MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC.
JULIE, fille d’Oronte.
NÉRINE, femme d’intrigue (schemer).
LUCETTE, feinte (false) Gasconne.
ÉRASTE, amant de (in love with) Julie.
SBRIGANI, Napolitain, homme d’intrigue (schemer).
PLUSIEURS MUSICIENS, JOUEURS D’INSTRUMENTS, ET DANSEURS.
La scène est à Paris
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac
aesthetically in the wrong
a comedy in reverse
an on-stage dramatist
pour rire / for the fun of it
I have already noted that Monsieur de Pourceaugnac seems a scapegoat, or pharmakós. which is not inconsistent with the role pharmakoi play in tragedies and comedies. Northrop Frye writes that the scapegoats, the pharmakós is “neither innocent nor guilty.”
Aesthetically in the wrong
There is no reason why Monsieur de Pourceaugnac should be victimised in Paris, “this country,” or elsewhere. Arranged marriages were common in 17th-century France. Besides, had Julie found Monsieur de Pourceaugnac repulsive, he may not have married her. Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’s only problem is his name and/or looks, which has to do with aesthetics. Let us read Nérine:
S’il a envie de se marier, que ne prend-il une Limosine, et ne laisse-t-il en repos les chrétiens ? Le seul nom de Monsieur de Pourceaugnac m’a mis dans une colère effroyable. J’enrage de Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. Quand il n’y aurait que ce nom-là, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, j’y brûlerai mes livres, ou je romprai ce mariage, et vous ne serez point Madame de Pourceaugnac. Pourceaugnac ! Cela se peut-il souffrir ? Non, Pourceaugnac est une chose que je ne saurais supporter, et nous lui jouerons tant de pièces, nous lui ferons tant de niches sur niches, que nous renverrons à Limoges Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. Nérine à Julie et Éraste (I. scène première)
[If he wishes to get married why does he not take a lady born at Limoges for a wife, instead of troubling decent Christians? The name alone of Monsieur de Pourceaugnac has put me in a frightful passion. I am in a rage about Monsieur de Pourceaugnac If it were nothing but his name, this Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, I would do everything to succeed in breaking off this marriage, rather than that you should be Madam de Pourceaugnac. Pourceaugnac! is it bearable? No, Pourceaugnac is something which I cannot tolerate; and we shall play him so many tricks, we shall practice so many jokes upon jokes upon him, that we shall soon send Monsieur de Pourceaugnac back to Limoges again.] Nérine to Julie and Éraste (II. 3, p. 94)
In his analysis of Le Misanthrope and Dom Juan, Professor Jules Brody concluded that Alceste and Dom Juan were “aesthetically in the wrong, but morally in the right” or vice versa. I am paraphrasing Professor Brody. Arranged marriages were relatively common in 17th-century France, so Monsieur de Pourceaugnac cannot be faulted for “buying” a bride who will be provided with a generous dowry.
We should also note that, in Scene Two, Julie is not ready to oppose her father’s choice of a groom beyond entering a convent.
Je le menacerais de me jeter dans un convent Julie à Éraste (I. ii)
[I would threaten him to bury myself in a convent.] Julie to Éraste (I. 4, p. 95)
Éraste requests greater proof of her love, but Julie tells him she must await the course of events before allowing further opposition.
Mon Dieu, Éraste, contentez-vous de ce que je fais maintenant, et n’allez point tenter sur l’avenir les résolutions de mon cœur; ne fatiguez point mon devoir par les propositions d’une fâcheuse extrémité dont peut-être n’aurons-nous pas besoin; et s’il y faut venir, souffrez au moins que j’y sois entraînée par la suite des choses. Julie à Éraste (I. ii)
[Good Heavens! Eraste, content yourself with what I am doing now; and do not tempt the resolutions of my heart upon what may happen in the future; do not make my duty more painful with proposals of annoying rashness, of which, perhaps, we may not be in need; and if we are to come to it, let me, at least be driven to it by the turn of affairs.] Julie to Éraste (I. 4, p. 96)
Julie is quite right. She has agreed to batteries and machines that will allow people, schemers, to promote her marriage to act, but no one was to go to far. However, it turns out measures taken to let her be Éraste’s wife are too drastic. When Sbrigani is done, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac will stand accused of bigamy and, unless a schemer saves him, Sbrigani, he may be hanged. In Oronte eyes, having abandoned Lucette, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is a méchant homme. Upon learning that Pourceaugnac abandoned Lucette, Oronte, Julie’s father, cannot prevent himself from crying. What irony!
Je ne saurais m’empêcher de pleurer. Allez, vous êtes un méchant homme. Oronte (II. vii)
[I cannot help crying. (To Monsieur de Pourceaugnac). Go, you are a wicked man.] Oronte (II. 8, p. 123)
When Pourceaugnac is being led away Oronte suggests that Pourceaugnac be hanged:
Allez, vous ferez bien de le faire punir, et il mérite d’être pendu. Oronte (II. viii)
[Come, you will do well to have him punished; and he deserves to be hanged.] Oronte (II. 10, p. 125)
A comedy in reverse
Not only is Monsieur de Pourceaugnac humiliated because of his name, but Molière also rearranged the usual cast of comedies so that Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is treated like a tyrannical pater familias, Oronte’s role. As for the eirôn, the threatened lovers and their usual supporters: laquais, valet, suivante, confidante, an uncle or avuncular figure, such as Le Maladeimaginaire’s Béralde, Argan’s brother, they are pitiless tricksters: Sbrigani and his crew who unleash uninterrupted attacks on an innocent man. The person who will marry his daughter to a man she may be attracted to or find repulsive, is Oronte. Oronte, therefore, is the blocking-character or alazṓn. However, the man who is left in the hands of doctors threatening enemas and other procedures, the man whose creditors will be repaid by Oronte, the bigamist or polygamist who should be hanged, is Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, Oronte’s prospective son-in-law. The first doctor claims Pourceaugnac as un meuble, his property. Moreover, we are in Paris, where the accused is hanged before the trial. The play is such a charivari, hullabaloo, that Julie, Éraste’s innamorata, finds Monsieur de Pourceaugnac attractive and follows him as he is led out of “this country,” which is seen as an enlèvement, by Oronte.
