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ACT THREE

Virtuous & Virtuoso

In a previous post on Molière’s L’Étourdi ou les Contretemps, I noted that Mascarille, the rogue of L’Étourdi, looks upon his stratagems as virtuous. However, to be perfectly accurate, Mascarille is a virtuoso. Virtuosity suggests considerable dexterity, which describes Mascarille’s nimbleness.

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Molière © SUPERSTOCK – SIPA

L’ÉTOURDI OU LES CONTRETEMPS

Dramatis Personæ (the cast)

LÉLIE, (son of) fils de Pandolphe.
CÉLIE, (slave to) esclave de Trufaldin.
MASCARILLE, (lackey to) valet de Lélie.
HIPPOLYTE, (daughter of) fille d’Anselme.
ANSELME, (old man) vieillard.
TRUFALDIN, vieillard.
PANDOLPHE, vieillard.
LÉANDRE, (son) fils de famille.
ANDRÈS, (believed to be) cru égyptien.
ERGASTE, valet.
UN COURRIER.
DEUX TROUPES DE MASQUES

Lélie defends Célie’s virtue

You may remember that in Act Three, Mascarille tells Léandre, Lélie’s rival, that Clélie is a loose woman. Léandre does not want to marry a woman who is “public property.” However, Lélie so loves Célie that he will not believe Léandre who says that she is stained. She is as pure as the morning dew. He calls her his divinity

Feignez, si vous voulez, de ne me pas entendre;/ 1005 Mais, croyez-moi, cessez de craindre pour un bien,/ Où je serais fâché de vous disputer rien;/ J’aime fort la beauté qui n’est point profanée,/ Et ne veux point brûler pour une abandonnée.
Léandre à Lélie (III. iii)
[Pretend, if you please, not to understand me ; but believe me, do not apprehend that I shall take a property which I should be sorry to dispute with you. I adore a beauty who has not been sullied, and do not wish to love a depraved woman.]
Léandre to Lélie (III. 3, p. 39)

Ah! que vous êtes bon!/ 1010 Allez, vous dis-je encor, servez-la sans soupçon,/Vous pourrez vous nommer homme à bonnes fortunes: Il est vrai, sa beauté n’est pas des plus communes;/ Mais en revanche aussi le reste est fort commun.
Léandre à Lélie (III. iii)
[Oh! how credulous you are! I tell you once more, you may attend on her now without suspecting anybody. You may call yourself a lady-killer. It is true, her beauty is very uncommon, but, to make amends for that, the rest is common enough.]
Léandre to Lélie (III. 3, p. 39)

Ce que j’avance ici me vient de bonne part.
Léandre à Lélie (III. iii)
[What I state here I have from very good authority.]
Léandre to Lélie (III. 3, p. 40)

Quiconque vous l’a dit, est un lâche, un pendard;/ On ne peut imposer de tache à cette fille:/ Je connais bien son cœur.
Lélie à Léandre (III. iii)
[Whoever told you so is a scoundrel and a rascal. Nobody can discover the least blemish in this young lady; I know her heart well.]
Lélie to Léandre (III. 3, p. 40)

Mascarille has told Léandre that Célie is not the pure woman she appears to be. How can he doubt Mascarille?

Mais enfin Mascarille,/ 1025 D’un semblable procès est juge compétent;/ C’est lui qui la condamne.
Léandre à Lélie (III. iii)
[But yet Mascarille is a very competent judge in such a cause: he thinks her guilty.]
Léandre to Lélie (III. 3, p. 40)

Act Three, Scene Four

When Mascarille enters the stage, Lélie is livid.

1035 Langue de serpent fertile en impostures,/ Vous osez sur Célie attacher vos morsures!/ Et lui calomnier la plus rare vertu,/ Qui puisse faire éclat sous un sort abattu!
Lélie à Mascarille (III. iv)
[You serpent’s tongue! so full of lies! dare you fasten your stings on Celia, and slander the most consummate virtue that ever added lustre to misfortune?]
Lélie to Mascarille (III. 4, p. 40)

At this point, Léandre learns that Lélie does not beat Mascarille. Lélie is spoiling Mascarille’s stratagem, which is to make others believe that they must trust him,  because his master beats him. Mascarille tries to stop Lélie from saying the truth, but Lélie does not pay attention to him.

