid are Molière’s plays on doctors:

However, Le Médecin malgré lui is rooted in a thirteenth-century fabliau entitled Le Vilain Mire (Wikisource FR). Mire meant médecin in medieval French. Le Médecin malgré lui will be discussed in my next post which will also include a few words on Le Médecin volant and L’Amour médecin. These are very short farces.  

I did not mention Élomire hypocondre ou les Médecins vengés (1670, according to Maurice Rat [2]). It is a comedy published by Le Boulanger de Chalussay. The text is available through Amazon and other booksellers. Élomire is an anagram of Molière. Molière was not a hypochondriac. He suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis. The comedy was never performed.

RELATED ARTICLES

Sources and Resources

____________________
[1] Will G. Moore, Molière a New Criticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1949), p. 72.
[2] Maurice Rat, ed., Les Œuvres complètes de Molière (Gallimard: Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1956). p. 998.

—ooo—

I thank you most sincerely for helping me write my book.

Love to everyone 💕

Jean-Baptiste Lully

© Micheline Walker
9 April 2019
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Dear Readers, encore …

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Long posts cause earlier drafts to surface. In fact, putting in images causes earlier drafts to surface. Therefore, as first published, my post was a draft …

I am getting older, but matters are not too severe. I make spelling errors and get confused looking for the English translation of the original French text. Wikisource publishes fine translations.

—ooo—

However, I did take my post away and wrote a conclusion I had hesitated to publish. The many spectacles point to a rather dark world vision on the part of Molière. Was/is society this powerless and humanity, so frail? Molière is a very complex author.

Ironically, Molière had started to die when he played the Imaginary Invalid, on 17 February 1673. That was reality.

It could be that an editor removed a few lines or a paragraph or two from the draft. It  was very long. Although a paragraph or quotation may have been removed, the post is complete, and its conclusion, entirely mine.

I thank you for your kindness and apologize for not having read as many of your posts as I normally do during the last few days. Weeks have started to go by so quickly. 

My kindest regards to all of you.

Micheline

Lully — Te Deum

Le_Malade_imaginaire_décor_Pizzi

Décor pour Le Malade imaginaire by Pier Luigi Pizzi (commons.wikimedia.org)

© Micheline Walker
5 April 2019
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Molière’s “Imaginary Invalid”

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Our dramatis personæ are:

ARGAN, an imaginary invalid.
BÉLINE, second wife to ARGAN.
ANGÉLIQUE, daughter to ARGAN, in love with CLÉANTE.
LOUISON; ARGAN’S young daughter, sister to ANGÉLIQUE.
BÉRALDE, brother to ARGAN.
CLÉANTE, lover to ANGÉLIQUE.
MR. DIAFOIRUS, a physician.
THOMAS DIAFOIRUS, his son, in love with ANGÉLIQUE.
MR. PURGON, physician to ARGAN.
MR. FLEURANT, an apothecary.
MR. DE BONNEFOI, a notary.
TOINETTE, maid-servant to ARGAN.

The Imaginary Invalid is a comédie-ballet, but Molière having fallen out with Lully, the music for Le Malade imaginaire was composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Pierre Beauchamp choreographed the comédie-ballet. It was performed for the first time on 10th February 1673 at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal. On 17th February, during the fourth performance of his play, Molière collapsed. He finished playing his role and was taken home where he hemorrhaged and died. He was 51. Molière, born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622-1673), suffered from tuberculosis.

Le Malade imaginaire is the fourth play in which Molière mocked doctors. There had been relatively recent progress in medicine. In the 16th century, Ambroise Paré, a French barber surgeon made advances in surgery and other areas of medicine. Other scientists were also studying the human body. However, during Molière’s life time, most doctors did more harm than good. Many of Louis XIV’s legitimate children died due to poor treatment at the hands of doctors. When Louis died, only one of his legitimate children had survived. A woman protected Louis XIV’s only heir by keeping him away from doctors.

The play is rooted in various plays that featuring a theatre in the theatre, a play-within-a-play, on Molière’s own plays and farces on doctors and medieval farces and fabliaux. In fact, Béralde, Argan’s brother, defends Molière himself, which I would call “nouveau théâtre.” The play is also rooted in Molière’s own L’Impromptu de Versailles FR (1663), a defence of Molière within Molière.

 

 

The Blocking Character or Alazṓn

Hypochondria is considered a medical diagnosis, but the society of the play does not view Argan as sick. His brother Béralde tells Argan that he is not sick. Toinette also suggests that Argan is not sick. When the curtain lifts, Argan is counting how much his treatments are costing him. Money is always important in comedies and plays a role in Argan’s choice of a husband for his daughter Angélique. She is to marry a doctor, as Argan needs an in-house doctor.