Ah ! Monsieur, ce perfide de Limosin, ce traître de Monsieur de Pourceaugnac vous enlève votre fille. Sbrigani à Oronte (III. vi)
[Ah, Sir! this perfidious Limousin, this wretch of a Monsieur de Pourceaugnac abducts your daughter!] Sbrigani à Oronte (III. 8, p. 133)
She who would not be forced into a marriage, must marry Éraste, whom, she suspects, created all these pièces, comedies:
Ce sont sans doute des pièces qu’on lui fait, et c’est peut-être lui [Éraste] qui a trouvé cet artifice pour vous en dégoûter. Julie à Oronte (III. vii)
[They are, no doubt, tricks which have been played upon him, and (Pointing to Eraste) it is perhaps he who invented this artifice to disgust you with him.] Julie to Oronte and Éraste (III. ix, p. 135)
An on-stage dramatist
Yes and no. Éraste did not oppose Sbrigani’s unacceptable tricks. Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is not a théâtre dans le théâtre, but one could suggest that the dramatist is on stage and the play abundantly self-referential:
Je conduis de l’œil toutes choses, et tout ceci ne va pas mal. Nous fatiguerons tant notre provincial, qu’il faudra, ma foi, qu’il déguerpisse. Sbrigani (II. vii)
[I am managing these things very nicely, and everything goes well as yet. We shall tire our provincial to such an extent that upon my word, he will be obliged to decamp.] Sbrigani (II. 11, p. 125)
Julie knowsabout Éraste’s involvement in and provides a redressing of the comedy. She is the dutiful daughter who takes the husband her father chose for her:
They are no doubt tricks which have been played upon him, and (Pointing to Eraste) it is perhaps he who invented this artifice to disgust you with him. Julie to Oronte (III. 9, p. 135)
Pour rire / for the fun of it
Although Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is cruel and machiavellian, it is for the main part an “all’s well that ends well.” But there are gradations within comedy. Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is a pour rire: for laughs, concocted one of the best among zanni: Sbrigani. In Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, wit prevails, and wit is ruthless. It is carnivalesque. My thesis director, Dr Harold C. Knutson, wrote a book entitled: The Triumph of Wit: Molière and Restoration Comedy. I could not end on a better note.
_____________________  Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 ), p. 41. Brody, Jules. “Dom Juan and Le Misanthrope, or the Esthetics of Individualism inMolière, ” PMLA, 84, 1969.  Knutson, Harold C. The Triumph of Wit: Molière and Restoration Comedy, Ohio State University Pres, 1988)
Love to everyone 💕
Sincere apologies for rebuilding my post. In theory, this computer was repaired, but it wasn’t. A friend and technician will take me to a store. We will buy the computer and he will set it up.
MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC.
ORONTE. JULIE, (daughter of) fille d’Oronte.
NÉRINE, (a schemer) femme d’intrigue, (false) feinte Picarde.
LUCETTE, (false) feinte Gasconne.
ÉRASTE, (in love with) amant de Julie.
SBRIGANI, Napolitain, (a schemer) homme d’intrigue.
PREMIER MÉDECIN (doctor). SECOND MÉDECIN. L’APOTHICAIRE. UN PAYSAN (peasant). UNE PAYSANNE. PREMIER MUSICIEN (musician). SECOND MUSICIEN. PREMIER AVOCAT (lawyer). SECOND AVOCAT. PREMIER SUISSE (Swiss). SECOND SUISSE. UN EXEMPT. DEUX ARCHERS. PLUSIEURS MUSICIENS, JOUEURS D’INSTRUMENTS, ET DANSEURS.
La scène est à Paris
SCENE ONE / Scène première ORONTE, PREMIER MÉDECIN.
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac escapes the doctor’s house carrying a chair. The first doctor thinks that Monsieur de Pourceaugnac must be treated:
Marque d’un cerveau démonté, et d’une raison dépravée, que de ne vouloir pas guérir. Premier médecin à Sbrigani (II. i)
[It is a sign of a disordered brain, and of a corrupted reason, not to wish to be cured.] 1st doctor to Sbrigani (II. 1)
Sbrigani tells the 1st doctor that M de Pourceaugnac may be at Oronto’s house. He, Sbrigani, will prepare a new batterie a trick:
Je vais de mon côté dresser une autre batterie, et le beau-père est aussi dupe que le gendre. Sbrigani au premier médecin (II. i)
I, on my part, will go and bring another battery into play; and the father-in-law shall be duped as much as the son-in-law. Sbribani to 1st doctor (II. 1, p. 114)
SCENE TWO ORONTE, PREMIER MÉDECIN.
According to the 1st doctor, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac belongs to him.
Votre prétendu gendre a été constitué mon malade: sa maladie qu’on m’adonné à guérir, est un meuble qui m’appartient, et que je compte entre mes effets; et je vous déclare que je ne prétends point qu’il se marie, qu’au préalable il n’ait satisfait à la médecine, et subi les remèdes que je lui ai ordonnés. Premier médecin à Oronte (II. ii) [Your intended son-in-law has been constituted my patient; his disease, which I have been told to cure, is property which belongs to me, and which I reckon among my possessions; and I declare to you that I will not suffer him to marry before he has given satisfaction to the medical Faculty, and taken the remedies which I have prescribed for him.] 1st doctor to Oronte (II. 2, p. 114)
If Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is ill, Oronte will cancel the wedding.
