The Cycle Don Juan belongs to the world. Wikipedia’s entry on Molière’s Dom Juan contains lists. In other words, there are several narratives, plays, poems, music, films, etc. featuring Don Juan, including Mozart’s Don Giovanni, an opera. But Don Juan, the lady-killer and murderer, was created by Spanish baroque dramatist Tirso de Molina (24 March 1579 – 12 March 1648), a monk in the Mercedarian (from mercy) order. On his return from a mission in Santo Domingo (1616-1618), Tirso resided in the Mercedarian monastery in Madrid.
According to Hérodote.net (please scroll down to a text and a video), Molina had read in the Chronique de Séville, that Don Juan, the murderer of Governor Ulloa, whose daughter he seduced, was led to hell by a live statue of the Governor, le commandeur. The body of the governor had been laid to rest in the burial ground of a Franciscan convent. In Dom Juan, a play by Molière, the rake suffers the same fate as Governor Ulloa’s Don Juan. In Molière’s Dom Juan, la statue du Commandeur, invites Dom Juan to dinner, takes his hand, which Dom Juan offers, and leads him to a fiery abyss (toutmolière.notice).
The myth or legend may precede Tirso de Molina’s play, but former lady-killers would belong to an oral tradition. In the learned (written) tradition, the first Don Juan is the protagonist of Tirso de Molina’s The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest. The play was first performed in 1625 (toutmolière.notice).
Mozart’s Don Giovanni (K 257) (1787), written on a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, and Molière’s Dom Juan (1665) are the most famous versions of the Don Juan legend, but the legend may have different components. For instance, I mentioned, in an earlier post, that Molière’s Dom Juan contains little eroticism, in which it differs from Tirso de Molina’s Don Juan, whose lady-killer is driven by his sexual appetite. Moreover, in Molière’s play, the commandeur is killed before the curtain rises and Dom Juan has tired of Done Elvire, his wife, who left a convent, l’obstacle sacré d’un couvent (I. i, p. 3) (the sacred obstacle of a nunnery [I. 1, p. 80]), to marry Dom Juan.
At this point, I will mention Don Juan Tenorio, a play written in 1844, by José Zorrillia. In Zorrillia’s play, Doña Inés de Ulloa has died and a statue of her has been erected. She comes to life again, as do various statues of commandeurs, and leads Dom Juan to heaven. Don Juan Tenorio has a happy ending. Doña Inés has been in purgatory atoning for Don Juan’s murdered victims: Don Luis, Doña Ana’s fiancé, and Don Gonzalo, Doña Ana’s father.
Don Juan Tenorio differs substantially from Molière’s and Mozart’s. But it remains that all versions of Don Juan, including Don Juan Tenorio, are variations on a theme by Tirso the Molina.
Don Juan Tenorio can be described as a romanticized Don Juan.The Don Juan cycle can be broken into traditions, such as the farcical and the Romantic. The Romantic Don Juan reaches beyond the limits of the human condition. This Don Juan has intimations of immortality, etc. Lord Byron‘s Don Juan is a Romantic Don Juan. (See Don Juan [Lord Byron].)
Molière’s Dom Juan is enigmatic, but it can considered farcical. He is an inferior character who dares believe that all women are entitled to the brief attention he will bestow. Sganarelle tells Dom Gusman (Leporello in Don Giovanni), that Dom Juan is an “épouseur à toutes mains.” He has married so many women that it would take Sganarelle all day to name them:
… dame, demoiselle, bourgeoise, paysanne, il ne trouve rien de trop chaud, ni de trop froid pour lui; et si je te disais le nom de toutes celles qu’il a épousées en divers lieux, ce serait un chapitre à durer jusques au soir. Sganarelle à Don Gusman (I. i, p. 3) [A lady, gentlewoman, citizen’s daughter, countrywoman; he thinks nothing too hot or too cold for him; and if I were to tell you the names of all those whom he has married in different places, I would not have finished until night.] Sganarelle to Don Guzman (I. 1, p. 80)
In Leporello’s catalog there would be mille e tre.
However, Molière’s Dom Juan is also the bombastic and a rather étourdi, scatterbrained, character. Dom Juan does not allow Sganarelle, Molière’s role, to reprimand him. He and God can settle issues between one another, which is fine material for a farce. God will not use a needle to deflate Dom Juan, but the Commandeur he has killed will come to life and push him into hell.
Va, va, c’est une affaire entre le Ciel et moi, et nous la démêlerons bien ensemble, sans que tu t’en mettes en peine. Dom Juan to Sganarelle(I. ii, pp. 7-8) [That’s enough. It’s an issue between Heaven and me, and we get along just fine without you bothering yourself about it.] Dom Juan to Sganarelle (I. 2, p. 68)
Molière’s Dom Juan was written quickly and was condemned after 15 performances. It is a famous Don Juan, yet part of a cycle of seducers created by Tirso de Molina (1625). Tirso, who wrote approximately 300 plays, some of which were licentious, was at times reprimanded. In fact, he was sent briefly to Salamanca. His Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest, the first Don Juan, was written in the country where casuistry, a form of jurisprudence on moral issues,was developed. Casuistry could justify many sins.
We now turn to Molière Dom Juan which features Sganarelle, our last Sganarelle, Molière’s masque.
In Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni, the list of the mille e tre conquests of the hero, as sung by Leporello, beginning Madamina, il catologo è questo, Delle belle ch’amo ilpadron mio, produces a great and admirable effect. (Henri van Laun, The Dramatic Works of Molière, vol. 2, p. 81, footnote 5).
We’ve had it, and I hope sincerely that you are not reëlected. Millions of Americans and millions of human beings on Planet Earth have to suffer paralyzing and deadly heat waves, while you dismiss “climate change” as “fake news.”
I would also like to speak to you about the fate of women in your country. Do not think for one minute that a woman should always be exposed to unwanted, not to mention yearly, pregnancies. Open planned-parenthood facilities, so women never have to undergo a life-threatening and unwanted abortion. The life of a woman is dear to her, dear to her husband/partner, and dear to her family. Let women be.
As well, tackle doctors. They deserve an excellent salary, but in no way do they need to be very wealthy. They may well be more compassionate than you thought. As well, tackle pharmaceutical companies. This discussion includes everyone. Everyone is part of the equation.
You are lucky to have a fine wife. She’s an immigrant! Will you deport her? In fact, will you deport yourself? Except for Amerindians, North-Americans are immigrants.
By the way, ordinary people do not need guns. If some Americans enjoy target practice, safe facilities are available.
I will not cover other issues, but I am asking you to
deal with the very real problem of climate change,
to open planned-parenthood clinics,
to make health care affordable, preferably free,
to stop deporting innocent immigrants,
to take guns away from ordinary citizens, and
to drive out poverty.
The current year is 2019. When will humanity be protected?
If you do not deal with the above-mentioned issues as quickly as possible, Americans, the World and the climate will deal with you.
I should say I rather liked you when you visited the United Kingdom. Melania looked gorgeous. As for the Queen, she is a professional.