Toinette & her Master

Toinette, the maid, walks in and says, unrestrained by her position, that Argan’s doctors have found a “milk-cow:”

Ce Monsieur Fleurant-là, et ce Monsieur Purgon s’égayent bien sur votre corps; ils ont en vous une bonne vache à lait; et je voudrais bien leur demander quel mal vous avez, pour vous faire tant de remèdes.
Toinette à Argan (I. ii, p. 9)
[This Mr. Fleurant and Mr. Purgon amuse themselves finely with your body. They have a  rare milk-cow in you, I must say; and I should like them to tell me what disease it is you have for them to physic you so.]
Toinette to Argan (I. 2)

Où est-ce donc que nous sommes? et quelle audace est-ce là à une coquine de servante de parler de la sorte devant son maître?
Argan à Toinette (I. V, p. 16)
[What have we come to? And what boldness is this for a scrub of a servant to speak in such a way before her master?]
Argan à Toinette
(I. 5)

Quand un maître ne songe pas à ce qu’il fait, une servante bien sensée est en droit de le redresser.
Toinette à Argan (I. V, p. 16)
[When a master does not consider what he is doing, a sensible servant should set him right.]
Toinette to Argan (I. 5)

The Doctors

However, Angélique wishes to marry Cléante, and, in a quiproquo (I. v), she agrees to marry Thomas Diafoirus, a doctor who fares poorly as a suitor:

Nous lisons, des anciens, Mademoiselle, que leur coutume était d’enlever par force de la maison des pères les filles qu’on menait marier, afin qu’il ne semblât pas que ce fût de leur consentement, qu’elles convolaient dans les bras d’un homme.
Thomas Diafoirus à Angélique (II. vi, p. 42)
Les anciens, Monsieur, sont les anciens, et nous sommes les gens de maintenant. Les grimaces ne sont point nécessaires dans notre siècle, et quand un mariage nous plaît, nous savons fort bien y aller, sans qu’on nous y traîne. Donnez-vous patience; si vous m’aimez, Monsieur, vous devez vouloir tout ce que je veux.
Angélique à Thomas Diafoirus (II. vi, p. 42)
[We read in the ancients, Madam, that it was their custom to carry off by main force from their father’s house the maiden they wished to marry, so that the latter might not seem to fly of her own accord into the arms of a man.
Thomas Diafoirus to Angélique (II. 6)
The ancients, Sir, are the ancients; but we are the moderns. Pretences are not necessary in our age; and when a marriage pleases us, we know very well how to go to it without being dragged by force. Have a little patience; if you love me, Sir, you ought to do what I wish.]
Angélique to Thomas Diafoirus (II. 6)

Fortunately, we have doublings, particularly in the case of Argan. Béralde is Argan’s brother and a benevolent uncle, which may explain why Angélique mistakenly agreed to marry Thomas Diafoirus. She probably thought her uncle had spoken to Argan.

The New Wife: Béline

Argan has remarried. Béline flatters Argan as much as possible, but as comedy would have it, a second wife may be a fortune hunter. She is, in fact, the archetypal and often derided belle-mère (mother-in-law):

Chacun a son but en se mariant. Pour moi, qui ne veux un mari que pour l’aimer véritablement, et qui prétends en faire tout l’attachement de ma vie, je vous avoue que j’y cherche quelque précaution. Il y en a d’aucunes qui prennent des maris seulement pour se tirer de la contrainte de leurs parents, et se mettre en état de faire tout ce qu’elles voudront. Il y en a d’autres, Madame, qui font du mariage un commerce de pur intérêt; qui ne se marient que pour gagner des douaires; que pour s’enrichir par la mort de ceux qu’elles épousent, et courent sans scrupule de mari en mari, pour s’approprier leurs dépouilles. Ces personnes-là à la vérité n’y cherchent pas tant de façons, et regardent peu la personne.
Angélique à Béline (II. vi, p. 43)
[We all have our own end in marrying. For my part, as I only want a husband that I can love sincerely, and as I intend to consecrate my whole life to him, I feel bound, I confess, to be cautious. There are some who marry simply to free themselves from the yoke of their parents, and to be at liberty to do all they like. There are others, Madam, who see in marriage only a matter of mere interest; who marry only to get a settlement, and to enrich themselves by the death of those they marry. They pass without scruple from husband to husband, with an eye to their possessions. These, no doubt, Madam, are not so difficult to satisfy, and care little what the husband is like.]
Angélique to Béline (II. 7)

Béline would not force Angélique to marry Thomas Diafoirus, but she would have her locked up in a convent.