Je n’ai garde, si cela est, de faire le mariage. Oronte au premier médecin (II. ii)
[If that is the case, I do not intend to conclude this match.] Pourceaugnac to 1st doctor (II. 2, p. 115)
SCENE THREE SBRIGANI, en marchand flamand, ORONTE.
Sbrigani goes to Oronte’s house wearing Flemish clothes and says that Monsieur de Pourceaugnac owes a great deal of money:
Et sti Montsir de Pourcegnac, Montsir, l’est un homme que doivre beaucoup grandement à dix ou douze marchanne flamane qui estre venu ici. Sbrigani to Oronte (II. iii)
[And this Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, Sir, is a man who owes a great deal to ten or twelve Flemish merchants who have come hither.] Sbrigani to Oronte (II. 3, p. 116)
This Flemish gentleman is awaiting the wedding because Oronte will pay his creditors (ses créanciers).
Oui, Montsir obtenir, et depuis huite mois, nous afoir obtenir une petite sentence contre lui, et lui à remettre à payer tou ce créanciers de sti mariage que sti Montsir Oronte donne pour son fille. Sbrigani (II. iii)
[Yes, Sir; and eight months ago, we have obtained a little judgment against him; and he has put off paying all his creditors until this marriage, if this Mr. Oronte gives him his daughter.] Sbrigani dressed in Flemish clothes to Oronte (II. 3, p. 116) Sbrigani habillé en marchand flamand à Oronte (II. iii).
Oronte thinks that this information is not bad.
L’avis n’est pas mauvais. Je vous donne le bonjour. Oronte (II. iii)
(Aside). This is not a bad warning. (Aloud). I wish you good day. Oronte (II. 3, p. 116)
Sbrigani bumps into Monsieur de Pourceaugnac who tells him that he thought he would dine and sleep, but fell into the hands of doctors. He escaped carrying a chair.
Tout ce que je vois, me semble lavement. Pourceaugnac à Sbrigani (II. iv)
Everything which I see appears an enemy [enema] to me. Pourceaugnac to Sbrigani (II. 4, p. 117)
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac remembers his being handed over to doctors and apothecaries. He repeats their words and Sbrigani’s.
Je vous laisse entre les mains de Monsieur. Des médecins habillés de noir. Dans une chaise. Tâter le pouls. Comme ainsi soit. Il est fou. Deux gros joufflus. Grands chapeaux. Bon di, bon di. Six pantalons. Ta, ra, ta, ta: Ta, ra, ta, ta. Alegramente Monsu Pourceaugnac. Apothicaire. Lavement. Prenez, Monsieur, prenez, prenez. Il est bénin, bénin, bénin. C’est pour déterger, pour déterger, déterger. Piglia-lo sù, Signor Monsu, piglia-lo, piglia-lo, piglia-lo sù. Jamais je n’ai été si soûl de sottises. Pourceaugnac à Sbrigani (II. iv)
[I leave you in the hands of this gentleman. Doctors dressed in black. In a chair. Feel the pulse. That it be so. He is mad. Two stout boobies. Big hats. Buon di. buon di. Six pantaloons. Ta, ra, ta, ta ; ta, ra, ta, ta. Allegramente, monsu Pourceaugnac. An apothecary. Injection. Take it, Sir; take it, take it. It is gentle, gentle, gentle. It is to loosen, to loosen, loosen. Piglialo su, signor Monsu; piglialo, piglialo, pigliao su. Never have I been so crammed with silliness.] Pourceaugnac to Sbrigani (II. 4, p. 117)
Ironically, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac tells his woes to the confidence trickster who is engineering his demise. One is reminded of Horace confiding in Arnolphe (The School for Wives). Sbrigani’s next trick is to question Julie’s virtue. She would be a coquette.
SCENE FIVE ORONTE, POURCEAUGNAC.
When they first meet, Oronte and Pourceaugnac behave like enemies.
Croyez-vous, Monsieur Oronte, que les Limosins soient des sots? Pourceaugnac (II. v) Croyez-vous, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, que les Parisiens soient des bêtes? Oronte (II. v) Vous imaginez-vous, Monsieur Oronte, qu’un homme comme moi soit affamé de femme? Pourceaugnac (II. v) Vous imaginez-vous, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, qu’une fille comme la mienne soit si affamée de mari? Oronte (II. v) [Think you, Mr. Oronte, that the Limousins are fools? Pourceaugnac (II. 5, p.119-120)
Think you, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, that the Parisians are idiots. Oronte (II. 5, p. 120)
Do you imagine, Mr. Oronte, that a man like me is so hungry after a woman ? Pourceaugnac (II. 5, p. 120) Do you imagine, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, that a girl like mine is so hungry after a husband ?] Oronte (II. 5, p. 120)
SCENE SIX JULIE, ORONTE, MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC.
Julie joins her father and Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. She makes believe that she can’t wait to be Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’s wife.
On vient de me dire, mon père, que Monsieur de Pourceaugnac est arrivé. Ah le voilà sans doute, et mon cœur me le dit. Qu’il est bien fait! qu’il a bon air! et que je suis contente d’avoir un tel époux! Souffrez que je l’embrasse, et que je lui témoigne… Julie (II. vi)
[They have just told me, father, that Monsieur de Pourceaugnac has arrived. Ah! this is he no doubt, and my heart tells me so. How well he is built! how well he looks! and how glad I am to have such a husband! Permit me to embrace him, and to show him that . . .] Julie (II. 6, p. 120)
She would like to caress him, but Oronte will not allow her to touch Pourceaugnac.