Would that I could watch you a little more, but I’m trying to write a book on Molière and providing information to the excellent people who read my posts as a I write the book. I require funding, but I doubt that my university will provide it.
“Yes, death seems to me a hundred times less dreadful than this fatal marriage into which I am forced; all that I am doing to escape its horrors should excuse me in the eyes of those who blame me. Time presses; it is night; now, then, let me fearlessly entrust my fate to a lover’s fidelity.” (Isabelle, III. i, p. 33)
Translator Henri van Laun
Oui le trépas [death] cent fois, me semble moins à craindre, Que cet hymen fatal où l’on veut me contraindre; Et tout ce que je fais pour en fuir les rigueurs, Doit trouver quelque grâce auprès de mes censeurs; Le temps presse, il fait nuit, allons sans crainte aucune, À la foi d’un amant, commettre ma fortune. Isabelle (III. i, p. 38)
L’École des maris
When Valère and Isabelle leave at the curtain falls on Act Two, Valère has let Isabelle know that he will free within three days, or three days from the moment they part.
Isabelle cannot wait three days. Sganarelle will marry her the next day. What will she do? Once again, a forced marriage justifies the means, but these are not evil means. Isabelle has to lie. Molière’s ladies are very clever.
The Final Ruse
As soon as she hears that Sganarelle will marry her the very next day, Isabelle comes up with her best ruse. She tells Sganarelle that her sister is in love with Valère and that both are locked in her (Isabelle’s) room.
Sganarelle is pleased because he can now show his older brother, Ariste, that he knows best, that he was the better brother. He has raised Isabelle by confining her to a room. He believed that by locking Isabelle in her room, he would raise a virtuous spouse. But Isabelle has learned to despise Sganarelle. He expects Ariste to find Léonor in bed with Valère. No, Léonor is at a ball.
Isabelle runs to Valère’s house, so Sganarelle is perplexed:
Au logis du galant, quelle est son entreprise? Sganarelle, seul (III. ii, p. 41) [(Aside). To the gallant’s house! What is her design?] Sganarelle, alone (III. 2, p. 36)
So, Isabelle frees herself, but although Sganarelle is surprised, his most important concern is to let his brother Ariste know that he has brought up une mondaine who is now in bed with Valère inside Isabelle’s room.
Ah je te promets bien, que je n’ai pas envie, De te l’ôter l’infâme à ses feux asservie, Que du don de ta foi je ne suis point jaloux, Et que si j’en suis cru, tu seras son époux, Oui, faisons-le surprendre avec cette effrontée, La mémoire du père, à bon droit respectée; Jointe au grand intérêt que je prends à la sœur, Veut que du moins l’on tâche à lui rendre l’honneur; Holà. Sganarelle à Isabelle (III. iii, p. 42)
[Oh, I can assure you I do not want to take from you a shameless girl, so blinded by her passion. I am not jealous of your promise to her; if I am to be believed, you shall be her husband. Yes, let us surprise him with this bold creature. The memory of her father, who was justly respected, and the great interest I take in her sister, demand that an attempt, at least, should be made to restore her honour. Hulloa, there!(Knocks at the door of a magistrate).]
Sganarelle (III. 4, p. 36)
Sganarelle does knock on the Commissaire‘s door, who happens to be with a notary. How convenient, a contract can be signed that will restore Léonor’s honour. Sganarelle then knocks on his brother’s door (III. v).
Votre Léonor où, je vous prie est-elle? Sganarelle à Ariste (III. v, p. 44)
[Where is your Léonor, pray?] Sganarelle to Ariste (III. 6, p. 37)
Pourquoi cette demande? Elle est comme je croi, Au bal chez son amie. Ariste à Sganarelle (III. v, p. 44)
[Why this question? She is, as I think, at a friend’s house at a ball.] Ariste to Sganarelle (III. 6, p. 37)
Sganarelle then tells his brother that Léonor is in bed with Valère.
L’énigme est que son bal est chez Monsieur Valère. Que de nuit je l’ai vue y conduire ses pas, Et qu’à l’heure présente elle est entre ses bras. Sganarelle à Ariste (III. v, p. 45)
[The riddle is that her ball is at Valère’s; that I saw her go to him under cover of night, and that she is at this moment in his arms.] Sganarelle to Ariste (III. 6, p. 38)
Ariste cannot believe what he has heard. Appearances are deceptive and Ariste would never have forced Léonor into a marriage.
L’apparence qu’ainsi sans m’en faire avertir, À cet engagement elle eût pu consentir, Moi qui dans toute chose ai depuis son enfance, Montré toujours pour elle entière complaisance, Et qui cent fois ai fait des protestations, De ne jamais gêner ses inclinations. Ariste to all (III. v, p. 47)
[Is it likely she could thus have agreed to this engagement without telling me? me! who in everything, from her infancy, ever displayed towards her a complete readiness to please, and who a hundred times protested I would never force her inclinations.] Ariste to all (III. 8, p.38)
In Scene Seven, Valère enters the house and tells that he has made a commitment to Isabelle.
Enfin quoi qu’il advienne, Isabelle a ma foi, j’ai de même la sienne, Et ne suis point un choix à tout examiner, Que vous soyez reçus à faire condamner. Valère à tous (III. vii, p. 48)
[To be brief: whatever be the consequence, Isabella has my solemn promise; I also have hers; if you consider everything, I am not so bad a match that you should blame her.] Valère to all (III. 8, p. 40)
Sganarelle is so certain that Valère is in bed with Léonor that he signs a contract that makes Valère the husband of the woman who might be in his lodgings. The notary leaves a blank space for the name.
In Scene Eight, Léonor returns from the ball rather disappointed. Ariste wants to know why she has played a trick on him. Sganarelle learns that she wasn’t with Valère, Isabelle was, who, by contract, is now married to Valère.
Ariste is surprised. Why did Léonor not discuss this matter with her? Their friendship goes back to childhood.
Léonor tells Ariste that she would marry him the very next day, if he asked. The discussion is over.
Je ne sais pas sur quoi vous tenez ce discours; Mais croyez que je suis de même que toujours, Que rien ne peut pour vous altérer mon estime, Que toute autre amitié me paraîtrait un crime, Et que si vous voulez satisfaire mes vœux, Un saint nœud dès demain nous unira nous deux. Léonor à Ariste (III. viii, p. 51)
[I know not why you speak to me thus; but believe me, I am as I have ever been; nothing can alter my esteem for you; love for any other man would seem to me
a crime; if you will satisfy my wishes, a holy bond shall unite us tomorrow.] Léonor to Ariste (III. 9, p. 41)
In the final scene, Isabelle apologizes to Léonor for having used a stratagem that could, temporarily, dishonour her sister. It was despair. Isabelle did not want to be forced into a marriage with Sganarelle. She might have killed herself. In fact, she had found a good man who will marry her and, ironically, Sganarelle himself has signed the marriage contract. Again, in L’École des maris, irony is Molière’s main literary device.
The play ends on the prospect of a double marriage. “Tout est bien qui finit bien.” (“All’s well that end well.”) As for Sganarelle, he is hoisted by his own petard.