Écoute, il n’y a point de milieu à cela. Choisis d’épouser dans quatre jours, ou Monsieur, ou un couvent. Ne vous mettez pas en peine, je la rangerai bien.
Argan à Angélique (II. vi, p. 44)
[Listen to me! Of two things, one. Either you will marry this gentleman or you will go into a convent. I give you four days to consider. (TO BÉLINE) Don’t be anxious; I will bring her to reason.]
Argan to Angélique (II. 8)

 Doublings

  • Toinette
  • Béralde

Early in the comedy, we learn that Angélique and her younger sister Louison have lost their mother. Angélique discusses her “lover” with Toinette (I.iii and iv, pp. 9-10).  Therefore, one assumes that, in the eyes of Angélique and her younger sister Louison, Toinette is more than a servant. She may not be a surrogate mother, but she is also a doubling, un dédoublement. Were she not, Béline, Argan’s second wife, would be too powerful. For instance, Argan wants to make a Will and Béline herself brings in the notary (I. vi, p. 79; I. 8).

The real threat, however, is Argan’s wish to have a doctor as his son-in-law. Argan is marrying his daughter to Thomas Diafoirus, so his needs are satisfied. That is his reason:

Ma raison est, que me voyant infirme, et malade comme je suis, je veux me faire un gendre, et des alliés médecins, afin de m’appuyer de bons secours contre ma maladie, d’avoir dans ma famille les sources des remèdes qui me sont nécessaires, et d’être à même des consultations, et des ordonnances.
Argan à Toinette (I. V, pp. 13- 14)
[My reason is, that seeing myself infirm and sick, I wish to have a son-in-law and relatives who are doctors, in order to secure their kind assistance in my illness, to have in my family the fountain-head of those remedies which are necessary to me, and to be within reach of consultations and prescriptions.]
Argan à Toinette (I. 5)

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The Imaginary Invalid (wikimedia.commons.org)

Comedy as a genre seldom creates fathers so objectionable that, as the curtain falls, they cannot re-enter the society of the play. L’Avare‘s Harpagon is happy to have found his precious cassette and his children are marrying at no cost to him. In the Imaginary Invalid, Toinettes says to Argan:

Vous n’aurez pas ce cœur-là. (I. v, p. 15)
[You will never have the heart to do it.] (1. 5)

Moreover, not only does Angélique have a surrogate mother, but, as mentioned above, Molière has also created a surrogate father. Béralde, Argan’s brother, is an uncle and an avuncular figure. He visits Argan to propose a husband for Angélique:

J’étais venu ici, mon frère, vous proposer un parti pour ma nièce Angélique.
Béralde à Argan (II. ix, p. 49)
I came here, brother, to propose a match for my niece, Angélique.
Béralde to Argan (II. 12)

Argan gets angry, revealing a degree of strength he claimed he did not possess when his brother arrived. He also shows his total dependence on doctors. He needs to put a doctor in his household.

Béralde on Doctors and Molière

At this point, a long discussion takes place regarding Argan’s medical needs, medicine, doctors and Molière (III. iii, p. 51-58). In Béralde’s eyes, his brother Argan is perfectly healthy, which could be, but hypochondria is an illness in itself. In Molière’s comedies,  characters are as they are. No one can change fancies and obsessions, or chimèresL’Avare‘s Harpagon is a miser and will remain a miser. Monsieur Jourdain is made into a mamamouchi and, in the end, although all his doctors leave, Argan allows Cléante to marry Angélique, provided he becomes a doctor. Clothes suffice. They make you into what you appear.

Béralde explains Molière to his besotted brother. Molière was very sick. His sickness was all he could bear. The doctors of the day knowing little about medicine could have incapacitated him:

Il [Molière] a ses raisons pour n’en point vouloir, et il soutient que cela n’est permis qu’aux gens vigoureux et robustes, et qui ont des forces de reste pour porter les remèdes avec la maladie; mais que pour lui il n’a justement de la force, que pour porter son mal.
Béralde à Argan (III. iii, p. 55)
[He has his reasons for not wishing to have anything to do; he is certain that only strong and robust constitutions can bear their remedies in addition to the illness, and he has only just enough strength for his sickness.]
Béralde to Argan (III. 3)

Béralde criticizes doctors, but reasonably so. Who could have cured Molière of turberculosis? He at least did not lose time seeking the help of doctors and losing energy through blood-letting, une saignée, a favourite remedy in 17th-century medicine. 

But in come the doctors ready to give Argan his enema. There were all kinds of enemas, not just water. But Béralde gets after the doctors who end up leaving, which is a tragedy for Argan who is convinced he needs the care of a physician, even if it means forcing his daughter to marry Thomas Diafoirus. Thomas Diafoirus believes that forcing a woman into a marriage is acceptable.

Le Théâtre dans le Théâtre

The doctors having left Toinette, a servant and caregiver to Angélique and Louison, decides to play doctor. She diagnoses a lung problem, which was Molière’s disease. She also suggests treatments that Argan cannot accept: the removal of an eye and an arm. This is a play.