Quoi! châtier mes gens n’est pas en ma puissance?
Lélie à Léandre (III. iv)
[What! have I no right, then, to chastise my own servant?]
Lélie to Léandre (III. 4, p. 41)

Comment vos gens?
Léandre à Lélie (III. iv)
[What do you mean by saying “your servant?”]
Léandre to Lélie (III. 4, p. 41)

Encore! Il va tout découvrir.
Mascarille (III. iv)
[(Aside.) He is at it again! He will discover all.]
Mascarille (III. 4, p. 41)

Quand j’aurais volonté de le battre à mourir,/ Hé bien? c’est mon valet.
Lélie à Léandre (III. iv)
[Suppose I had a mind to thrash him within an inch of his life, what then? He is my own servant.]
Lélie to Léandre (III. 4, p. 41)

C’est maintenant le nôtre.
Léandre à Mascarille (III. iv)
[At present he is mine.]
Léandre to Lélie (III. 4, p. 41)

Donc les coups de bâton n’étaient qu’imaginaires.
Léandre à Mascarille (III. iv)
Then all this cudgelling is purely imaginary?
Léandre to Mascarille (III. 4, p. 42)

Léandre leaves.  

The Masquerades

As Act Three ends, Ergaste tells both Mascarille and Lélie, that he knows of a plot by Léandre. Léandre’s brigade will assault Trufaldin’s house, wearing a disguise, and will abduct Célie. They will be women. Lélie runs to Trufaldin asking him to keep his doors carefully closed.

Fermez soigneusement votre porte ce soir.
Lélie à Trufaldin (III. vii)
[Keep your door carefully closed tonight.]
Lélie to Trufaldin (III. 10, p. 46)

However, when Mascarille hears about the planned assault, he quickly gathers a brigade of his own that reaches Trufaldin’s house before Léandre and his team. Lélie finds Mascarille behind a disguise. He therefore blunders again and blames Mascarille. See the image at the bottom of this post. It is by François Boucher and Laurent Cars, and shows Mascarille dressed as a woman. Lélie lifts the veil.

Et contre cet assaut je sais un coup fourré,/ Par qui je veux qu’il soit de lui-même enferré;/ Il ne sait pas les dons dont mon âme est pourvue./Adieu, nous boirons pinte à la première vue.
Mascarille à Ergaste (III. v)
[Ay, well! He has not yet reached the height of his happiness; I may perhaps be beforehand with him; and as to this thrust, I know how to give him a counter- thrust, by which he may run himself through. He is not aware with what gifts I am endowed. Farewell, we shall take a cup together next time we meet.]
Mascarille to Ergaste (III. 6, p. 45)

Mascarille’s masquerade’s is foiled by Lélio. He blunders again. But he claims not to have been ignored only to switch to self-imprecation. Lélie/Lelio blames Mascarille only to blame himself. However is he entirely to blame? “How adverse is our fate!” Mascarille is a virtuoso, but there are “contretemps,” events that are always standing in both Lélie’s and Mascarille’s way.

Hélas! quelle surprise! et quel sort est le nôtre! L’aurais-je deviné,n’étant point averti/ 1230 Des secrètes raisons qui t’avaient travesti!/ Malheureux que je suis, d’avoir dessous ce masque,/ Été sans y penser te faire cette frasque!/ Il me prendrait envie, en ce juste courroux,/ De me battre moi-même, et me donner cent coups.
Lélie à Mascarille (III. viii)
[Alas! How astonished I am! How adverse is our fate! Could I possibly have guessed this, as you did not secretly inform me that you were going to disguise yourself?Wretch that I am, thoughtlessly to play you such a trick, while you wore this mask. I am in an awful passion with myself, and have a good mind to give myself a sound beating.]
Lélio to Mascarille (III. 12, p. 46)

In Act Three Scene Nine, Léandre’s brigade arrives. Trufaldin tells them that:

… La belle est dans le lit, et ne peut vous parler;/ 1250 J’en suis fâché pour vous: mais pour vous régaler/ Du souci qui pour elle ici vous inquiète,/ Elle vous fait présent de cette cassolette.
Trufaldin à Léandre (III. ix)
[… the girl is in her bed and cannot speak to you; I am sorry; but to repay you for all the trouble you have taken for her sake, she begs you will be pleased to accept this pot of perfume.]
Trufaldin to Léandre (III. 13, pp. 47 – 48)

We break here. Next we will read a conversation between Léandre and Anselme.
It is Act Four, Scene Three. The rest of the play is short. Lélie has a second rival.

(to be continued)

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© Micheline Walker
31 March 2020
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