Ne voulez-vous pas que je caresse l’époux que vous m’avez choisi? Julie (II. vi)
[May I not caress the husband whom you have chosen for me?] Julie (II. 6, p. 120)
Oronte tells Monsieur de Pourceaugnac that he has debts to repay that he is expected to pay debts, which eliminates Monsieur de Pourceaugnac.
La feinte ici est inutile, et j’ai vu le marchand flamand, qui, avec les autres créanciers, a obtenu depuis huit mois sentence contre vous. Oronte (II. vi)
[The pretence is useless; and I have seen the Flemish merchant, who, with other creditors, obtained judgment against you eight months ago.] Oronte to Pourceaugnac (II. 7)
Quel marchand flamand? quels créanciers? quelle sentence obtenue contre moi? Pourceaugnac (II. vi)
[What Flemish merchant? What creditors? What judgment obtained against me?] Pourceaugnac (II. 7, p. 122)
LUCETTE, ORONTE, MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC.
Next, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is confronted by two women, Lucette and Nérine, both of whom claim they were married to Pourceaugnac and that he abandoned them. Beware, Nérine is a trickster, or femme d’intrigue. As for Lucette, she is learning the craft quickly. Lucette says she married in Pézenas and Nérine, in Chin-Quentin. Everyone was in attendance
Ah! tu es assy, et à la fy yeu te trobi aprés abé fait tant de passés. Podes-tu, scélérat, podes tu sousteni ma bisto? Lucette à Pourceaugnac (II. vii)
[Ah! you are here, and I find you at last, after my many journeys in search of you. Can you bear to look me in the face, you scoundrel?] Lucette to Pourceaugnac (II. 8, p. 122)
Qu’est-ce veut cette femme-là? Pourceaugnac (II. vii)
[What does this woman want?] Pourceaugnac (II. 8, p. 122)
Que te boli, infame! Tu fas semblan de nou me pas connouysse, et nou rougisses pas, impudent que tu sios, tu ne rougisses pas de me beyre? Nou sabi pas, Moussur, saquos bous dont m’an dit que bouillo espousa la fillo; may yeu bous declari que yeu soun safenno, et que y a set ans, Moussur, qu’en passan à Pezenas el auguet l’adresse dambé sas mignardisos, commo sap tapla fayre, de me gaigna lou cor, et m’oubligel praquel mouyen à y douna la man per l’espousa. Lucette à Pourceaugnac (II. vii)
[What do I want, you infamous wretch! You pretend not to know me; and you do not blush, rogue that you are, you do not blush to see me. (To Oronte). I do not know, Sir, whether it is you, as I have been told, whose daughter he wants to marry; but I declare to you that I am his wife, and that seven years ago, when he was passing through Pézenas, he was artful enough, with his pretty speeches in which he is so clever, to gain my heart, and, by these means, persuaded me to give him my hand in marriage. Lucette to Pourceaugnac (II. 8, p. 122)
Oh ! Oh ! Oronte (II. vii) Que diable est-ce ci ? [What the devil is this [the syringe]? Pourceaugnac (II. 8, p. 123)
Lou trayté me quitel trés ans aprés, sul preteste de qualques affayres que l’apelabon dins soun païs, et despey noun ly resçauput quaso de noubelo ; may dins lou tens qui soungeabi lou mens, m’an dounat abist, que begnio dins aquesto bilo, per se remarida danbé un autro jouena fillo, que sous parens ly an proucurado, sensse saupré res de sou prumié mariatge. Yeu ay tout quitat en diligensso, et me souy rendudo dins aqueste loc lou pu leau qu’ay pouscut , per m’oupousa en aquel criminel mariatge, et confondre as elys de tout le mounde lou plus méchant day homme. Lucette à Pourceaugnac (I. vii) [The wretch left me three years afterwards, under the pretext of some business which took him to his country; and since then I have had no tidings from him ; but when I was least thinking about it, they warned me that he was coming into this town to marry again another young girl which her parents had promised him, without knowing anything of his first marriage. I immediately left everything, and I have come hither as quickly as I could, to oppose this criminal union, and to unmask the most wicked of men before the eyes of the world.] Lucette to Pourceaugnac (II. 8, p. 152)
SCENE EIGHT NÉRINE en Picarde, LUCETTE, ORONTE, MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC.
At first, Scene Eight seems a copy of Scene Seven, because a second woman, Nérine, claims that she married Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. She is from Picardy and speak a dialectical French. Both women quarrel.
Quaign’inpudensso! Et coussy, miserable, nou te soubenes plus de la pauro Françon, et del paure Jeanet, que soun lous fruits de nostre mariatge? Lucette à Pourceaugnac (II. viii)
[What impudence! How now, you wretch, you remember no longer poor little Francois, and poor Jeannette, who are the fruits of our union?] Lucette à Pourceaugnac (II. 9, p. 155)
Bayez un peu l’insolence. Quoy? tu ne te souviens mie de chette pauvre ainfain, no petite Madelaine, que tu m’as laichée pour gaige de ta foy? Nérine à Pourceaugnac (II. viii)
[Just look at the insolence! What! you do not remember that poor child, our little Madelaine, which you left me as a pledge of your fidelity?] Nérine to Pourceaugnac (II. ix, p. 155)
Beny Françon, beny, Jeanet, beny, toustou, beny, toustoune, benre à un payre dénaturat la duretat qu’el a per nautres. Lucette aux enfants (II. viii)
[Come here Francois, come here Jeannette, come all of you, come and show an unnatural father his want of feeling for us all.] Lucette to the children (II. ix, p. 124)
Ah, papa ! papa ! papa ! Les enfants [the children] (II. viii)
Diantre soit des petits fils de putains ! Pourceaugnac (II. viii)
[The devil take the strumpet’s brats!] Pourceaugnac (II. 10, p. 125)
Lucette says that everyone in Pézenas saw her marry Pourceaugnac and Nérine reports that all Chin-Quentin saw her wed Pourceaugnac. Tout Pézenas a bist nostre mariatge. Lucette (II. viii) Tout Chin-Quentin [St-Quentin] a assisté à no noche. Nérine (II. viii)
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is exhausted and screams for help.