The doctors having left, the time has also come to discuss Angélique’s marriage. Argan wishes to do as his new wife has suggested, which is to throw Angélique into a convent. But Béline should be coming home soon. So, Toinette asks Argan to make believe he is dead. Feigning death is also theatrical. When Béline is informed of his death, she thanks heaven:

Le Ciel en soit loué. Me voilà délivrée d’un grand fardeau. Que tu es sotte, Toinette,
de t’affliger de cette mort!
Béline à Toinette (III. xii, p. 65)
[Heaven be praised. I am delivered. How silly of you, Toinette, to be so afflicted at his death.]
Béline to Toinette (III. 16)
Va, va, cela n’en vaut pas la peine. Quelle perte est-ce que la sienne, et de quoi servait-il sur la terre? Un homme incommode à tout le monde, malpropre, dégoûtant, sans cesse un lavement, ou une médecine dans le ventre, mouchant, toussant, crachant toujours, sans esprit, ennuyeux, de mauvaise humeur, fatiguant sans cesse les gens, et grondant jour et nuit servantes, et valets.
Béline à Toinette (III. xii, p. 65)
[Pooh! it is not worth the trouble. What loss is it to anybody, and what good did he do in this world? A wretch, unpleasant to everybody; of nauseous, dirty habits; always a clyster or a dose of physic in his body. Always snivelling, coughing, spitting; a stupid,
tedious, ill-natured fellow, who was for ever fatiguing people and scolding night and day at his maids and servants.]
Béline to Toinette ((III. 16)

Béline quickly asks Toinette to help her get to the money.

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Le Malade imaginaire by Charles Robert Leslie (R.A.), 1843 (Victoria and Albert Museum)

Argan feigns death a second time, another theater. When Angélique hears that her father has died, she is devastated.

Ô Ciel! quelle infortune! quelle atteinte cruelle! Hélas! faut-il que je perde mon père, la seule chose qui me restait au monde; et qu’encore pour un surcroît de désespoir, je le perde dans un moment où il était irrité contre moi? Que deviendrai-je, malheureuse, et quelle consolation trouver après une si grande perte?
Angélique à Toinette (III. viii, p. 67)
O heavens! what a misfortune! What a cruel grief! Alas why must I lose my father, the only being left me in the world? and why should I lose him, too, at a time when he was angry with me? What will become of me, unhappy girl that I am? What consolation can I find after so great a loss?
Angélique to Toinette (III, 20)

—ooo—

Doublings play an important role in The Imaginary Invalid. Toinette and Béralde do help the comedy’s young lovers. We find in Toinette and Béralde such ruse and determination, that Argan allows Angélique and Cléante to marry. However, Argan makes the marriage conditional on Cléante becoming a doctor. The young lovers may marry, which is the goal of comedy, but our heavy father succeeds in having a son-in-law who is a doctor. His needs are satisfied.

A post is a post, so I cannot discuss the Interludes. Yet, one performance should be noted. Cléante arrives at Argan’s house. Antoinette hesitates, but allows him to enter Orgon’s room. He and Angélique must speak before entering a life-long relationship. Marriage follows courtship. In order to speak to Angélique, Cléante makes Orgon believe that he is replacing Angélique’s singing teacher. Another performance is required. Once the singing lesson is over, Cléante is reassured that both lovers share the same feelings. The lovers in this play are therefore active and earn the support of Béralde and Toinette.

Doublings occur in Le Malade imaginaire, but spectacles follow spectacles, including the singing lesson. The ultimate among these performances is Argan feigning death, is théâtre dans le théâtre. He discovers his second wife isn’t what he thought she was. He feigns death a second time, and realizes he has a loving daughter. The ceremony during which Cléante will be transformed into a doctor is also theatrical.

Angélique tells her uncle:
Mais, mon oncle, il me semble que vous vous jouez un peu beaucoup de mon père.
Angélique à Béralde (III. xiv, p. 69)
Mais, ma nièce, ce n’est pas tant le jouer, que s’accommoder à ses fantaisies. Tout ceci n’est qu’entre nous. Nous y pouvons aussi prendre chacun un personnage, et nous donner ainsi la comédie les uns aux autres. Le carnaval autorise cela. Allons vite préparer toutes choses.
Angélique à Béralde (III. xiv, p. 69)
[But, uncle, it seems to me that you are making fun of my father.]
Angélique to Béralde (III. last scene)
[But, niece, it is not making too much fun of him to fall in with
his fancies. We may each of us take part in it ourselves, and thus
perform the comedy for each other’s amusement. Carnival time
authorises it. Let us go quickly and get everything ready.]
Béralde to Angélique (III. last scene)

Ruses (trickery) are perfectly acceptable in comedy, farce, in particular. However, The Imaginary Invalid is a series of spectacles. “Carnival time authorises it,” but recourse to so many ploys mocks reality to a barely acceptable degree. It seems too audacious a redemptive mechanism. All the world’s stage.