The main figure in this play is irony. Sganarelle himself makes it possible for his ward, whom he wishes to marry to meet Valère and to know that he is sufficiently honourable for her to take refuge in his house. But, once again, we have seen the jaloux as is own victim. Molière’s jaloux is his own victim. Sganarelle is Sganarelle’s worst enemy. He signs a contract that will allow Isabelle to marry Valère, which is how Molière expresses an inner drama. It is also interesting to note that Ariste doubts very much that Léonor is in bed with Valère. He is right in trusting her. Léonor may be forty years younger than Ariste, but he has brought her up gently. He has trusted her. The carte de Tendre proposes different kinds of love. If honnêteté there is, Ariste and Valère qualify. They are also examples of the galant homme, the gentleman.
Italy is the birthplace of refinement. Yet it could be that the Grand Siècle’s main achievement is l‘honnête homme. Salons were created in 17th-century France and they endured. Préciosité went too far, which is what Molière mocked. Molière did not mock women. On the contrary. When Isabelle realizes that a lie can be put into the service of a good end, she uses a lie and shows resolve. Isabelle’s life would be taken from her if Sganarelle married her. She would be his possession, his slave. There’s no evil in what she does. Nor does Molière vilify Sganarelle. Sganarelle boasted, which farce does not allow.
Molière mixes plot formulas. In L’École des maris, he uses the “all’s well that ends well,” the traditional happy ending of comedy. However, it is not, at least not immediately, a happy ending for Sganarelle. Ariste deflates a boasting Sganarelle, a farcical element. But ironically, Sganarelle approves of Valère. He finds in him an honnête homme and feels sorry for him, which is good news for Isabelle. She can trust Valère by Sganarelle own standards and testimonial. All the ruses confirm that Valère loves Isabelle. Sganarelle stands between Isabelle and Valère. He is the obstacle to a marriage between the young lovers, while promoting their marriage. He is the person Valère needed in Sganarelle’s household.
Sganarelle therefore combines several several comedic functions. He is the go-between in a love story, the senex iratus, or blocking character, in the same love story, not to mention the father, albeit a pater familias.
Let him [Valère], without more sighing, hasten a marriage which is all I desire, and accept the assurance which I give him, never to listen to the vows of another. (She pretends to embrace Sganarelle, and gives her hand to Valère to kiss.) Isabelle to Valère (II. 14, p. 32)
The image above shows Valère after he has learned that Isabelle loves him as much as he loves her. Sganarelle, her guardian, is holding her, but Valère kisses her hand.
L’École des maris
Just before the beginning of Act Two, Ergaste, Valère’s valet, is surprised to hear that Valère has yet to tell Isabelle that he loves him. He has been looking at Isabelle for four months. Love may not have made him “inventif,” but he has not found, in Sganarelle’s house, servants who could help him. Traditionally, servants help the young couple. Léonor, Ariste’s ward, has a suivante, but Isabelle doesn’t and she is confined to her room.
Mais qu’aurais-tu pu faire? Puisque sans ce brutal on ne la voit jamais, Et qu’il n’est là dedans servantes ni valets, Dont par l’appas flatteur de quelque récompense, Je puisse pour mes feux ménager l’assistance. Valère à Ergaste (I. iv, p. 16)
[Why, what could you have done? For one never sees her without that brute ; in the house there are neither maids nor men-servants whom I might influence to assist me by the alluring temptation of some reward. Valère to Ergaste (I. 6, p. 19)
Knowing she will be forced to marry Sganarelle, her gardian, Isabelle, on the other hand, is very inventive, even if it means lying to Sganarelle and manipulating him.
Ô ciel, sois-moi propice, et seconde en ce jour,
Le stratagème adroit, d’une innocente amour. Isabelle, à part (II. i, p. 17)
[Heaven, be propitious, and favour today
the artful contrivance of an innocent love.] Isabelle, alone (II. 2, p. 20)
Je fais pour une fille, un projet bien hardi;
Mais l’injuste rigueur, dont envers moi l’on use,
Dans tout esprit bien fait, me servira d’excuse. Isabelle, seule (II. i, p. 17)
[(As she goes in). For a girl, I am planning a pretty
bold scheme. But the unreasonable severity with which
I am treated will be my excuse to every right mind.] Isabelle, alone (II. 2, p. 20)
The First Ruse: a Message to Valère
In Scene Two, Sganarelle goes to Valère’s house to tell him that he is Isabelle’s guardian and that he will marry her.
Savez-vous, dites-moi, que je suis le tuteur, D’une fille assez jeune, et passablement belle, Qui loge en ce quartier, et qu’on nomme Isabelle? Sganarelle à Valère (II. ii, p. 20)
[Tell me: do you know that I am guardian to a
tolerably young and passably handsome girl who lives in
this neighbourhood, and whose name is Isabella?] Sganarelle to Valère (II. 3, p. 21)
Valère says he does. He may not, but he has been admiring her.
Si vous le savez, je ne vous l’apprends pas. Mais savez-vous aussi, lui trouvant des appas; Qu’autrement qu’en tuteur sa personne me touche, Et qu’elle est destinée à l’honneur de ma couche? Sganarelle à Valère (II. ii, p. 20)
[As you know it, I need not tell it to you. But do you know, likewise, that as I find her charming, I care for her otherwise than as a guardian, and that she is destined for the honour of being my wife?] Sganarelle to Valère (II. 3, p. 21)
He tells Valère, that he is speaking to him on her behalf. She has noticed Valère, but Sganarelle states that only he has access to her heart.
Oui, vous venir donner cet avis franc, et net, Et qu’ayant vu l’ardeur dont votre âme est blessée, Elle vous eût plus tôt fait savoir sa pensée; Si son cœur avait eu dans son émotion, À qui pouvoir donner cette commission; Mais qu’enfin les douleurs d’une contrainte extrême, L’ont réduite à vouloir se servir de moi-même Pour vous rendre averti, comme je vous ai dit, Qu’à tout autre que moi son cœur est interdit;
Que vous avez assez joué de la prunelle,
Et que si vous avez tant soit peu de cervelle,
Vous prendrez d’autres soins, adieu jusqu’au revoir,
Voilà ce que j’avais, à vous faire savoir. (I. ii, p. 21) [Yes, makes me come to you and give you this frank and plain message; also, that, having observed the violent love wherewith your soul is smitten, she would earlier have let you know what she thinks about you if, perplexed as she was, she could have found anyone to send this message by; but that at length she was painfully compelled to make use of me, in order to assure you, as I have told you that her affection is denied to all save me; that you have been ogling her long enough; and that, if you have ever so little brains, you will carry your passion somewhere else. Farewell, till our next meeting. That is what I had to tell you.] (II. 4, p. 22)
In Scene Three, when Sganarelle comes home after speaking with Valère, Isabelle tells him that she fears he hasn’t understood. He has thrown a gilded box containing a letter into her room. Sganarelle would like to read the letter, but if the letter is read it be returned unsealed, Valère might think that she has read the letter. Therefore, as he carries the letter back to Valère’s house, Sganarelle does not know that it is a billet-doux, a love letter, Isabelle is sending to Valère.