Au secours ! au secours ! où fuirai-je ? Je n’en puis plus. Pourceaugnac (II. viii) [Help! help! where shall fly? I can bear this no longer] Pourceaugnac (II. 10, 125)
As Monsieur de Pourceaugnac leaves, frightened, Oronte says that he should be hanged. That is our “cas pendable.” This expression is a favourite among students of Molière and moliéristes. Pendable comes from pendre, to hang.
SCENE NINE MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC, SBRIGANI.
Sbrigani emerges victorious. He has orchestrated all of Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’s setbacks, while asking that no one go too far. Sbrigani can fool anyone. He is one of French literature’s finest tricksters, after Renart (Reynard the Fox).
Je conduis de l’œil toutes choses, et tout ceci ne va pas mal. Nous fatiguerons tant notre provincial, qu’il faudra, ma foi, qu’il déguerpisse.
Sbrigani (II. ix)
[I am managing these things very nicely, and everything goes well as yet. We shall tire our provincial to such an extent that upon my word, he will be obliged to decamp.]
Sbrigani (II. 11, p. 125)
SCENE TEN MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC, SBRIGANI.
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac continues to believe Sbrigani is a friend, which is not altogether wrong, yet wrong. Above all, Sbrigani is a consummate con-man, or confidence trickster.
Pourceaugnac tells Sbrigani that it rains women and enema in this land.
Oui. Il pleut en ce pays des femmes et des lavements. Pourceaugnac (II. x)
[Yes. It rains syringes and women in this country.] Pourceaugnac (II. 12, p. 124)
Afterwards, they discuss legal help. He could be arrested for polygamy. Sbrigani knows exactly whom to pick.
Je le veux, et vais vous conduire chez deux hommes fort habiles; mais j’ai auparavant à vous avertir de n’être point surpris de leur manière de parler; ils ont contracté du barreau certaine habitude de déclamation, qui fait que l’on dirait qu’ils chantent, et vous prendrez pour musique tout ce qu’ils vous diront. Sbrigani à Pourceaugnac(II. x)
I shall do so, and shall take you to two very able men; but I must warn you beforehand not to be surprised at their way of speaking. They have contracted from the bar a certain habit of declamation which would lead one to suppose that they were singing, and you might mistake everything they say for music. Sbrigani to Pourceaugnac (II. 12, p. 126)
SBRIGANI, MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC, DEUX AVOCATS musiciens, dont l’un parle fort lentement, et l’autre fort vite, accompagnés de DEUX PROCUREURS et de DEUX SERGENTS.
Scene eleven is an interlude. Two lawyers recite or sing that Monsieur de Pourceaugnac will pay for his “crimes.” Two public prosecutors (procureurs) and sergeants beat them up.
La polygamie est un cas pendable, Est un cas pendable. Lawyers (II. xi)
Polygamy is a business,
Is a hanging business. Lawyers (II.12, p. 126)
In Act Three, Scene One, Sbrigani describes justice as it is carried out in Paris. The trial takes place after the man who has been arrested was been hanged. There is no trial. That country is one where one likes to see a Limosin, hanged.
N’importe, ils ne s’enquêtent point de cela; et puis ils ont en cette ville une haine effroyable pour les gens de votre pays, et ils ne sont point plus ravis que de voir pendre un Limosin. Sbrigani à Pourceaugnac (III. ii)
[It matters not; they do not inquire into that; and besides, they have got a terrible hatres in this town for people from your country; and nothing gives them greater delight than to see a Limousin hanged.] Scribani to Pourceaugnac (III. 2, p. 161)
Pourceaugnac, disguised as a woman, meets two Suisses (guards) who want to make love to Monsieur de Pourceaugnac who seems une femme de qualité. They are stopped by police officers.
In Scene III, Pourceaugnac is arrested by an Exempt, a police officer whom Sbrigani will bribe using Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’s money. The Exempt leads Monsieur de Pourceaugnac out of Paris.
In Scene Six, Sbrigani has news for Oronte. Julie followed Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. In Scene Seven, Éraste takes her back to her father. Oronte is so pleased that he gives his daughter in marriage to Éraste
Je vous suis beaucoup obligé; et j’augmente de dix mille écus le mariage de ma fille. Allons, qu’on fasse venir le notaire pour dresser le contrat.
Oronte (III. ix)
[I am much obliged to you, and I add ten thousand crowns to the marriage portion of my daughter. Come, let them a notary to draw up the contract.]
(III. 9, p. 169)
In Scene Eight, as all wait for the the lawyer, an interlude entertains everyone.
I will close here because of fatigue. However, I will attempt to publish a short conclusion tomorrow, if possible. My first post has commentaries. Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is a pharmakós, a scapegoat. Although it has many shades, comedy is comedy. It is home to laughter. Our young lovers will marry, but I doubt Monsieur de Pourceaugnac will ever return to Paris. Sbrigani is the zanni of the commedia dell’arte.
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is a three-act comédie-ballet Molière wrote for the royal family’s hunting season. He was asked to write it on 17 September 1669 and spent five weeks at Chambord where living conditions were difficult for Molière. He was sick and he was cold. Jean-Baptiste Lully, composed the music for this comédie-ballet and played a role, that of an Italian musician disguised as a doctor. The comedy was choreographed by Pierre Beauchamp and Carlo Vigarani built the sets.