Yet, as Will More puts it, “[t]he plot of Le Malade Imaginaire is … little more than the various gullibilities of a hypochondriac.”[1]  

____________________
Will G. Moore, Molière a New Criticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1949), p. 72.

Love to everyone 💕

Marc-Antoine Charpentier

comedy-scene-scene-from-molière.jpg!PinterestSmall (2)

© Micheline Walker
4 April 2019
WordPress

We’ll get there …

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Le Malade imaginaire by Honoré Daumier (Wiki2.org)

My post disappeared once again.

I had expressed regret that my brother died when he could have survived. He would have been 76 yesterday. I  have just returned from a memorial service in his honour.

I also shared my view of the strange manner in which certain doctors believe anxiolytics and sleeping pills are the same medication. They may belong to the same family, but one does not take sleeping pills before getting into one’s car.

As well, I mentioned being told that I was responsible for the hemorrhage I suffered. I should have known that aspirins thin the blood.

Moreover, I am seeing abuse of the elderly. If one loses one’s driver’s license, one also loses one’s autonomy and helpers may start controlling your life.

Finally, promoters have found ways of having hastily constructed near or abo make life easier for persons who are ageing. These apartments cost a fortune. One can buy or rent. Promoters want to make millions and do, at the expense of the elderly.

Take pity on retirees.

Argan_in_The_Imaginary_Invalid_in_1913

Konstantin Stanislavski as Argan
in the Moscow Art Theatre production in 1913 (Wiki2.org)

We now enter Molière’s Imaginary Invalid. During the fourth performance of the play, Molière collapsed. He fainted. However, he decided to finish the performance. He was then taken home, hemorrhaged and died. He suffered from tuberculosis.

Louis XIV authorized his being buried in consecrated grounds, but he was buried at night.

The Imaginary Invalid resembles the Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Argan wants his daughter to marry a doctor just as Monsieur Jourdain wants his daughter to marry an aristocracy. Both are comédies-ballets. Marc-Antoine Charpentier wrote the music for the Imaginary Invalid and Pierre Beauchamp was its choreographer.

© Micheline Walker
31 March 2019
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Les Femmes savantes.2

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Molière’s Les Femmes savantes (26 Octobre 2019)

A revised Les Femmes savantes has been published. I hope you will not be taken back to ealier drafts, which the computer does. I think it will work. If it does’nt, I will reinsert the article in a new post. The post is in Word, but my computer is not working well.

A reference to Martine, the kitchen-maid, is missing. Martine is fired because she has made a grammar mistake. She is told she should know Vaugelas, a grammarian. Philaminte rules the household.

My posts will be used in the book. The book however is more analytical and scholarly. Writing posts is nevertheless extremely helpful. I can see how the plays work. In Molière, the plot is not as significant as manners, but there has to be a plot that brings about the marriage that takes place as the curtain falls. Ariste brings letters that tell of the family’s financial demise and Trissotin, three times a fool, leaves.

For instance, Armande combines two functions: the young lover and the blocking character, as does Alceste in the MisanthropeBélise is sottise itself. She thinks Clitandre loves her until the very end of the play, when she condemns haste.

Qu’il prenne garde au moins que je suis dans son cœur.
Par un prompt désespoir souvent on se marie,
Qu’on s’en repent après tout le temps de sa vie.
Bélise à tous (V. scène dernière, p. 74)
[Let him take care, for I still retain my place in his heart. Despair often leads people to conclude a hasty marriage, of which they repent ever after.]
Bélise to all (V. last scene)

This is information we can add to the post. In Molière’s comedies, people are what they are. Clitandre was rejected by Armande, but when he decides to marry Henriette, it is because he is what he is and Henriette will accept him as he is.

Our next play is Le Malade imaginaire, translated by Charles Heron Wall.

Let’s hope I can hang in there…

The picture that adorns the Poème Harmonique’s video of Le Roi a fait battre tambour is by Charles Coypel, who also illustrated Les Femmes savantes. I love combining the play, the music, and the illustrations.

French Baroque Song: Le Roi a fait battre tambour (1750 c.) / Le Poème Harmonique

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Charles-Antoine Coypel  (Wiki2.org.)

© Micheline Walker
29 March 2019
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Dear Readers

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Charles Coypel (dessin) & François Joullain (gravure) (Wikimedia.commons)

My computer truly harmed my post on Les Femmes savantes.  It devoured entire sections. So, I will publish it again, when it has been revised. First, I must rest. I had not kept an entire copy of the post in Word.

It is interesting to see that in Les Femmes savantesMolière transferred the power vested in men to a tyrannical woman. The play is not about knowledge on the part of woman, but on the very genuine abuse young women suffered in seventeenth-century France. One marries a person one is attracted to and who will be a friend for life. 

Trissotin and Vadius are pedants who can no more control their anger than Philaminte. To make matters worse, Trissotin is also trying to marry Henriette so he can help himself to the family’s wealth. He’s a parasite.

