a Praise of Marriage, Anagnorisis, Le Cocu imaginaire, Pascal and Imagination, Sganarelle, the Clever suivante, The Imaginary Cuckold, The Self-Deceived Husband
Sganarelle ou le Cocu imaginaire de Molière : « Allez, fripier d’écrits, impudent plagiaire. » Œuvres: Dessins par Lorentz, Jules David, etc. Gravures par les meilleurs artistes, Paris, Schneider, 1850. (Wiki2.org)
I wrote a very long post on Sganarelle, ou le Cocu imaginaire and apologize. Yet there are points I would like to underline, the first of which is Célie’s suivante’s praise of marriage.
Célie’s Suivante: a Praise of Marriage
In those pleasant times, which flew away like lightning, I went to bed, in the very depth of winter, without kindling a fire in the room; even airing the sheets appeared then to me ridiculous; but now I shiver even in the dog days. In short, madam, believe me there is nothing like having a husband at night by one’s side, were it only for the pleasure of hearing him say, “God bless you,” whenever one may happen to sneeze. Clélie’s suivante praise of marriage (Scene 2).
Can this praise of marriage reassure Célie? She faints and drops her portrait of Lélie.
Sganarelle’s Wife: Jealousy or Love
I did write that Sganarelle’s wife was jealous, but did not quote her. When she sees Sganarelle helping Célie who has fainted, Sganarelle’s wife thinks he is unfaithful to her.
Ah! what do I see? My husband, holding in his arms… But I shall go down; he is false to me most certainly; I should be glad to catch him.
Sganarelle’s wife (Scene 4)
Moreover, Sganarelle’s wife knows that her husband is not a handsome man. She says that the young man the portrait depicts is the kind of person a woman would find attractive.
Que n’ai-je un mari d’une aussi bonne mine,
Au lieu de mon pelé, de mon rustre…
Sganarelle’s wife, (Sc. 6, p. 6)
Alas! why have I not a handsome man like this for my husband instead of my booby, my clod-hopper…?
Sganarelle’s wife (Scene 6)
Yet, in the “recognition” scene (Scene 22), an anagnorisis, Sganarelle’s wife asks Célie not to seduce her husband’s heart. She is fond of her husband despite poor looks.
I am not inclined, Madam, to show that I am over-jealous; but I am no fool, and can see what is going on. There are certain amours which appear very strange; you should be better employed than in seducing a heart which ought to be mine alone.
Sganarelle’s wife to Célie (Scene 22)
Sganarelle viewed by Lélie
But Lélie is confused. Not only has Célie chosen Sganarelle, but the man is ugly, uglier than Lélie was told. How could Célie have found qualities in Sganarelle?
Alas! what have I heard! The report then was true that her husband was the ugliest of all his sex. Even if your faithless lips had never sworn me more than a thousand times eternal love, the disgust you should have felt at such a base and shameful choice might have sufficiently secured me against the loss of your affection… But this great insult, and the fatigues of a pretty long journey, produce all at once such a violent effect upon me, that I feel faint, and can hardly bear up under it.
Lélie, alone (Scene 10)
Lélie cannot see Sganarelle’s heart. He thinks his good looks should have served him. He doesn’t know the “other” man is Valère, nor does he know that “the cœur has its reasons, which reason doesn’t know.” (“Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.”) (Blaise Pascal)
It is at this point that Célie’s maid decides to “interfere.” She knows that Célie loves Lélie and that Gorgibus has decided his daughter would marry Valère, rather than Lélie. What Célie’s suivante does not appear to know is that Célie dropped her portrait of Lélie and that Sganarelle’s wife picked it up and admired it. Hearing his wife praise the portrait, Sganarelle snatched the portrait and became extremely jealous.
Célie’s suivante (maid) “interferes”
Célie’s suivante knows that Célie is in love with Lélie, but that her father wants her to marry Valère.
Upon my word, I do not know when this entanglement will be unravelled. I have tried for a pretty long time to comprehend it, but the more I hear the less I understand. Really I think I must interfere at last. (Placing herself between Lelio and Celia). Answer me one after another, and (To Lelio) allow me to ask what do you accuse this lady of?
Célia’s maid to Lélie (Scene 22)
In other words she knows that Célie is not Sganarelle’s lover and that his wife is keeping him on a short leash.
But, the plot is as Lélie says, except that Célie has not married Sganarelle. Célie dropped the portrait which is in Sganarelle’s hands when Lélie talks to him.
As soon as I heard she was going to be married I hastened hither, carried away by an irrepressible love, and not believing I could be forgotten; but discovered, when I arrived here, that she was married to Sganarelle.
Lélie to Clélie’s suivante (Scene 22)
Lélie does have a rival, but the rival is an invisible Valère. That is why he was riding back to Paris as quickly as possible. So there is a blondin berne le barbon (the young man fools the old man). But as the plot unfolds, Gorgibus does not seem a blocking-character. The blondin berne le barbon seems to provide a frame story. The themes are jealousy, cuckolding, and false appearances. Sganarelle imagines that he is a cocu, and he can’t resist his bile.
By the way, yes Les Précieuses ridicules were extremely successful when the farce was first performed, on 18 November 1659. But, in the long run, Sganarelle, ou le Cocu imaginaire has been the more popular play. It’s progeny is truly impressive. I have unearthed more sources, but Sganarelle was paraphrased, imitated and adapted time and again. (See The Imaginary Cuckold, Le Cocu imaginaire, Wiki2.org.) During Molière’s life time, or from 1660 to 1673, Sganarelle was played 122 times.
The fact that Sganarelle’s wife loves her husband says a great deal about Molière. Sganarelle, played by Molière, may not be handsome in the eyes of other persons. In fact, his wife knows that he is not handsome, but he is her man.
Célie’s suivante unravels the mess, and her praise of marriage makes sense. A good husband provides warmth and reassurance. A man and wife are a household. They operate a small business and may become the best of friends. We will be looking at Les Quinze joyes de mariage (The Fifteen Joys of Marriage) a satire, but… Molière read it. It’s an Internet Archive publication, in old French, but I had to study old French.
As for Blaise Pascal on imagination, see Section two #82 of his Pensées. It is Gutenberg [eBook #18269].
Imagination. It is that deceitful part in man, that mistress of error and falsity, the more deceptive that she is not always so; for she would be an infallible rule of truth, if she were an infallible rule of falsehood. But being most generally false, she gives no sign of her nature, impressing the same character on the true and the false.
The computer works quite well, but be very careful. Internet criminals are now very convincing. They use a form of terrorism. They say they want to protect you from the “bad guys” who are already helping themselves to your pension fund and stealing your identity. This isn’t true. They are the “bad guys.”
Yesterday, I realized I could not copy passages from my usual internet publications, such as toutmolière.net. I hope this is a temporary setback.
I apologize for not reading your posts. I could not use the computer.
Sources and Resources
- Sganarelle or the Self-Deceived Husband is [eBook #6681]
- Sganarelle ou Le Cocu imaginaire is a Wikisource publication
- Pascal’s Pensées are Gutenberg [eBook #18269]
- Molière 21
 Maurice Rat, ed., Les Œuvres complètes de Molière (Paris: Gallimard, collection La Pléiade, 1956), pp. 850-855.
Love to everyone 💕
Lalande – Symphonies pour les soupers du Roi: Caprice de Villers-Cotterets (Part 1) (beautiful music)
© Micheline Walker
21 Juin 2019