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac was first performed for Louis XIV and the court, at the Château de Chambord, on 6 October 1669.
According to Georges Forestier, Scene Eight of Act Three is enchassée or embedded. However, Sbrigani, “un homme d’intrigue,” a schemer, seems a director within the play. He orchestrates the various “machines”designed to make Monsieur de Pourceaugnac unfit to marry Julie, Oronte’s daughter.
Polichinelle, ca. 1680 by French artist Nicolas Bonnart. The first of a set of five etchings entitled Five Characters from the Commedia dell’Arte. Etching with hand coloring on laid paper (Photo credit: wiki2.org)
The source of this comedy may be the anonymous, Pulcinella pazzo per forza of the commedia dell’arte. Its ancestry would also include Polichinella Burlato. Polichinelle is blamed and could be the commedia dell’arte‘s pharmakós. The play also has French antecedents. Mocking doctors was a favourite theme of the French farce and other comic plays. Molière himself had already ridiculed doctors.
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’s scenario is an all’s that ends well, a “tout est bien qui finit bien,” but Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’s very name, ‘pourc’ from ‘porc’ (pig), suggests a sorry fate for our Limosin (from Limoges).
Quand il n’y aurait que ce nom-là, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, j’y brûlerai mes livres, ou je romprai ce mariage, et vous ne serez point Madame de Pourceaugnac. Pourceaugnac! Cela se peut-il souffrir? Non, Pourceaugnac est une chose que je ne saurais supporter, et nous lui jouerons tant de pièces, nous lui ferons tant de niches sur niches, que nous renverrons à Limoges Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. Nérine à tous (I. i) [If it were nothing but his name, this Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, I would do everything to succeed in breaking off this marriage, rather than that you should be Madam de Pourceaugnac. Pourceaugnac! is it bearable? No, Pourceaugnac is something which I cannot tolerate; and we shall play him so many tricks, we shall practice so many jokes upon jokes upon him, that we shall soon send Monsieur de Pourceaugnac back to Limoges again. Nérine to all (I. 3, p. 94)
It should be noted that Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’s doctors and apothecaries are very aggressive. They try to force several interventions on Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, who travelled by coach, a carriage, from Limoges, to marry Oronte’s daughter Julie. Éraste takes him to a place where he will dine and sleep. It’s a fourberie. He finds himself the captive of doctors.
The play contains so many rather cruel tricks: fourberies, that at times, one is tempted to pity Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. He has come to Paris to marry Julie, but the blocking-character (le barbon) is Oronte, Julie’s father. Oronte has chosen to marry his daughter to a man she doesn’t even know. But the person who is fooled is a neither innocent nor guilty, mostly innocent Pourceaugnac.
Therefore, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac seems a scapegoat, a pharmakós, and, to a large extent, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is a trickster play. Such comedies can be associated with cartoons. Body parts grow back after being removed painlessly. Victims do not hurt. However, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is genuinely threatened and hurts. He has to flee.
First, he will have an illness and creditors. At the end of Act One, femmes d’intrigues (schemers), false wives will emerge. That is bigamy and punishable. Lucette and Nérine will both claim Pourceaugnac married them, which makes him one of Molière’s cas pendables, a case where one could be hanged.
But Molière uses two women who claim Monsieur de Pourceaugnac married them, feign provincial roots, and speak dialectal French, which is a comedic element. Molière toured the provincial, but Pézenas was his base. He was exposed to dialects.
The doctors, however, speak la langue macaronique, latinised Italian.
MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC. ORONTE. JULIE, (daughter of) fille d‘Oronte. NÉRINE, (a schemer) femme d’intrigue, (false) feinte Picarde. LUCETTE, (false) feinte Gasconne. ÉRASTE, (in love with) amant de Julie. SBRIGANI, Napolitain, (a schemer) homme d’intrigue. PREMIER MÉDECIN (doctor). SECOND MÉDECIN. L’APOTHICAIRE. UN PAYSAN (peasant). UNE PAYSANNE. PREMIER MUSICIEN (musician). SECOND MUSICIEN. PREMIER AVOCAT (lawyer). SECOND AVOCAT. PREMIER SUISSE (Swiss). SECOND SUISSE. UN EXEMPT. DEUX ARCHERS. PLUSIEURS MUSICIENS, JOUEURS D’INSTRUMENTS, ET DANSEURS.
In Act One, Scene One, Julie and Éraste, our young lovers, are together. Nérine, a schemer, is to keep an eye out to make sure Oronte, Julie’s father, does not see them. Moreover, our young loves are well prepared.
Oui, belle Julie, nous avons dressé pour cela quantité de machines, et nous ne feignons point de mettre tout en usage, sur la permission que vous m’avez donnée. Ne nous demandez point tous les ressorts que nous ferons jouer, vous en aurez le divertissement; et comme aux comédies, il est bon de vous laisser le plaisir de la surprise, et de ne vous avertir point de tout ce qu’on vous fera voir; c’est assez de vous dire que nous avons en main divers stratagèmes tous prêts à produire dans l’occasion, et que l’ingénieuse Nérine et l’adroit Sbrigani entreprennent l’affaire. Éraste à Julie (I. i) [Yes, charming Julia, we have in readiness a quantity of engines for this purpose; and now that you have given me permission, we shall not scruple to use them all. Do not ask us all the contrivances which we shall bring into play; you will be amused by them; and it is better to leave you the pleasure of surprise, as they do in comedies, and to warn you of nothing which we mean to show you. Let it be sufficient to tell you that we have various stratagems in hand to be produced at the fit moment, and that the ingenious Nerine and the skilful Sbrigani have undertaken the affair.] Eraste to Julia (I. 3, p. 93)
Nérine is so ingénieuse that Molière invites a comparison with the commedia dell’arte’s zanni. Sbrigani is the main schemer. He is from Naples.
