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edmond-geffroy-1804-1895-moliere-et-ses-personnages_-suite-de-17-aquarelles-originales-hellip

Lisandre par Edmond Geffroy

Vois-tu ce petit trait de feinte que voilà ?
Ce fleuret ? ces coupés courant après la belle? 
Lisandre (I. iii)
[Do you observe that little touch of a faint? This fleuret?
The coupés running after the fair one.]
Lisandre (I. 5)

Molière’s Les Fâcheux, a three-act and verse comédie-ballet, was first performed at Vaux-le-Vicomte, Nicolas Fouquet‘s château, on 17 August 1661. It heralded King Louis XIV’s divertissements, which usually took place in a château outside Paris, such as the château at Saint-German-en-Laye. After Vaux-le-Vicomte’s performance of Les Fâcheux, Louis XIV congratulated Molière, but suggested that a hunter, le Marquis de Soyecourt, be added to the bores. The role had been added by 25 August 1661, when Les Fâcheux was performed at Fontainebleau. On 4 November 1661, Les Fâcheux was performed in Paris at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal.

In comédies-ballets, one also names the composer, Lully, and the choreographer, Beauchamp. Here, Molière was the lyricist. As a comédie-ballet, Les Fâcheux contains a Prologue that precedes Act One and features a naiad in a shell. Moreover, interludes, entrées de ballet, separate Acts One and Two (two), Acts Two and Three (four), and two entrées de ballet follow Act Three.

Jealousy

Les Fâcheux continues the theme of jealousy, introduced in Dom Garcie de Navarre ou le Prince jaloux. In Les Fâcheux, it is a debate mostly which takes place in Act Two, Scene Four, a scene I chose to discuss separately. It should be noted, however, that Dom Garcie de Navarre ou le Prince jaloux was a comédie héroïque, but that Les Fâcheux, is a form of divertissement, not a comédie héroïque. Form imposes a different treatment of a similar subject, such as jealousy, but jealousy is jealousy. In Act Two, Scene Four Éraste, our young lover, will be asked to hear both sides of a debate on whether jealousy is a sign of love. This was a question d’amour. These were plentiful and were often discussed, rather lightheartedly, in the salons of seventeenth-century France. Questions d’amour are associated with préciosité. In this scene, the fâcheuses are Climène and Orante. 

horace1auteur

Horace (Google)

Sources

  • Horace
  • Theophrastus

I named Horace’s Satires as the play’s main source, adding that Les Fâcheux was also rooted in French and contemporary sources: Mathurin Régnier, Paul Scarron, and others. But The Bores also borrows from Theophrastus, as does Jean de La Bruyère‘s Caractères.[1] French classicisme has Greek and Roman ancestry. On the cover of the third edition of Jean de La Bruyère’s Caractères, we can read that some of La Bruyère’s caractères are a translation of  Theophrastus’ Greek characters, and others “de ce siècle,” living caractères. The seventeenth-century had its moralistes. In fact, Le Misanthrope contains a portrait scene. Someone drops a name and Célimène has a portrait ready.

Moreover, as I reread Les Fâcheux, a word leaped off the page: raison, as in René Descartes. Éraste says to La Montagne:

215 J’ai de l’amour encor pour la belle inhumaine,/ Et ma raison voudrait, que j’eusse de la haine!
Éraste to La Montagne (I. iv)
[Ah, I feel myself greatly disturbed ! I still love the cruel fair one, and my reason bids me hate her.]
Éraste to La Montagne (I. 7)

Does reason militate against love? Descartes championed reason, but he wrote Les Passions de l’âme, and was opposed by several figures in seventeenth-century France. We need only name Blaise Pascal (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650). Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point. (See merriam-webster.com.) 

Let us run back to Vaux-le-Vicomte. Les Fâcheux was created, rehearsed and performed in fifteen days.

