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Chef d’une jeune fille par François Boucher (fr.wikipedia)

Miroirs publics & Pleasure

Dramatis Personæ

URANIE (hostess).
ÉLISE (her cousin).
CLIMÈNE (a prude).
GALOPIN, laquais.
LYSIDAS, poète.

In Scene v of La Critique de l’École des femmes, Dorante enters Uranie’s salon. She has been expecting him. Dorante wants everyone to continue discussing L’École des femmes.

et jamais on n’a rien vu de si plaisant, que la diversité des jugements, qui se font là-dessus. Car enfin, j’ai ouï condamner cette comédie à certaines gens, par les mêmes choses, que j’ai vu d’autres estimer le plus.
Dorante à tous (I. v)
[You are on a subject which, for four days, has been the common talk of Paris; and never was anything more amusing than to hear the various judgments that are passed upon it.]
Dorante to all (I. 6, 162)

So, one wonders just how our characters will walk towards the dining-room laughing and read L’École des femmes after dinner. The change may begin when Dorante says to the Marquis that he is not talking about him. He turns the matter into a miroir public:

Parbleu ! Chevalier Dorante, tu le prends là
Le Marquis à Dorante (I, v)
[Egad, sir, you are carrying this . . .]
Le Marquis to Dorante (I. 6, p. 164)
Mon Dieu, Marquis, ce n’est pas à toi que je parle ; c’est à une douzaine de Messieurs qui déshonorent les gens de cour par leurs manières extravagantes, et font croire parmi le peuple que nous nous ressemblons tous.
Dorante au Marquis (I, v)
[Why, Marquis, I am not speaking to you. I am addressing a round dozen of those gentries who disgrace courtiers by their nonsensical manners, and make people believe we are all alike.]
Dorante to the Marquis (I. 6, p.164)

Dorante says later that prudes use a defence mechanism. They have lost their charm, so their refuge is prudery. They are vain, as are most characters Molière berates. They love the world, and they love attention. They will not sit apart from others. Note, moreover, that the prude Dorante mentions is not Climène. It is la marquise Araminte. The society of the play would not allow Climène to be attacked. In his descriptions, Dorante, le chevalier, uses what will be called miroirs publics (I, vi).

In fact, the society of the play ends up disagreeing with considerable pleasure. No one changes, but all start laughing at themselves. Before they walk to the dining-room, Uranie suggests that they should write a comedy.

Il se passe des choses assez plaisantes dans notre dispute. Je trouve qu’on en pourrait bien faire une petite comédie, et que cela ne serait pas trop mal à la queue de L’École des femmes.
Uranie à tous (I. vi)
[There are many funny things in our discussion. I fancy a little comedy might be made out of them, and that it would not be a bad wind-up to The School for Wives.]
Uranie to everyone (I. vii, p. 177)

To emphasize that Agnès accepts the pleasure that falling in love has brought to her life, I added to La Critique de l’École des femmes: Details, the line where Agnès says:

Le moyen de chasser ce qui fait du plaisir.
Agnès à Arnolphe (V, iv).
[But do we drive away what gives us pleasure?]
Agnès to Arnolphe (V. 4, p. 136)

Ironically by not educating Agnès, Arnolphe has created a character who is not burdened by préventions, and can accept pleasure, as do spectators who have liked the play. She has no use for the Maximes du mariage and would not be a précieuse ridicule. Magdelon is horrified at the thought of sleeping next to a nude male.

Pour moi, mon oncle, tout ce que je vous puis dire c’est que je trouve le mariage une chose tout à fait choquante. Comment est-ce qu’on peut souffrir la pensée de coucher contre un homme vraiment nu ?
Cathos à Gorgibus (I, iv, Les Précieuses ridicules)
[As for me uncle, all I can say is that I think marriage is a very shocking business. How can one endure the thought of lying by the side of a man, who is truly naked?]
Cathos to Gorgibus (I. 4, p. 148, The Pretentious Young Ladies)

Agnès is a woman and she is a very intelligent woman. She perhaps speaks with the voice of an innocent young girl, but this young girl is a grown woman. She does not even try to spare Arnolphe because she speaks “sans prévention.”1 She does not have prejudices (préventions) or idées reçues, but her instinct does not fail her. She speaks d’après nature.

Comedy has rules, one of which is decorum, bienséances, but Dorante would like to know if the rule of all rules isn’t to please:

Je voudrais bien savoir si la grande règle de toutes les règles n’est pas de plaire ; et si une pièce de théâtre qui a attrapé son but n’a pas suivi un bon chemin.
Dorante à tous (I, vi)
[I should like to know whether the great rule of all rules is not to please; and whether a play which attains this has not followed a good method?]
Dorante to all (I. 7, p. 173)

Hence, how do we drive away what gives us pleasure and the rule of all rules: to please … and to be pleased.

A few weeks ago, a PDF article on L’École des femmes appeared on my computer screen. I saw the word “pleasure” in the title. I will have to find the article and read it.

Dorante also says that Molière’s narratives are action, and that this action occurs in the dialogue, which Gabriel Conesa has illustrated convincingly in his Dialogue moliéresque.

Page on Molière
La Critique de l’École de femmes: details (15 November 2020)
La Critique de l’École des femmes (10 November 2020)
Destiny in L’École des femmes (1st November 2020) (no 62)

Sources and Resources
La Critique de l’École des femmes is a toutmolière.net publication
The School for Wives Criticised is an Internet Archive publication
Our translator is Henri van Laun
Images belong to théâtre-documention.com (BnF)
Wikipedia: various entries
The Encyclopædia Britannica: various entries

1 The meaning of the word “prévention” has changed. It is no longer associated with prejudices.

Bourbeau-Walker, Micheline. « L’échec d’Arnolphe : loi du genre ou faille intérieure », in Papers on French Seventeenth Century Literature, (Seattle-Tübingen, 1984, Vol. XI, No 20), pp. 79-92.
ISSN 0343-0758

Love to everyone 💕

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is l%27%C3%A9cole%20des%20femmes2.JPG
L’École des femmes par Edmond Geffroy ou Maurice Sand

© Micheline Walker
18 November 2020