In Scene Two, Julia is asked to make believe she agrees with her father’s decisions. She does to the point of leaving with Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. But Oronte forces her to marry Éraste, whom she loves. Oronte uses the word sotte (silly) when speaking of his daughter.
Au moins, Madame, souvenez-vous de votre rôle; et pour mieux couvrir notre jeu, feignez, comme on vous a dit, d’être la plus contente du monde des résolutions de votre père. Éraste à Julie (I. ii) [At least, Madam, remember your part ; and, the better to hide our game, pretend, as you have been told, to be thoroughly satisfied with your father’s plans.] Eraste to Julia (I. 4, p. 95)
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is spotted in Act One, Scene Two. In Scene Three, he is greeted very politely by Sbrigani. The “Ah, ah !” are contrived, but comical. Sbrigani claims he is speaking from the bottom of [his] heart:
C’est du fond du cœur que je parle. Sbrigani à Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (I. iii) (I. 5)
Sbrigani then asks Monsieur de Pourceaugnac if he has lodgings for the night at which point Scene Four Éraste then enters the stage claiming he knows all the Pourceaugnacs in Limoges. However, he is getting his information from Monsieur de Pourceaugnac himself. This scene is also very comical.
In Scene Five, Éraste takes Monsieur de Pourceaugnac to the home where he will dine and spend the night. However, the home is a doctor’s home. They are greeted by an apothecary who is told by Éraste that Pourceaugnac is a relative who “has been attacked by a fit of madness:”
… c’est pour lui mettre entre les mains certain parent que nous avons, dont on lui a parlé, et qui se trouve attaqué de quelque folie, (…) Éraste à l’apothicaire (I. v) [It is to place under his care a certain relation of ours, of whom we spoke, and who has been attacked by a fit of madness, which we should be very glad to have cured before he is married.] Eraste to the Apothecary (I. 7)
The apothecary praises the doctor in the following and astounding terms:
Voilà déjà trois de mes enfants dont il m’a fait l’honneur de conduire la maladie, qui sont morts en moins de quatre jours, et qui entre les mains d’un autre, auraient langui plus de trois mois. L’Apothicaire à Éraste (I. v) [Already there are three of my children whose complaints he has done me the honor to treat, who have died in less than four days, and who in some one else’s hands would have languished for three months or more.]
Enters the first doctor who says that a sick peasant whose headaches are very painful should suffer “from the spleen:”
Le malade est un sot, d’autant plus que dans la maladie dont il est attaqué, ce n’est pas la tête, selon Galien, mais la rate, qui lui doit faire mal. Premier médecin au paysan (I. vi) The patient is a fool: seeing that, in the complaint with which he is attacked he ought not, according to Galen, to suffer from the head at all, but from the spleen. First doctor to peasant (I. 8)
Éraste says that the patient, Pourceaugnac, should not be out of the doctors hands.
Je vous recommande surtout de ne le point laisser sortir de vos mains, car parfois il veut s’échapper. Éraste au premier médecin (I. vii) I recommend you above all not to let him slip out of your hands ; for he sometimes attempts to escape. Eraste to the 1st doctor (I. 10, p. 106)
In Scene Eight, a second doctor joins the first doctor. The two doctors take his pulse and ask questions about the food he eats, whether he sleeps well, whether he dreams, and also ask about his dejections. The doctors decide to “raisonner,” or discuss matters, together, and do so at length, interjecting Latin phrases and citing authorities. Treatment is determined. It is extensive, but they will start with un petit lavement, an enema.
Having listened to them for an hour, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac wonders if a comedy is being played:
Messieurs, il y a une heure que je vous écoute. Est-ce que nous jouons ici une comédie? Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (I. viii) [Gentlemen, I have been listening to you for this hour. Are we playing a comedy here?] (I. 11)
Just before an interlude begins, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac insists that he feels well: Je me porte bien.
Nous savons mieux que vous comment vous vous portez, et nous sommes médecins, qui voyons clair dans votre constitution. Premier médecin (I. viii) We know better than you how you are; and we are physicians who see clearly into your constitution. First doctor (I. 11)
Si vous êtes médecins, je n’ai que faire de vous; et je me moque de la médecine. Pourceaugnac (I. viii) [If you are physicians, I have no business with you; and I do not care a straw for physic.] Pourceaugnac (I. 11)
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac declares that his parents never took medicine and that both died “sans l’assistance des médecins.”
[My father and mother would never take medicine, and they both died without doctor’s assistance.] Pourceaugnac (I. 11, p. 110)
Je ne m’étonne pas s’ils ont engendré un fils qui est insensé. Premier médecin au second (I. viii) [They therefore produced a son who is bereft of his senses.]
The doctors are about to go ahead with an enema:
Que diable est-ce là? Les gens de ce pays-ci sont-ils insensés? Je n’ai jamais rien vu de tel, et je n’y comprends rien du tout. Pourceaugnac (I. ix) [What the devil is this? Have the people of these parts taken leave of their wits? I have never seen anything like it, and I understand nothing about it.] Pourceaugnac (I. 12)
I have added a short conclusion to my last post, Molière’s Comtesse d’Escarbagnas, and have referred to allusions to comedy as self-referential. As for the comedy the Vicomte is offering the Comtesse, it is not a play-within-a-play (unthéâtre dans le théâtre). We do not see the play and it is not over when the curtain falls. However, allusions to this comedy do take us from one scene to another. In other words, they function as a fil conducteur, or leading thread, thereby contributing to the coherence of the play. Guests arrive one at a time: Jeannot carrying pears on behalf of Monsieur Tibaudier, Monsieur Tibaudier himself, Monsieur Bobinet and, when the play-as-gift has begun, Monsieur Harpin.