« Cette lettre vous surprendra, sans doute, et l’on peut trouver bien hardi pour moi, et le dessein de vous l’écrire, et la manière de vous la faire tenir; mais je me vois dans un état à ne plus garder de mesures; la juste horreur d’un mariage, dont je suis menacée dans six jours, me fait hasarder toutes choses, et dans la résolution de m’en affranchir par quelque voie que ce soit, j’ai cru que je devais plutôt vous choisir que le désespoir. Ne croyez pas pourtant que vous soyez redevable de tout à ma mauvaise destinée; ce n’est pas la contrainte où je me trouve qui a fait naître les sentiments que j’ai pour vous; mais c’est elle qui en précipite le témoignage, et qui me fait passer sur des formalités où la bienséance du sexe oblige. Il ne tiendra qu’à vous que je sois à vous bientôt, et j’attends seulement que vous m’ayez marqué les intentions de votre amour, pour vous faire savoir la résolution que j’ai prise; mais surtout songez que le temps presse, et que deux cœurs qui s’aiment doivent s’entendre à demi-mot. »
Isabelle (II. V, p. 25-26)
“This letter will no doubt surprise you; both the resolution to write to you and the means of conveying it to your hands may be thought very bold in me; but I am in such a condition, that I can no longer restrain myself. Well-founded repugnance to a marriage with which I am threatened in six days, makes me risk everything; and in the determination to free myself from it by whatever means, I thought I had rather choose you than despair. Yet do not think that you owe all to my evil fate; it is not the constraint in which I find myself that has given rise to the sentiments entertain for you; but it hastens the avowal of them, and makes me transgress the decorum which the proprieties of my sex require. It depends on you alone to make me shortly your own; I wait only until you have declared your intentions to me before acquainting you with the resolution I have taken; but, above all, remember that time presses, and that two hearts, which love each other, ought to understand even the slightest hint.” Isabelle (II. 8, pp. 25-26)
The Third Ruse: Abduction
Having delivered the unsealed love letter (billet-doux), Sganarelle returns to Isabelle’s room. He tells his ward that Valère, a honnête homme, is very much in love with her:
Tous ses désirs étaient de t’obtenir pour femme, Si les destins en moi, qui captive ton cœur, N’opposaient un obstacle à cette juste ardeur;
Je le trouve honnête homme, et le plains de t’aimer[.] Sganarelle à Isabelle (II. vii, pp. 32-33)
[… his only desire was to obtain you for a wife, if destiny had not opposed an obstacle to his pure flame, through me, who captivated your heart; that, whatever happens, you must not think that your charms can ever be forgotten by him; that, to whatever decrees of Heaven he must submit, his fate is to love you to his last breath; …] Sganarelle to Isabelle (II. 11. p. 28)
Mais il ne savait pas tes inclinations, Et par l’honnêteté de ses intentions Son amour ne mérite… Sganarelle à Isabelle (II. vii, pp. 29-30)
[But he did not know your inclinations; and,
from the uprightness of his intentions, his love does not
deserve . . .] Sganarelle to Isabelle (II. 11, p. 28)
Est-ce les avoir bonnes, Dites-moi de vouloir enlever les personnes, Est-ce être homme d’honneur de former des desseins Pour m’épouser de force en m’ôtant de vos mains? Comme si j’étais fille à supporter la vie, Après qu’on m’aurait fait une telle infamie. Isabelle à Sganarelle (II. vii, p. 30)
[Is it good intentions, I ask, to try and carry people
off? Is it like a man of honour to form designs for marrying me by force, and taking me out of your hands? As if I were a girl to live after such a disgrace!]
N’avez-vous point de honte, étant ce que vous êtes, De faire en votre esprit les projets que vous faites, De prétendre enlever une fille d’honneur Et troubler un hymen [marriage] fait tout son bonheur? Sganarelle à Valère (II. viii, pp. 22-23)
[Are you not ashamed, considering who you are, to form such designs as you do? To intend to carry off a respectable girl, and interrupt a marriage on which her whole happiness depends?] Sganarelle to Valère (II. 8, p. 30)
Valère is unconvinced. Sganarelle decides to take Valère to his home so Isabelle can speak to him.
Voulez-vous qu’elle-même elle explique son cœur? J’y consens volontiers pour vous tirer d’erreur, Suivez-moi, vous verrez s’il est rien que j’avance, Et si son jeune cœur entre nous deux balance. (Il va frapper à sa porte.)
Sganarelle à Valère (II. viii, p. 33)
[To set you right, I willingly consent to it. Follow me; you shall hear if I have added anything, and if her young heart hesitates between us two. (Goes and knocks at his own door).] Sganarelle to Valère (II. 14, p. 30)
Et voulez-vous charmé de ses rares mérites, M’obliger à l’aimer, et souffrir ses visites? Isabelle à Sganarelle (II. ix, p. 33)
[And do you wish, charmed by his rare merits, to compel me to love him, and endure his visits?] Isabelle to Sganarelle (II. 14, p. 31)
Quoi mon âme à vos yeux ne se montre pas toute,
Et de mes vœux encor vous pouvez être en doute? Isabelle à Valère (II. ix, p. 33) [What! Is not my soul completely bared to your eyes, and can you still doubt whom I love?] Isabelle to Valère (II. 14, p. 31)
Oui tout ce que Monsieur, de votre part m’a dit, Madame, a bien pouvoir de surprendre un esprit, J’ai douté, je l’avoue, et cet arrêt suprême, Qui décide du sort de mon amour extrême, Doit m’être assez touchant pour ne pas s’offenser, Que mon cœur par deux fois le fasse prononcer. Valère à Isabelle (II. ix, p. 34)
[Yes, all that this gentleman has told me on your behalf, Madam, might well surprise a man ; I confess I doubted it. This final sentence, which decides the fate of my great love, moves my feelings so much that it can be no offence if I wish to have it repeated.] Valère to Isabelle (II. 14, p. 31)
The following quotation is central to a discussion of the play.
