We have read all the plays in which Molière satirised doctors and we know why. In 17th century Europe, medicine was not sufficiently advanced for doctors to help patients. However, there were doctors. The sick sought their assistance believing they could be cured. They could not be cured and doctors knew. Yet, doctors collected fees that made many of them wealthy. As well, there were charlatans. I omitted a short scene in which L’Amour médecin’s Sganarelle goes to buy orviétan from a charlatan.
(seul) Me voilà justement un peu plus incertain que je n’étais auparavant. Morbleu, il me vient une fantaisie. Il faut que j’aille acheter de l’orviétan, et que je lui en fasse prendre. L’orviétan est un remède dont beaucoup de gens se sont bien trouvés.
Sganarelle (II. vi, p. 13)
[(the two doctors leave) Here I am now a little more uncertain than I was before. The devil! A fantasy has come to me. I have to go buy some snake oil and make her take it — snake oil is a remedy which many people are very fond of.]
Sganarelle (II. 6, pp. 16-17)
I have also omitted a scene in Le Médecin malgré lui.
Thibaut and his son Perrin consult Sganarelle, who has been made into a doctor. Thibaut tells Sganarelle that Perrin’s mother suffers from hypocrisie (hypocrisy).
The use of the word hypocrisie instead of hydropisie is ironic, but consistent with Molière’s satirical portrayal of doctors. Moreover, Sganarelle is not hearing anything because he has yet to be paid. After he is paid deux écus, Sganarelle can hear, which is another satirical element:
Voilà un garçon qui parle clairement, qui s’explique comme il faut. Vous dites que votre mère est malade d’hydropisie, qu’elle est enflée par tout le corps, qu’elle a la fièvre, avec des douleurs dans les jambes : et qu’il lui prend, parfois, des syncopes, et des convulsions, c’est-à-dire des évanouissements ?
Sganarelle to Perrin (III. ii, p. 24)
[Now I understand! Here’s a boy who speaks clearly and explains things as he should. You say your mother is suffering from hydropsia, is swollen everywhere, and has a fever, with pains in the legs, and sometime she is taken with fits and convulsions, that is to say, with fainting?]
Sganarelle to Perrin (III. 2, p. 39)
Sganarelle has learned that doctors collect first. However, he can hear hydropisie, dropsy, instead of hypocrisie and his diagnostic could be accurate.
I will insert these omissions in their appropriate posts.
I wrote one chapter of my thesis on George Dandin. I re-read it during the week-end and I had the feeling I was reading a text written by an author other than myself. I have also written a post on George Dandin. He is an agroikós, a rustic character, featured in Middle Greek comedy. The comedy of Ancient Greece, Attic comedy, is usually divided into three periods and I will associate at least one writer which each period. Greece’s best-known comic playwrights are:
- Aristophanes (c. 446 – c. 386 BCE) is associated with Old Comedy,
- Antiphanes (c. 408 to 334 BCE), with Middle Comedy (the agroikos), and
- Menander (c. 342/41 – c. 290 BCE) with New Comedy.
I should also mention Philemon (c. 362 BCE– c. 262 BCE). He is associated with New Comedy.
But so much is lost of Ancient Greece’ theatre.
In comedy, stock characters are the
- alazṓn (a senex iratus or a miles gloriosus), the
- eirôn, his opponent, the
- bôlomochus (the buffoon), the
- agroikós (a churlish character)
- and others (the commedia dell’arte … )
Molière was also familiar with Rome’s Atellan farce and with the comedies of Rome’s Plautus (c. 254 – 184 BCE) and Terence (c. 195/185 – c. 159? BC). As well, he knew the commedia dell’arte‘s stock characters. These may be archetypes and are discussed in Northrop Frye‘s Anatomy of Criticism (1959), which, I believe, is essential reading. We have seen the alazṓn, the blocking character of comedy, and the eirôn, the alazṓn’s opponent. The alazṓn has many names. I have also mentioned the pharmakós. The pharmakós is the scapegoat.
George Dandin is an agroikos. This play was discussed in a post, but the pastorals were not. They are:
- Mélicerte (December 1666), two acts (incomplete);
- La Pastorale comique (January 1667), one act;
- Le Sicilien ou l’Amour peintre ( February 1667) one act.
Sources and Resources
- Molière’s pastoral comedies and George Dandin were translated by Henri van Laun. They are an Internet Archive publication.
 L’orviétan était un remède miracle, une sorte de panacée qu’un charlatan italien, Jeronimo Ferranti, prétendait avoir apporté d’Orvieto et qui fut vendu avec beaucoup de succès par lui-même et ses descendants jusqu’au XVIIIe siècle. [Orvietan was a miracle cure, a sort of panacea that an Italian charlatan, Jeronimo Ferranti, claimed he brought from Orvieto, and which he and his descendants sold successfully until the 18th century.]
Love to everyone 💕
© Micheline Walker
29 April 2019