Molière wrote that

« Jamais entreprise au théâtre ne fut si précipitée que celle-ci, et c’est une chose, je crois, toute nouvelle qu’une comédie ait été conçue, faite, apprise et représentée en quinze jours. »
Molière, Avertissement
[Never was any Dramatic performance so hurried as this; and it is a thing, I believe, quite new, to have a comedy planned, finished, got up, and played in a fortnight.][Preface]

DIAGHILEW-(SERGE-DE)-BRAQUE-(GEORGES).-LES-FACHEUX.-PARIS-_-QUATRE-CHEMINS-1924.&HELLIP-

Our DRAMATIS PERSONÆ is:

ERASTE, in love with ORPHISE,
ORPHISE, in love with ERASTE
DAMIS, guardian to Orphise,
LA MONTAGNE, servant to Eraste,
L’EPINE, servant to Damis.
ALCIDOR,
DORANTE,
LISANDRE/LYSANDRE,
CARITIDES,
ALCANDRE,
ORMIN,
ALCIPPE,
FILINTE,
ORANTE,
CLIMÈNE.
LA RIVIERE and Two COMRADES.

The Scene is at PARIS.

ACT ONE

In Act One, La Montagne is helping Éraste dress properly. For instance, he cleans Éraste’s hat, drops it, and must clean again. These are comedic routines called lazzi.

Valets and other servants help young couples overcome obstacles to their marriage. They are zanni. For instance, Éraste tells La Montagne that of all the bores, the worst is Damis, Orchise’s uncle and guardian:

Mais de tous mes fâcheux, le plus fâcheux encore,/ C’est Damis, le tuteur de celle que j’adore;/ Qui rompt ce qu’à mes vœux elle donne d’espoir,/ Et fait qu’en sa présence elle n’ose me voir./ 115 Je crains d’avoir déjà passé l’heure promise,/ Et c’est dans cette allée, où devait être Orphise.
Éraste à La Montagne (I. i)
[But of all my bores the greatest is Damis, guardian of her whom I adore, who dashes every hope she raises, and has brought it to pass that she dares not see me in his presence. I fear I have already passed the hour agreed on; it is in this walk that Orphise promised to be.]
Éraste to La Montagne (I. 1)

Moreover, Éraste turns to La Montagne to ask him whether Orphise loves him.  La Montagne calls Orphise’s love “un amour confirmé.”

125 Mais, tout de bon, crois-tu que je sois d’elle aimé?
Éraste à La Montagne (I. i)
[But, in good earnest, do you believe that I am loved by her?]
Éraste to La Montagne (I. 1)
Quoi? vous doutez encor d’un amour confirmé…
La Montagne à Éraste (I. i)
[What ! do you still doubt a love that has been tried?]
La Montagne to Éraste (I. 1)

La Montagne is doing what valets do, but Éraste wishes to leave as quickly as possible, which makes La Montagne a bore. Being a bore is, to a large extent, a matter of timing and, therefore, relative. At the end of Scene One Éraste says:

150 Au diantre tout valet qui vous est sur les bras;/ Qui fatigue son maître, et ne fait que déplaire/ À force de vouloir trancher du nécessaire.
Éraste à La Montagne (I. i)
[The deuce take every servant who dogs your heels, who wearies his master, and does nothing but annoy him by wanting to set himself up as indispensable!]
Éraste a La Montagne (I. 1)

However, as soon as Éraste leaves, so does La Montagne who sees, as Éraste does, that Alcidor is holding Orphise’s hand. Orphise waves to Éraste and tends turns her head in another direction. Éraste is miffed. Orphise has ignored him. Does she or does she not love Éraste? 

153 Mais vois-je pas Orphise? Oui c’est elle, qui vient./ Où va-t-elle si vite, et quel homme la tient?
(Il la salue comme elle passe, et elle en passant détourne la tête)
Éraste à La Montagne (I. ii)
[But do I not see Orphise? Yes, it is she who comes. Whither goeth she so fast, and what man is that who holds her hand?]
Éraste to La Montagne (I. 2, p. 59)

He bows to her as she passes, and she turns her head another way.