Non non, un tel arrêt ne doit pas vous surprendre, Ce sont mes sentiments qu’il vous a fait entendre, Et je les tiens fondés sur assez d’équité, Pour en faire éclater toute la vérité; Oui je veux bien qu’on sache, et j’en dois être crue, Que le sort offre ici deux objets à ma vue, Qui m’inspirant pour eux différents sentiments, De mon cœur agité font tous les mouvements. L’un par un juste choix où l’honneur m’intéresse, A toute mon estime et toute ma tendresse; Et l’autre pour le prix de son affection, A toute ma colère et mon aversion: La présence de l’un m’est agréable et chère, J’en reçois dans mon âme une allégresse entière, Et l’autre par sa vue inspire dans mon cœur De secrets mouvements, et de haine et d’horreur. Me voir femme de l’un est toute mon envie, Et plutôt qu’être à l’autre, on m’ôterait la vie; Mais c’est assez montrer mes justes sentiments, Et trop longtemps languir dans ces rudes tourments: Il faut que ce que j’aime usant de diligence, Fasse à ce que je hais perdre toute espérance, Et qu’un heureux hymen affranchisse mon sort, D’un supplice pour moi plus affreux que la mort. Isabelle à Valère(II. ix, p. 34) [No, no, such a sentence should not surprise you. Sganarelle told you my very sentiments ; I consider them to be sufficiently founded on justice, to make their full truth clear. Yes, I desire it to be known, and I ought to be believed, that fate here presents two objects to my eyes, who, inspiring me with different sentiments, agitate my heart. One by a just choice, in which my honour is involved, has all my esteem and love; and the other, in return for his affection, has all my anger and aversion. The presence of the one is pleasing and dear to me, and fills me with joy; but the sight of the other inspires me with secret emotions of hatred and horror. To see myself the wife of the one is all my desire; and rather than belong to the other, I would lose my life. But I have sufficiently declared my real very sentiments; I consider them to be sufficiently founded on justice, to make their full truth clear. Yes, I desire it to be known, and I ought to be believed, that fate here presents two objects to my eyes, who, inspiring sentiments ; and languished too long under this severe torture. He whom I love must use diligence to make him whom I hate lose all hope, and deliver me by a happy marriage, from a suffering more terrible than death.] Isabelle to Valère (II. 14, p. 31)
At this point, it becomes clear in Valère’s mind that Isabelle wants Valère to take her away from Sganarelle. There is one more ruse, in Act Three.
Que sans plus de soupirs, Il conclue un hymen qui fait tous mes désirs, Et reçoive en ce lieu, la foi que je lui donne, De n’écouter jamais les vœux d’autre personne. Isabelle à Valère (II. ix, p. 35)
[Let him, without more sighing, hasten a marriage which is all I desire, and accept the assurance which I give him, never to listen to the vows of another. (She pretends to embrace Sganarelle, and gives her hand to Valère to kiss.)] Isabelle to Valère (II. 14, p. 32)
I need to stop, because I have run out of space. Note the double entendre used by Isabelle. Isabelle is as clever as zanni and, ironically, she uses Sganarelle as go-between. This is the height of irony. She says the opposite of what she means, but the proof of her love is her constant presence in Valère’s home. Sganarelle goes back and forth between his house and Valère’s. Why would Isabelle/Sganarelle forever visit Valère if she did not love him? These are artful stratagems. There is considerable irony in Sagnarelle’s respect for Valère. It should be noted that Sganarelle has taught Isabelle law. This play is difficult to read. A mere performance does not allow one to see Molière’s artfulness.
L’École des maris was a great success for Molière, but it is a three-act farce written in verse, the twelve-syllable, or “pieds,” alexandrine verse.The play has ancient roots. It was written by Menander (born c. 342—died c. 292 BCE) and featured two brothers. Menander’s play was entitled (the) Adelphoe (The Brothers). Menander was the foremost dramatist of Greek New Comedy. According to Britannica, Menander’s “Second Adelphoe (Les Adelphes) constitutes perhaps his greatest achievement.”L’École des maris’ Greek roots may explain the use of le vers noble and, therefore the degree of tension characterizing the play. We associate the celebrated Aristophanes (c. 446 – c. 386 BCE) with Old Comedy.
Roman playwrights Terence (c. 195/185 – c. 159? BC) and Plautus were influenced by Greek comedy, but they wrote comedies which were considered erudite by Renaissance playwrights: the commedia sostenuta. Terence‘s Adelphoe is rooted in Menander’s play and features two brothers. It may have been Molière main source. The play also borrows from Giovanni Boccacio’s Decameron (Book III, 3). Boccacio’s (16 June 1313 – 21 December 1375) The Decameron was a main source of stories. These are plague stories devised by individuals who have fled Florence to avoid the plague.
Closer to Molière are Juan Ruiz de Alarcón y Mendoza’s (1581-1639) Le Mari fait la femme(The Husband makes the Wife), Dorimond’s La Femme industrieuse (1661), Larivey’s Les Esprits (1653) and Boisrobert’s Le Comble de l’impossible (The Height of the Impossible), which borrowed from Lope de Vega.
In Act One of The School for Husbands, the spectator-reader is introduced to Molière’s two brothers and, whatever the source of the play, the brothers are Molière’s brothers and the comedy altogether Molière’s. Sganarelle will develop into The School for Wives’ Arnolphe, but he is the coarse Arnolphe and altogether selfish and cruel. He is putting Isabelle into the service of his needs.
Il me semble, et je le dis tout haut, Que sur un tel sujet, c’est parler comme il faut. Vous souffrez que la vôtre, aille leste et pimpante, Je le veux bien: qu’elle ait, et laquais, et suivante, J’y consens: qu’elle coure, aime l’oisiveté, Et soit des damoiseaux fleurée en liberté; J’en suis fort satisfait; mais j’entends que la mienne, Vive à ma fantaisie, et non pas à la sienne; Que d’une serge honnête, elle ait son vêtement, Et ne porte le noir, qu’aux bons jours seulement. Qu’enfermée au logis en personne bien sage, Elle s’applique toute aux choses du ménage; À recoudre mon linge aux heures de loisir, Ou bien à tricoter quelque bas par plaisir; Qu’aux discours des muguets, elle ferme l’oreille, Et ne sorte jamais sans avoir qui la veille.
Enfin la chair est faible, et j’entends tous les bruits,
Je ne veux point porter de cornes, si je puis,
Et comme à m’épouser sa fortune l’appelle,
Je prétends corps pour corps, pouvoir répondre d’elle. Sganarelle à Ariste (I. ii, pp. 5-6)
[It seems to me, and I say it openly, that is the right way to speak on such a subject. You let your ward go about gaily and stylishly ; I am content. You let her have footmen and a maid; I agree. You let her gad about, love idleness, be freely courted by dandies ; I am quite satisfied. But I intend that mine shall live according to my fancy, and not according to her own ; that she shall be dressed in honest serge, and wear only black on holidays ; that, shut up in the house, prudent in bearing, she shall apply herself entirely to domestic concerns, mend my linen in her leisure hours, or else knit stockings for amusement; that she shall close her ears to the talk of young sparks, and never go out without some one to watch her. In short, flesh is weak; I know what stories are going about. I have no mind to wear horns, if I can help it ; and as her lot requires her to marry me, I mean to be as certain of her as I am of myself.] Sganarelle to Ariste (I. 2, p. 13)
Isabelle tries to say something, but she is told to keep quiet:
Taisez-vous; Je vous apprendrai bien s’il faut sortir sans nous. Sganarelle à Isabelle (I. ii, p. 6)
Hold your tongue; I shall teach you how to go out without us. Sganarelle to Isabelle (I. 2, p. 13)
Moreover, Sganarelle is days away from forcing Isabelle into a marriage she loathes. Ariste and Sganarelle signed a contract that gave them the right not only to bring up their respective ward as they pleased, but also stipulated that they marry their wards. Molière has introduced the contract George Dandin brandishes claiming he has a right to his wife.