A knowledgeable woman would not be fooled by pedants and swindlers. As for Trissotin and Vadius, they would not be allowed in a Salon.

Now that the papers have been signed, it could well be that a petit savant will be allowed entrance into the world. In French venir au monde means to be born. 

I did not include a discussion of Les Femmes savantes in my thesis. I worked on the problematic plays. Henriette resembles Tartuffe‘s Elmire, Orgon’s wife, an admirable woman.

Events are definitely keeping me humble. In comedy, this is the place to be.

Love to everyone  💕

J. P. É. Martini: Plaisir d’amour (1785) for soprano and fortepiano / Le Poème Harmonique

Molière by Charles Coypel (wiki2.org.)

© Micheline Walker
27 March 2019
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Molière’s Les Femmes savantes

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LesFemmesSavantes (2)

Les Femmes savantes
(engraving by Moreau le jeune)

Our dramatis personæ is

CHRYSALE, an honest bourgeois
PHILAMINTE, wife to CHRYSALE
ARMANDE & HENRIETTE, their daughters
ARISTE, brother to CHRYSALE
BÉLISE, his sister
CLITANDRE, lover to HENRIETTE
TRISSOTIN, a wit (bel esprit)
VADIUS, a learned man
MARTINE, a kitchen-maid
LÉPINE, servant to CHRYSALE
JULIEN, servant to VADIUS
A NOTARY

The scene is in Paris

Background

  • Les Précieuses ridicules
  • The Salons
  • l’honnête homme & galanterie
  • literature

Les Femmes savantes is the last of Molière’s three grandes comédies: five acts written in alexandrine verses. It was preceded by Tartuffe (1664) and Le Misanthrope (1666). It would be classified as a comedy of manners (mœurs).

Molière may have drawn his inspiration from a play by Calderón, or Chappuzeau’s L’Académie des femmes.[1] There is a degree of intertextuality in Molière’s Femmes savantes.  However, the play originates in Molière’s own Précieuses ridicules (The Affected Ladies), a one-act play, first staged on 18 November 1659  at the Petit-Bourbon, Molière told Donneau de Visé that he wished to revisit Les Précieuses ridicules

Préciosité was a seventeenth-century movement that had a civilizing influence on courtiers and the rapidly-growing bourgeoisie. L’honnête homme was born in Salons, but he is a descendant of Baldassare Castiliogne‘s (6 December 1478 – 2 February 1529) Il Cortegiano or The Book of the Courtier, written between 1508 and 1528.

The galant homme also developed in the Salons. Courtship was modelled on Madeleine de Scudéry‘s Carte de Tendre, featured in Clélie, one of her novels. The map of the country of love, a French Arcadia, was engraved by Francois Chauveau. Précieuses (precious women) wanted to be courted as indicated in the Carte de Tendre, a monument to proper galanterie, based on rather astute psychology. It represented three forms of love: reconnaissance (roughly, indebtedness), inclination (attraction), and estime.

Les Femmes savantes

(Bold letters are mine.)

  • Philaminte
  • Armande
  • Bélise

Les Femmes savantes features three femmes savantes. They are Philaminte (Chrysale’s wife), their daughter Armande, and Chrysale’s sister Bélise. Armande has a younger sister, Henriette, who wishes to marry. For our femmes savantes, sexual intercourse is bestial. In this respect, Molière is revisiting his Précieuses ridicules. Précieuses enjoyed listening to the witty poetry of the gentlemen they entertained, but were not easily convinced to marry. Our learned women are besotted.

For instance, when Clitandre tells Bélise that he loves Henriette, hoping to win an ally, but Bélise believes he is using an oblique approach to tell her that he loves her.

Ah certes le détour est d’esprit, je l’avoue,
Ce subtil faux-fuyant mérite qu’on le loue;
Et dans tous les romans où j’ai jeté les yeux,
Je n’ai rien rencontré de plus ingénieux.
Bélise à Clitandre (I. iv. p. 9)
[Ah! truly now, the subterfuge shows excellent wit. This subtle evasion deserves praise; and in all the romances I have glanced over, I have never met with anything more ingenious.]
Bélise to Clitandret (I. 4)

Bélise has read too many romances inhabited by shepherds and shepherdesses. She cannot be Clitandre’s ally.

As for Clitandre, he is an honnête homme who wishes to marry a woman who does not consider sexual intimacy bestial. He finds in Henriette a young lady who looks forward to being a loving wife and a good mother. Henriette tells her sister Armande, a learned lady, that if their mother had always rejected men, Armande would not be alive. Procreation ensures the perpetuation of human life and nature has made lovemaking pleasurable.