155 Quoi me voir en ces lieux devant elle paraître,/ Et passer en feignant de ne me pas connaître/ Que croire? Qu’en dis-tu? Parle donc, si tu veux.
Éraste à La Montagne (I. ii)
[What! She sees me here before her, and she passes by, pretending not to know me! What can I think? What do you say? Speak if you will.]
Éraste to La Montagne who will not speak for fear of being a bore. (1. 3, p. 59)

Éraste suffers :

Et c’est l’ [fâcheux] être en effet que de ne me rien dire/ 160 Dans les extrémités d’un si cruel martyre./ Fais donc quelque réponse à mon cœur abattu:/ Que dois-je présumer? Parle, qu’en penses-tu? Dis-moi ton sentiment.
Éraste à La Montagne (I. ii)
[And so indeed you do, if you say nothing to me whilst I suffer such a cruel martyrdom. Give me some answer; I am quite dejected. What am I to think? Say, what do you think of it? Tell me your opinion.]
Éraste à La Montagne (I. 3)

165 Peste l’impertinent! Va-t’en suivre leurs pas;/ Vois ce qu’ils deviendront, et ne les quitte pas.
Éraste à La Montagne (I. ii)
[Hang the impertinent fellow! Go and follow them; see what becomes of them, and do not quit them.]
Éraste to La Montagne (I. 3)

The above quotations suggest inquiétude in Éraste who loves Orphise, and matters get worse, but remember that this is a divertissement.

213 Monsieur, Orphise est seule, et vient de ce côté.
La Montagne à Éraste (I. iv)
[Sir, Orphise is alone, and is coming this way.]
La Montagne to Éraste (I. 7)

Ah d’un trouble bien grand je me sens agité!/ 215 J’ai de l’amour encor pour la belle inhumaine,/ Et ma raison voudrait, que j’eusse de la haine!
Éraste à La Montagne (I. iv)
[Ah, I feel myself greatly disturbed ! I still love the cruel fair one, and my reason bids me hate her.]
Éraste to La Montagne (I. 7)

Why would “reason” demand that Éraste hate Orphise whom he loves? When, finally, Éraste catches up to Orphise, she tells him that she was pursued by a bore and laughs. Yes, a man held her hand, but she was trying to rid herself of a bore and find Éraste.

Certes il en faut rire, et confesser ici,/ Que vous êtes bien fou, de vous troubler ainsi./ L’homme, dont vous parlez, loin qu’il puisse me plaire,/ 240 Est un homme fâcheux dont j’ai su me défaire;/ Un de ces importuns, et sots officieux, /Qui ne sauraient souffrir qu’on soit seule en des lieux;/ Et viennent aussitôt, avec un doux langage,/Vous donner une main, contre qui l’on enrage./ 245 J’ai feint de m’en aller, pour cacher mon dessein;/ Et, jusqu’à mon carrosse, il m’a prêté la main./ Je m’en suis promptement défaite de la sorte,/ Et j’ai pour vous trouver, rentré par l’autre porte.
Orphise à Éraste (I. v)
[I really must laugh, and declare that you are very silly to trouble yourself thus. The man of whom you speak, far from being able to please me, is a bore of whom I have succeeded in ridding myself; one of those troublesome and officious fools who will not suffer a lady to be anywhere alone, but come up at once, with soft speech, offering you a hand against which one rebels. I pretended to be going away, in order to hide my intention, and he gave me his hand as far as my coach. I soon got rid of him in that way, and returned by another gate to come to you.]
Orphise to Éraste (I. 8)

When he learns the truth, Éraste believes Orchise and asks her not to be angry. Had he offended her, she would not laugh and, if he were jealous, a simple explanation would not have appeased him.

Ah ne vous fâchez pas, trop sévère beauté./ 255 Je veux croire en aveugle, étant sous votre empire,/ Tout ce que vous aurez la bonté de me dire./ Trompez, si vous voulez, un malheureux amant; /J’aurai pour vous respect, jusques au monument.[tomb]/ Maltraitez mon amour, refusez-moi le vôtre;/ 260 Exposez à mes yeux le triomphe d’un autre,/ Oui je souffrirai tout de vos divins appas,/ J’en mourrai, mais enfin je ne m’en plaindrai pas.
Éraste à Orphise (I. v)
[Ah! too severe beauty, do not be angry. Being under your sway, I will implicitly believe whatever you are kind enough to tell me. Deceive your hapless lover if you will; I shall respect you to the last gasp. Abuse my love, refuse me yours, show me another lover triumphant; yes, I will endure everything for your divine charms. I shall die, but even then I will not complain.]
Éraste à Orphise (I. 8)

In Act One, Scene Three, Lisandre, pictured at the top of this post, is a bore who sings and dances. Alhough Éraste appreciates Lisandre, the meeting is brief. In Scene Six, Alcandre asks Éraste to help him. He has been threatened. Éraste refuses to help because he does not want to oppose the king who frowns upon duels, but violence is suggested and we have learned that Éraste was a soldier before he was courtier:

275 Je ne veux point ici faire le capitan;/ Mais on m’a vu soldat, avant que courtisan/ J’ai servi quatorze ans, et je crois être en passe,/ De pouvoir d’un tel pas me tirer avec grâce,/ Et de ne craindre point, qu’à quelque lâcheté/ Le refus de mon bras me puisse être imputé.
Éraste à Alcandre (I. vi)
[I have no desire to boast, but I was a soldier before I was a courtier. I served fourteen years, and I think I may fairly refrain from such a step with propriety, not fearing that the refusal of my sword can be imputed to cowardice. A duel puts one in an awkward light, and our King is not the mere shadow of a monarch.]
Éraste to Alcandre (I. 10)

Moreover, in Scene One, Éraste mentions Damis, Orchise’s uncle and guardian whom he fears. Of all the bores  separating Éraste and Orchise, Damis is the worst.

So, from the very beginning of the play, we know that the blocking-character of The Bores is Damis, Orchise’s uncle and guardian.Violence has been suggested and jealousy, but neither Orchise nor Éraste are prone to jealousy. She laughs when he asks her about the man who held her hand. A short explanation suffice and he apologizes for having suggesting that the man who held Orchise may be a rival.  In Act Two, Scene Four, she watches Éraste adjudicating a debate. Is jealousy a sign of love?

THE BORES

In Act One, the bores are Lisandre (Scene Three) and Alcandre (Scene Six). Although Éraste appreciates Lisandre, he hasn’t much time for him. As for Alcandre he is asking for help that would jeopardize Éraste’s relationship with the King.

La Montagne is also a bore, but only inasmuch as Éraste is in a hurry. Damis, Orphise’s uncle and guardian is also a bore (Scene One)

ACT TWO

In Act Two, Scene Six, we meet Dorante, a hunter, who reports that a gun was used during a chase. This scene was added between the Vaux representation and the performance at Fontainebleau, as requested by the King himself.

But the love story continues. After she tells him who the man was, Éraste asks her not to be angry. He loves her, so that he will not complain.

But after Act II, Scene iv, I doubt very much that he would call Orphise, jalouse and, although he is still rushing, Éraste has calmed down after the debate. 

La Question d’amour

Given Éraste’s haste, Climène and Orante are also bores, but they ask Éraste to be the judge in the debate opposing them. Climène thinks that jealousy is a sign of love, but Orante does not. Orante says that jealous husbands could beat up their wife, which could cause a wife to leave, if she can support herself. At this point, Éraste passes judgment, and leaves promptly.

THE BORES

In Act Two, our bores are Alcippe who plays piquet (Scene Two), Climène and Orante, (Scene Four) and Dorante who went hunting and reports that a gun was used (Scene Six).

ACT THREE

At the beginning of Act Three, Éraste tells that Damis is hindering a marriage to Orphise. He is stopped by Caritidès, a pedant, who wishes Éraste to present a letter to the King on his behalf (iv). He then meets Ormin who believes France should have as many seaports as possible (v). Finally, he meets Filinte who warns Éraste that someone has made fun of him and that he should be careful.

In Scene Five he is joined by Damis himself, Orphise’s guardian. Eraste sees someone at Orphise’s door. Damis explains that he knows Éraste is to meet Orphise without witnesses. Damis will have La Rivière and L’Espine kill Éraste. But La Rivière and his friends decide to kill Damis first.

Damis is Orphise’s uncle and guardian, so as the career soldier he has been, Éraste defends Damis.