Mon Dieu, chacun raisonne, et fait comme il lui plaît. Elles sont sans parents, et notre ami leur père, Nous commit leur conduite à son heure dernière; Et nous chargeant tous deux, ou de les épouser, Ou sur notre refus un jour d’en disposer, Sur elles par contrat, nous sut dès leur enfance, Et de père, et d’époux donner pleine puissance; D’élever celle-là, vous prîtes le souci, Et moi je me chargeai du soin de celle-ci; Selon vos volontés vous gouvernez la vôtre, Laissez-moi, je vous prie, à mon gré régir l’autre. Sganarelle (I. ii, p. 5)
[By Heaven! each one argues and does as he likes. They are without relatives, They are without relatives, and their father, our friend, entrusted them to us in his last hour, charging us both either to marry them, or, if we declined, to dispose of them hereafter. He gave us, in writing, the full authority of a father and a husband over them, from their infancy. You undertook to bring up that one ; I charged myself with the care of this one. You govern yours at your pleasure. Leave me, I pray, to manage the other as I think best.] Sganarelle to Ariste (I. 2, p. 13)
Ariste has been a kind and easy-going father and, despite the contract, he is not planning a forced marriage:
Qu’il nous faut en riant instruire la jeunesse, Reprendre ses défauts avec grande douceur, Et du nom de vertu ne lui point faire peur; Mes soins pour Léonor ont suivi ces maximes, Des moindres libertés je n’ai point fait des crimes, À ses jeunes désirs j’ai toujours consenti, Et je ne m’en suis point, grâce au Ciel, repenti; J’ai souffert qu’elle ait vu les belles compagnies, Les divertissements, les bals, les comédies; Ce sont choses, pour moi, que je tiens de tout temps, Fort propres à former l’esprit des jeunes gens; Et l’école du monde en l’air dont il faut vivre, Instruit mieux à mon gré que ne fait aucun livre: Elle aime à dépenser en habits, linge, et nœuds, Que voulez-vous, je tâche à contenter ses vœux, Et ce sont des plaisirs qu’on peut dans nos familles, Lorsque l’on a du bien, permettre aux jeunes filles. Un ordre paternel l’oblige à m’épouser; Mais mon dessein n’est pas de la tyranniser,
Je sais bien que nos ans ne se rapportent guère,
Et je laisse à son choix liberté tout entière,
Si quatre mille écus de rente bien venants,
Une grande tendresse, et des soins
Si quatre mille écus de rente bien venants,
Une grande tendresse, et des soins complaisants,
Peuvent à son avis pour un tel mariage,
Réparer entre nous l’inégalité d’âge;
Elle peut m’épouser, sinon choisir ailleurs,
Je consens que sans moi ses destins soient meilleurs,
Et j’aime mieux la voir sous un autre hyménée,
Que si contre son gré sa main m’était donnée. Ariste à tous (I. ii, p. 8) [Have it so; but still I maintain that we should instruct youth pleasantly, chide their faults with great tenderness, and not make them afraid of the name of virtue. Leonor’s education has been based on these maxims. I have not made crimes of the smallest acts of liberty, I have always assented to her youthful wishes, and, thank Heaven, I never repented of it. I have allowed her to see good company, to go to amusements, balls, plays. These are things which, for my part, I think are calculated to form the minds of the young; the world is a school which, in my opinion, teaches them better how to live than any book. Does she like to spend money on clothes, linen, ribands what then? I endeavour to gratify her wishes; these are pleasures which, when we are well-off, we may permit to the girls of our family. Her father’s command requires her to marry me; but it is not my intention to tyrannize over her. I am quite aware that our years hardly suit, and I leave her complete liberty of choice. If a safe income of four thousand crowns a-year, great affection and consideration for her, may, in her opinion, counterbalance in marriage the inequality of our age, she may take me for her husband; if not she may choose elsewhere. If she can be happier without me, I do not object; I prefer to see her with another husband rather than that her hand should be given to me against her will.] Ariste to all (I. 2, pp. 14-15)
In fact, far from teaching Isabelle obedience, privations and confinement have prepared her to flee at any cost. As for Sganarelle, he has acted much as the School for Wives’ Arnolphe will. He has kept Agnès away from the world believing she would be a loving wife and never turn him into a cuckold.
Agnès will grow into a woman and fall in love when she meets Horace, as does the School for Husband’s Isabelle when she meets Valère. A scientist must be methodical, but we cannot separate reason from instinct, or intuition.
Well, although Isabelle has received very little education and has not been exposed to the world, she uses Sganarelle himself as the means of contacting Valère and escaping. Sganarelle is about to force Isabelle into a marriage with a man she loathes, so she uses the means to justify the end. Both Ariste and Sganarelle have a right to marry their wards, Ariste, however would not coerce Leonor into marrying him.
However, Isabelle will find a way to speak to Valère and, ironically, she will use
Sganarelle to lead her the young man she has seen and is attracted to. Their eyes have spoken for four months.
At the end of Act One, Valère and his valet, Ergaste, return to their home to dream up a stratagem that will liberate Isabelle.
What am I to do to rid myself of this vast difficulty, and to learn whether the fair one has perceived that I love her ? Tell me some means or other. Valère to Ergaste (I. 6. p. 19)
That is what we have to discover.
Let us go in for a while the better to think over. Ergaste to Valère (I. 6. p. 19)
I will break here and go through the plot in my next post. Molière’s L’École des maris is considered a comédie d’intrigue: twists and turns. Until now, it has been a comedy of manners (une comédie de mœurs): two conflicting views on how to raise a young woman have been expressed. We will now see how an extremely clever Isabelle frees herself, with a little help for Léonor, and uses Sganarelle to achieve her goal.
Molière and Lully’s Le Mariage forcé(The Forced Marriage), is a farce and a comédie-ballet, in prose. It was first performed on 29 January 1664 in the Queen Mother’s apartments, at the Louvre. On 15 February 1664, it was performed at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, where it proved less popular. It closed after 12 performances. It was performed again on 12 May 1664 during festivities known as Les Plaisirs de l’Île enchantée, The Pleasures of the Enchanted Island. Louis XIV wanted to show Versailles at an early date. He had hired architect Louis Le Vau, landscape architectAndré le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun. These gentlemen had built Nicolas Fouquet‘s castle at Vaux-le-Vicomte. Molière’s La Princesse d’Élide and Tartuffe also premièred during Les Plaisirs de l’Île enchantée, on 8 May 1664. In its original form, The Forced Marriage was a three-act comédie-ballet, by Molière and Lully It did not use figures from a mythology in which it differed from earlier comédies-ballets. At Versailles, King Louis XIV and other aristocrats performed in the comedy. In 1664, Louis was very much in love with Louise de La Vallière who lived at Versailles, in the small castle used as a hunting-lodge by the very private Louis XIII.
Molière transformed Le Mariage forcé into a one-act play in 1668, which is Le Mariage forcé as we know it. However, it was reborn as a comédie-ballet in 1672. Lully having broken with Molière, the music was composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.