Mais vous ne seriez pas ce dont vous vous vantez,
Si ma mère n’eût eu que de ces beaux côtés;
Et bien vous prend, ma sœur, que son noble génie
N’ait pas vaqué toujours à la philosophie.
De grâce souffrez-moi par un peu de bonté
Des bassesses à qui vous devez la clarté;
Et ne supprimez point, voulant qu’on vous seconde,
Quelque petit savant qui veut venir au monde.
Henriette à Armande (I. i, p. 3)
[But you would not have been what you boast yourself to be if our mother had had only her nobler qualities; and well it is for you that her lofty genius did not always devote itself to philosophy. Pray, leave me to those littlenesses to which you owe life, and do not, by wishing me to imitate you, deny some little savant entrance into the world.]
Henriette to Armande (I. 1)

Philaminte is forewarned by Julien, a valet to Vadius, a “learned gentleman” whom Trissotin introduces in Chrysale’s home, that Trissotin wants to marry her daughter, because of the family’s wealth, and that he plagiarizes (IV. iv, p. 59) (IV. 4 EN). But Philaminte is so blinded by Trissotin that she does not heed Julien’s warning. On the contrary.

Et moi, pour trancher court toute cette dispute,
Il faut qu’absolument mon désir s’exécute.
Henriette, et Monsieur seront joints de ce pas;
Je l’ai dit, je le veux, ne me répliquez pas:
Et si votre parole à Clitandre est donnée,
Offrez-lui le parti d’épouser son aînée.
Philaminte à Chrysalde (V. iii, p. 70)
[And I, to put an end to this dispute, will have my wish obeyed. (Showing TRISSOTIN) Henriette and this gentleman shall be united at once. I have said it, and I will have it so. Make no reply; and if you have given your word to Clitandre, offer him her elder sister.]
(Philaminte to Chrysale, V. 3)

Trissotin will be unmasked by the raisonneurAriste, Chrysale’s brother, who fools Trissotin into believing that Chrysale and Philaminte have lost their fortune. Trissotin no longer wishes to marry Henriette who may therefore marry Clitandre, to whom she is attracted. 

A Portrait of Armande

Ironically, Clitandre, who will marry Henriette, first courted Armande, who claims him for herself on the grounds of immorality on his part, an absurd claim.

Au changement de vœux nulle horreur ne s’égale,
Et tout cœur infidèle est un monstre en morale.
Armande à Clitandre (IV. ii, p. 52)
[Nothing can be compared to the crime of changing one’s vows, and every faithless heart is a monster of immorality.]
Armande to Clitandre (IV. 2)

Est-ce moi qui vous quitte, ou vous qui me chassez?
Clitandre à Armande (IV. II, p. 52)
[Do I leave you, or do you not rather turn me away?]
Clitandre to Armande (IV. 2)

Armande so loves Clitandre that she is ready to overcome her aversion for nœuds de chair and chaînes corporelles. She has harmed herself.

Hé bien, Monsieur, hé bien, puisque sans m’écouter
Vos sentiments brutaux veulent se contenter;
Puisque pour vous réduire à des ardeurs fidèles,
Il faut des nœuds de chair, des chaînes corporelles;
Si ma mère le veut, je résous mon esprit
À consentir pour vous à ce dont il s’agit.
Armande à Clitandre (IV. ii, p. 53)
[Well, well! Sir, since without being convinced by what I say, your grosser feelings will be satisfied; since to reduce you to a faithful love, you must have carnal ties and material chains, I will, if I have my mother’s permission, bring my mind to consent to all you wish.]
Armande to Clitandre (IV. 2)

But it’s too late, says Clitandre.

Il n’est plus temps, Madame, une autre a pris la place;
Et par un tel retour j’aurais mauvaise grâce
De maltraiter l’asile, et blesser les bontés,
Où je me suis sauvé de toutes vos fiertés.
Clitandre à Armande (IV. ii, pp. 53-54)
[It is too late; another has accepted before you and if I were to return to you, I should basely abuse the place of rest in which I sought refuge, and should wound the goodness of her to whom I fled when you disdained me.]
Clitandre to Armande (IV. 2)

Bélise still thinks she is in Clitandre’s heart.

On pourrait bien lui faire
Des propositions qui pourraient mieux lui plaire:
Mais nous établissons une espèce d’amour
Qui doit être épuré comme l’astre du jour;
La substance qui pense, y peut être reçue,
Mais nous en bannissons la substance étendue.
Bélise à tous (V. iii, pp. 70-71)
[Propositions more to his taste might be made. But we are establishing a kind of love which must be as pure as the morning-star; the thinking substance is admitted, but not the material substance.]
Bélise to all (V. 3)

Trissotin and Vadius

In the meantime, Trissotin and Vadius, have quarelled bitterly. Molière did not depict real persons. He used miroirs publics (La Critique de l’École des femmes, sc. 6). However, Trissotin is modelled on l’abbé Cotin, who had a vile temper, and Vadius is the sarcastic Gilles Ménage. Both gentlemen dishonour themselves by quarrelling, which is not insignificant. They are not to be admitted to Salons, where there is no room for anger. Nor is Philaminte a candidate for a Salon.