Bien qu’il m’ait voulu perdre, un point d’honneur me presse,/ De secourir ici l’oncle de ma maîtresse./ (À Damis.) Je suis à vous Monsieur. (Éraste, mettant la main à l’épée.)
Éraste seul et à Damis (III. v)
Though he would have killed me, honour urges me here to rescue the uncle of my mistress. (To Damis). I am on your side, Sir. (He draws his sword and attacks La Riviere and his companions; whom he puts to flight.)
Éraste alone and Éraste to Damis (III. 5)

Ô Ciel, par quel secours, D’un trépas assuré vais-je sauver mes jours! 795 À qui suis-je obligé d’un si rare service?
Damis, après leur fuite.
(III. v)
[Heavens! By whose aid do I find myself saved from a certain death? To whom am I indebted for so rare a service?]
Damis (III. 5)

Quoi celui, dont j’avais résolu le trépas,/ Est celui, qui pour moi, vient d’employer son bras?/ Ah! c’en est trop, mon cœur est contraint de se rendre;/ Et quoi que votre amour, ce soir, ait pu prétendre/ 805 Ce trait si surprenant de générosité,/ Doit étouffer en moi toute animosité./ Je rougis de ma faute, et blâme mon caprice./ Ma haine, trop longtemps, vous a fait injustice;/ Et pour la condamner par un éclat fameux,/ 810 Je vous joins, dès ce soir, à l’objet de vos vœux.
Damis à Éraste (III. v)
[What! Eraste, whom I was resolved to have assassinated has just used his sword to defend me! Oh, this is too much; my heart is compelled to yield; whatever your love may have meditated tonight, this remarkable display of generosity ought to stifle all animosity. I blush for my crime, and blame my prejudice. My hatred has too long done you injustice! To show you openly I no longer entertain it, I unite you this very night to your love.]
Damis to Éraste (III. 5)

SCENE SIX
In Scene VI, a delighted Orphise says that she will marry Éraste.

Si c’est pour lui payer ce que vous lui devez,/ J’y consens, devant tout, aux jours qu’il a sauvés.
Orphise (III. vi)
[I owe everything to you; if, therefore, it is to pay him your debt, I consent, as he has saved your life.]
Orphise to Eraste (III. 6)

As for Éraste, he no longer knows whether he wakes or dreams.

Mon cœur est si surpris d’une telle merveille,/ 820 Qu’en ce ravissement, je doute, si je veille.
Éraste à tous (III. vi)
[My heart is so overwhelmed by this great miracle, that amidst this ecstasy, I doubt if I am awake.]
Éraste to Orphise and Damis (III. 6)

Finally, Damis is reassured and calls for a celebration.

Célébrons l’heureux sort, dont vous allez jouir; Et que nos violons viennent nous réjouir. (Comme les violons veulent jouer, on frappe fort à la porte.)
Damis à tous (III. vi)
[Let us celebrate the happy lot that awaits you; and let our violins put us in a joyful mood.]
Damis to all (III. 6)

THE BORES

In Act Three, the bores are Caritidés, a pedant, Ormin, who wishes Éraste to tell the King to build as many ports as possible in France, and Filinte, who has heard that Éraste is threatened. However, we have criminals: La Rivière and friends. 

Images: theatre-documentation.com

Conclusion

Despite the repetitive nature of the play, one can say that, overall, Les Fâcheux uses the comedic ‟all’s well that ends well formula,” ‟tout est bien qui finit bien.”  

Yes, the question d’amour is answered. It is wiser not to be jealous. Act Two, Scene Four seems a play within a play, un théâtre dans le théâtre, more bores, but Orchise is not a ‟cruel fair one,” “une belle inhumaine, (I. iv). 

Si ce parfait amour, que vous prouvez si bien,/ Se fait vers votre objet un grand crime de rien,/ Ce que son cœur, pour vous, sent de feux légitimes,/ En revanche, lui fait un rien de tous vos crimes.
La Montagne à Éraste (I. i)
[If this perfect love, which you manifest so well, makes out of nothing a great crime against her whom you love; the pure flame which her heart feels for you on the other hand converts all your crimes into nothing.]
La Montagne to Éraste (I. 1)

In short, if Sostrate (Les Amants magnifiques), kills a boar, earning unknowingly the hand of a delighted Ériphile, matters are almost the same in Les Fâcheux. Éraste fights away La Rivière and his men, saving the life of Orphise’s guardian and turning enmity into gratitude on the part of Damis who wishes for him to marry Orchise. As in chivalry, Éraste serves and earns his lady’s hand. In fact, by defending Damis, Éraste makes himself a deus ex machina

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Sources and Resources

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[1] Cf.  Maurice Rat, Œuvres complètes Molière (Paris: Pléiade 1956), pp. 860 -864.


Love to everyone 💕

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© Micheline Walker
17 December 2019
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