In his Preface to the Forced Marriage,Henri van Laun provides information concerning the posterity of the play. Sganarelle is Sir Toby Doubtful in Love’s Contrivance, a play by Mrs. Carroll, born Susanna Centlivre (c. 1667–1670 – 1 December 1723).
pedants & philosophy: Aristotle and Pyrrho (doubt)
Although Molière drew some of his material from Spanish author Lope de Vega’s Intermède du sacristain [sacristan] Soguizo, and Giordano Bruno’sCandelaio, or The Candle Bearer, entitled Boniface et le Pédant in French, Le Mariage forcé belongs mainly to a French tradition.
How Panurge asketh counsel of Pantagruel whether he should marry, yea, or no.
Affinities between Molière and Rabelais leap off the page, and so does Pantagruel’s advice to Panurge. Pantagruel urges Panurge not to marry, which is Géronimo’s initial response, until he learns that Sganarelle has obtained permission to marry Dorimène from Alcantor, her father. In the Third Book, Panurge has decided to marry, but revisits his decision. In Rabelais’ Third Book, Panurge also seeks the advice of Trouillogan, the model for Molière’s Marphurius, a Pyrrhonian philosopher, and a pedant. He prefigures The Learned Ladies, or Femmes savantes‘ Trissotin and Vadius. The mouton de Panurge is featured in the fourth of five books constituting Pantagruel and Gargantua. A mouton de Panurge,“describes an individual that will blindly follow others regardless of the consequences.” (See Panurge, Wiki2.org.) We cannot exclude Sganarelle.
ALCANTOR, father to Dorimène.
ALCIDAS, brother to Dorimène.
LYCASTE, in love with Dorimène.
PANCRACE, an Aristotelian Philosopher.
MARPHURIUS, a Pyrrhonian Philosopher.
DORIMÈNE, a young coquette betrothed to Sganarelle.
The Scene is in a Public Place.
Dorimène surprises us
la race des Sganarelles
Scene One of Le Mariage Forcé, Sganarelle, Molière’s mask, wants to know from his friend Géronimo whether he should marry. Sganarelle has already sought and obtained from Dorimène’s father, Alcantor, permission to marry Dorimène. Alcantor has agreed. In his mind, the mind of a pater familias, le Seigneur Sganarelle, a well-to-do 53-year-old gentleman, is a perfect match for his daughter.
However, Dorimène surprises us. One would expect her to oppose her tyrannical father, but she differs from other ingénues, forced to marry or be thrown in a convent. Young Dorimène is une mondaine who thinks a marriage to Sganarelle will allow her to escape her father. When she and Sganarelle meet in Scene II, she makes it clear that she wishes to be free. In fact, as we will see later, she has a lover, Lycaste, who cannot understand why she is marrying Sganarelle. She reassures Lycaste. Sganarelle is an older gentleman who has no more than six months “in his belly.” She wants to be a widow, the privileged women of 17th-century France. Widows were free to marry whom they pleased, or not to marry. Le Misanthrope‘s Célimène is a widow.
Yet, although arrangements are being made for Dorimène to marry Sganarelle that very day, Sganarelle would like to discuss marriage with his friend Géronimo, which should have happened earlier. When Géronimo learns that the bride-to-be is the lovely Dorimène and that she is not opposing Alcantor, her father, Géronimo has little left to do than exclaim:
The most amusing lines of Scene One are Sganarelle’s:
Outre la joie que j’aurai de posséder une belle femme, qui me fera mille caresses; qui me dorlotera, et me viendra frotter, lorsque je serai las; outre cette joie, dis-je, je considère, qu’en demeurant comme je suis, je laisse périr dans le monde la race des Sganarelles; et qu’en me mariant, je pourrai me voir revivre en d’autres moi-mêmes…  Sganarelle à Géronimo (Scene I, p. 8) [Besides the pleasures I shall have in possessing a wife to fondle me when I am tired; besides this pleasure, I consider that, by remaining as I am, I suffer the race of the Sganarelles to become extinct ; whilst, by marrying, I may see myself reproduced, and shall have the joy of seeing children sprung from me… Sganarelle to Géronimo (Scene Two, p. 226)
Marriage and Marriage
Matters change. Sganarelle believed he would own Dorimène:
Hé bien, ma belle, c’est maintenant que nous allons être heureux l’un et l’autre. Vous ne serez plus en droit de me rien refuser; … Sganarelle à Dorimène (Scène II, pp. 9-10)
[Well, my dear, both of us are going to be happy now. You will no longer have a right to refuse me anything; and I can do with you just as I please, without any one being shocked. You will be mine from head to foot, and I shall be master of everything, of your little sparkling eyes, your little roguish nose, your tempting lips, your lovely ears, your pretty little chin, your little round breasts, your … ] Sganarelle to Dorimène (Scene Four, pp. 227-228)
Dorimène, however, wants to escape her father’s tyranny and would not accept to marry a tyrannical Sganarelle. Two contrary discourses are juxtaposed. The second all be erases the first. Sganarelle realizes that he has made a mistake.
Tout à fait aise, je vous jure: car enfin la sévérité de mon père m’a tenue jusques ici dans une sujétion la plus fâcheuse du monde. Il y a je ne sais combien que j’enrage du peu de liberté, qu’il me donne; et j’ai cent fois souhaité qu’il me mariât, pour sortir promptement de la contrainte, où j’étais avec lui, et me voir en état de faire ce que je voudrai. Dorimène à Sganarelle (Scene II, p. 10)
[Immensely glad, I assure you. For, indeed, my father’s severity has kept me hitherto in the most grievous subjection. I have been raging, I do not know how long, at the scanty liberty he allows me ; I have wished a hundred times that he would get me a husband, so that I might quickly escape from the durance in which I have been kept by him, and be able to do as I pleased. Dorimène to Sganarelle (Scene Four, pp. 228-229)
In Scene Three (FR), Géronimo returns. He has found a jeweler who has a beautiful diamond for sale. Sganarelle is no longer so eager to marry. He would like to confide that he has had a dream:
Avant que de passer plus avant, je voudrais bien agiter à fond cette matière; et que l’on m’expliquât un songe que j’ai fait cette nuit, et qui vient tout à l’heure de me revenir dans l’esprit. Sganarelle à Géronimo (Scene III, p. 11)
[Before going farther I wish to sift this matter to the bottom, and to have interpreted to me a dream which I had last night, and which just recurred to me.] Sganarelle to Géronimo (Scene Five, p. 229)
In Scene Three (FR), Géronimo returns. He has found a jeweller who has a beautiful diamond for sale. Sganarelle is no longer so eager to marry. He would like to confide that he has had a dream:
Avant que de passer plus avant, je voudrais bien agiter à fond cette matière; et que l’on m’expliquât un songe que j’ai fait cette nuit, et qui vient tout à l’heure de me revenir dans l’esprit. Sganarelle à Géronimo (Scene Three, p. 11)
[Before going farther I wish to sift this matter to the bottom, and to have interpreted to me a dream which I had last night, and which just recurred to me.] Sganarelle to Géronimo (Scene Five, p. 229)
Pancrace & Marphurius
Géronimo is too busy, so he asks Sganarelle to speak to his neighbours: Pancrace, an Aristotelian philosopher and Marphurius, a Pyrrhonean philosoper. Sganarelle fears cuckolding. It so happens that Pancrace is also busy. He is wondering whether one should use the word “form” or “figure” concerning the shape of a hat. Moreover, Sganarelle pressures Pancrace a little. Pancrace nevertheless delays the process by asking Sganarelle which tongue he will use. Sganarelle says that he will use the tongue (la langue) in his mouth, but Pancrace means “language” (la langue). Matters deteriorate, so Sganarelle leaves.