Trissotin & Vadius (commons.wikimedia.org)

The Senex Iratus

Les Femmes savantes is a mundus inversus in that the pater familias is a mater familias. Philaminte, Chrysale’s wife, rules. In Les Femmes savantes, Molière has vested unto a woman, the authority normally vested in men. Women are just as capable of opposing a marriage as men are. In this play, the blocking character is used at its most basic level, that of function. So, Philaminte, Henriette’s mother, is our alazṓn. As for Chrysale, Henriette and Armand’s father, let us read.

Non: car comme j’ai vu qu’on parlait d’autre gendre,
J’ai cru qu’il était mieux de ne m’avancer point.
Chrysale à Ariste (II. ix, p. 27)
Certes votre prudence est rare au dernier point!
N’avez-vous point de honte avec votre mollesse?
Et se peut-il qu’un homme ait assez de faiblesse
Pour laisser à sa femme un pouvoir absolu,
Et n’oser attaquer ce qu’elle a résolu?
Ariste à Chrysale (II. ix, p. 27)
[No; for as she talked of another son-in-law, I thought it was better for me to say nothing.
Chrysale to Ariste (II. 9)
Your prudence is to the last degree wonderful! Are you not ashamed of your weakness? How can a man be so poor-spirited as to let his wife have absolute power over him, and never dare to oppose anything she has resolved upon? ]
Ariste to Chrysale (II. 9)

Chrysale is not so docile. Philaminte is as Chrysale describes her to his brother Ariste: bilious, “un vrai dragon,” and a “diable.

Mon Dieu, vous en parlez, mon frère, bien à l’aise,
Et vous ne savez pas comme le bruit me pèse.
J’aime fort le repos, la paix, et la douceur,
Et ma femme est terrible avecque son humeur.
Du nom de philosophe elle fait grand mystère,
Mais elle n’en est pas pour cela moins colère;
Et sa morale faite à mépriser le bien,
Sur l’aigreur de sa bile opère comme rien
Pour peu que l’on s’oppose à ce que veut sa tête,
On en a pour huit jours d’effroyable tempête.
Elle me fait trembler dès qu’elle prend son ton.
Je ne sais où me mettre, et c’est un vrai dragon;
Et cependant avec toute sa diablerie,
Il faut que je l’appelle, et «mon cœur», et «ma mie»
Chrysale à Ariste (II. ix, p. 28)
[Ah! it is easy, brother, for you to speak; you don’t know what a dislike I have to a row, and how I love rest and peace. My wife has a terrible disposition. She makes a great show of the name of philosopher, but she is not the less passionate on that account; and her philosophy, which makes her despise all riches, has no power over the bitterness of her anger. However little I oppose what she has taken into her head, I raise a terrible storm which lasts at least a week. She makes me tremble when she begins her outcries; I don’t know where to hide myself. She is a perfect virago; and yet, in spite of her diabolical temper, I must call her my darling and my love.]
Chrysale to Ariste (II. 9)

Philaminte has un pouvoir absolu (absolute power). So, a form of doubling, or a comedy is required.  The marriage that ends comedies will take place because the raisonneur, Chrysale’s brother, will bring to Philaminte and Chrysale letters indicating that they have lost their wealth. Trissotin will no longer wish to marry Henriette and Clitandre will attempt to look after Chrysale’s family.

In other words, salvation comes through a ploy. No deus ex machina is required, but Ariste resorts to a “théâtre dans le théâtre.” This process underscores the powerlessness of the society of the play. The alazṓn, a senex iratus, would block the marriage comedy demands, were it not for a little “farce.”

La Querelle des femmes

Moreover, we cannot include Les Femmes savantes in the querelle des femmes or the woman question, as Philaminte, whom I call the blocking character, is a woman. Given that she would force sexual intercourse on her daughter. Philaminte is extremely cruel.

The title of Les Femmes savantes may lead the reader or spectator to expect a discussion on the merits of knowledge in the case of women. However, Molière’s play has little to do with the benefits of educating women. Les Femmes savantes is yet another comedy where a blocking character opposes the marriage of young lovers. However, there is a difference. The blocking character is not the traditional heavy father. Philaminte, a woman, is our tyrant.

RELATED ARTICLES

Sources and Resources

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[1] Maurice Rat, ed. Œuvres complètes de Molière, 2 (Paris: La Pléiade, 1956), p. 993.

[2] Dessins par Lorentz, Jules David, etc. Gravures par les meilleurs artistes, Paris, Schneider, 1850.

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J. P. É. Martini: Plaisir d’amour (1785) for soprano and fortepiano / Le Poème Harmonique

© Micheline Walker
26 March 2019
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