Parbleu, de la langue que j’ai dans la bouche; je crois que je n’irai pas emprunter celle de mon voisin. Sganarelle à Pancrace (Scene IV, p. 15)
[Zounds! The tongue I have in my mouth.] Sganarelle to Pancrace (Scene Six, p. 232)
So, as of “Zounds,” matters truly deteriorate. Sganarelle leaves. (I am not discussing the quotations in Latin.)
Sganarelle then visits another neighbour, a Pyrrhonian skeptic. This character reflects Sganarelle’s uncertainty and adds to his distress. Doubt has entered Sganarelle’s mind and matters will not improve. When Sganarelle says: “[I]t seems to me,” (il me semble que), Marphurius corrects him. “Me” expresses certainty, which is wrong. “Nous devons douter de tout” (we must doubt everything), says Marphurius. Sganarelle is so frustrated that he ends up hitting Marphurius with a stick and speaks Marphurius’ language:
Corrigez, s’il vous plaît, cette manière de parler. Il faut douter de toutes choses; et vous ne devez pas dire que je vous ai battu; mais qu’il vous semble que je vous ai battu. Sganarelle à Marphurius (Scène V, p. 22)
[Pray, correct this manner of speaking. We are to doubt everything; and you ought not to say that I have beaten you, but that it seems I have beaten you.] Sganarelle to Marphurius (Scene Ten, p. 238)
Marphurius is Rabelais’ Trouillogan. He doubts everything (Chapter 3.XXXV)
How the philosopher Trouillogan handleth the difficulty of marriage.
Sganarelle has entered a cul-de-sac.
Cuckoldry and Widowhood
Le Mariage Forcé was a comédie-ballet, with music by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Unlike other comédies-ballets, Le Mariage forcé did not use characters inhabiting mythologies. In Scene Twelve, Sganarelle asks three Égyptiennes (Gypsies) whether he will be cuckolded.
In Scene Twelve, Lycaste, who loves Dorimène, wonders why she is marrying Sganarelle. She reassures him. Not only will she be free, but she expects Sganarelle to die within a few months. She looks forward to widowhood. In 17th-century France, widowhood freed women who have married against their will.
Je vous le garantis défunt dans le temps que je dis; et je n’aurai pas longuement à demander pour moi au Ciel, l’heureux état de veuve.
Dorimène à Lycaste (Scene XII, p. 25)
[I guarantee that he is dead in the time I say. I shall not long have to pray Heaven for the happy state of widowhood.]
Dorimène to Lycaste (Scene Twelve, p. 240)
Sganarelle has heard everything. Lycaste gets away as does Dom Juan. Dom Juan’s father, Dom Louis tell his son that “la naissance n’est rien où la vertu n’est pas,” IV. iv (Birth is nothing without virtue, IV. 4). Dom Juan’s response is appalling. He invites his father to sit down so he will be more comfortable. Dom Louis is speechless. Lycaste’s obsequious response to Sganarelle, also leaves Sganarelle speechless. It is formulaic.
Agréez, Monsieur, que je vous félicite de votre mariage, et vous présente en même temps mes très humbles services. Je vous assure que vous épousez là une très honnête personne. Lycaste à Sganarelle (Scene VII, p. 25)
[Allow me, sir, to congratulate you on your marriage, and at the same time to offer you my most humble services. Let me tell you that the lady, whom you are marrying, possesses great merits…] Lycaste to Sganarelle (Scene Twelve, p. 240)
Lycaste then goes away, having silenced Sganarelle.
A Forced Marriage
The remaining scenes feature Dorimène’s family. Alcantor will not allow Sganarelle to roll back his promise to marry Dorimène.
Seigneur Alcantor, j’ai demandé votre fille en mariage, il est vrai; et vous me l’avez accordée: mais je me trouve un peu avancé en âge pour elle; et je considère que je ne suis point du tout son fait. Sganarelle à Alcantor (Scene VIII, p. 27) [Mr. Alcantor, it is true I asked your daughter in marriage, and you granted my request; but I find that I am rather old ; I think that I am by no means a proper match for her.] Sganarelle to Alcantor (Scene Fourteen, p. 241)
Vous vous êtes engagé avec moi, pour épouser ma fille; et tout est préparé pour cela. Mais puisque vous voulez retirer votre parole, je vais voir ce qu’il y a à faire; et vous aurez bientôt de mes nouvelles. Alcantor à Sganarelle (Scene VIII, p. 28)
[You gave me your word that you would marry my daughter, and everything is prepared for the wedding; but since you wish to withdraw, I shall go and see what can be done in the matter; you shall hear from me presently.] Alcantor to Sganarelle (Scene Fourteen, p. 242)
During Scene IX, Sganarelle refuses to fight Alcidas, Dorimène’s brother, who has brought swords. In the end, Sganarelle is compelled to marry.
Sganarelle makes wedding arrangements before seeking advice from Géronimo, or taking matters into consideration.
An older gentleman is forced to marry.
Dorimène is pleased to marry a senex iratus. She will be a widow.
Sganarelle is a cocu (cuckolded) before he marries.
Our philosophers have long left reality. Molière has created Les Femmes savantes‘ Trissotin and Vadius.
We are therefore reminded of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World: carnival and grotesque. We are also reminded of the comic genre’s plasticity. It isn’t always an “all’s well that ends well,” a tout est bien qui finit bien. And we are not dealing with Rabelais’ giants.
Floating just below the surface of this play is the farcical trompeur trompé, the deceiver deceived. How can Lycaste ever trust Dorimène? The extremely polite manner he uses to greet Sganarelle could be read as a criticism of Dorimène’s ploy. It is “affected.” As for Dorimène, she is her own senex iratus and will not change. Besides, destiny rules. She should be prepared to love the husband she has married and to give birth to a petit Sganarelle.
The play also features pedants. Pancrace’s pursuit of a correct term, forme or figure, for the shape of hats is trivial. As for Marphurius, he is Rabelais Trouillogan (See Chapter 3, XXXVI) in Gutenberg’s [EBook #1200])
I am leaving behind the comédie-ballet, as written and composed in 1664. This post is already too long. But it is interesting to know that at Versailles, the King and aristocrats played roles in the comédie-ballet.
 Giordano Bruno was tortured and burned at the stake by the Inquisition. Among other notions, Bruno perceived the plurality of worlds, as would French philosopheFontenelle, a century later. Maurice Rat, ed., Œuvres complètes de Molière (Paris: Gallimard, collection La Pléiade, 1956), pp. 878-884. In the French language race means race, breed, and, occasionally, line. Cf. Rabelais.
Love to everyone 💕
This post did not reach all of my readers. Hence, the second edition and revisions.
Baroque Music – Bourrée du Mariage Forcé (Jean-Baptiste Lully)