The editor of my very 1956 Pléiade edition of Molière points to four main types constituting La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas: Monsieur Bobinet, Monsieur Tibaudier, Monsieur Harpin, a tax-farmer, and la Comtesse: Monsieur Bobinet is described as an out-and-out prig: “cuistre fieffé.” Monsieur Tibaudier, a councellor-at-law, is a “robin pédant et galant,” a pedantic noble of the robe. Monsieur Harpin swears and does not know that le Vicomte is no longer a rival. As for the Comtesse, she has been described or has described herself in her conversation with Julie, which takes place in Scene II. However, in as light a comedy as La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas, Messieurs Tibaudier, Bobinet, and Harpin are mostly sketched. None are a Tartuffe.
The Épigrammes & poet Martial
This scene is precious. Monsieur Tibaudier has written épigrammesfor the Comtesse. This form was popular in 17th-century French salons.
When the Vicomte admires Monsieur Tibaudier’s poetry and says that he, a Vicomte, has been outranked, supplanté, the Comtesse suspects he is mocking Monsieur Tibaudier whom she admires and will marry.
Comment, Madame, me moquer ? Quoique son rival, je trouve ces vers admirables, et ne les appelle pas seulement deux strophes, comme vous, mais deux épigrammes, aussi bonnes que toutes celles de Martial. Le Vicomte à la Comtesse (Scene V) [How, Madam, to sneer? Though his rival, I think these verses admirable, and not only call them two strophes, but two epigrams, as good as all those of Martial.] The Viscount to the Countess (Scene Sixteen, 76)
The Comtesse thinks Martial is a local person who makes gloves:
Quoi, Martial fait-il des vers, je pensais qu’il ne fît que des gants? La Comtesse au Vicomte à la Comtesse (Scene V) [What! does Martial make verses? I thought he made nothing but gloves.] The Countess to the Viscount (Scene Sixteen, p. 76)
Monsieur Tibaudier corrects her gently. It is not that Martial, says Monsieur Tibaudier, but a man who lived thirty to forty years ago.
Ce n’est pas ce Martial-là, Madame, c’est un auteur qui vivait il y a trente ou quarante ans. Monsieur Tibaudier à la Comtesse (Scene V) [It is not that Martial, Madam; it is an author who lived about thirty or forty years ago.] Monsieur Tibaudier to the Countess (Scene Sixteen, p. 77)
That is another mistake. Latin poet Martial (see Épigrammes) lived in the 2nd-century CE. Poet Martial wrote fifteen books of Épigrammes. So, both the Comtesse and Monsieur Tibaudier are wrong, but should Le Vicomte correct Monsieur Tibaudier, the man who so praises la Comtesse and whom she loves? No, Monsieur Tibaudier would be humiliated and the riposte would not be consistent with the spirit of La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas.
La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas was part of the Ballet des ballets. The music, by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, has come down to us, and so have the nine scenes of a short comedy of manners. In a comedy of manners, one interjects elements that will keep the spectators laughing. However, La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas is a very light comedy of manners and part of a divertissement (entertainment) called Le Ballet des ballets. Monsieur Tibaudier is a counsellor-at-law and he grows pears. So, it is unlikely that he would know much about Latin poets, but Molière is rather kind to his characters. However, it is true that the Martial le Vicomte mentions does not make gloves.
Molière did enter his comedies. I think several moliéristes would agree that the Vicomte’s description of the play can be seen as a brief intrusion by the dramatist of his Comtesse d’Escarbagnas. As well, one wonders why so much of Scene One is devoted to a depiction of a fâcheux(a bore). My readers who know French will find the Notice to La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas very informative. For instance, the description of a fâcheux (a bore), at the very beginning of the play, is looked upon as “fort curieuse,” very curious (see Notice).
Georges Forestier, the current authority on this subject, does not list LaComtesse d’Escarbagnas as a théâtre dans le théâtre, at least not as a whole. The théâtre dans le théâtre would have been inserted in the missing Pastoral, between Scenes VIII and IX.
Molière’s La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas was first performed in February 1672 at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, where royal divertissements often took place. (See toumoliere.net) Its first public performance took place on 8 July 1672 at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal. The play’s source is Greek author Theophrastus (Characters), who is also one of Molière’s sources for Les Fâcheux. Théophraste wrote portraits.
The date shown in this image is inaccurate. It should read February 1672. (toumoliere.net)
Le Ballet des ballets
The nine scenes of our current play were to constitute a one-act comedy of manners, followed by a pastorale, now lost, and an intermède from Psyché. The divertissement would therefore be a comédie-ballet entitled Le Ballet des ballets. It was written by Molière, composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, and choreographed by Pierre Beauchamp. In 1671, Molière had fallen out with Lully. When the play was performed for the public, on 8 July 1672, the pastoral was replaced by Molière’s Le Mariage forcé, to which intermèdes were added. These are included at the foot of this post.
LA COMTESSE D’ESCARBAGNAS.
LE COMTE, son fils (her son).
LE VICOMTE, amant de (in love with) Julie.
JULIE, amante du Vicomte.
MONSIEUR TIBAUDIER, conseiller, amant de la Comtesse.
MONSIEUR HARPIN, receveur des tailles (tax farmer), autre amant de la Comtesse.
MONSIEUR BOBINET, précepteur de (tutor to) Monsieur le Comte.
ANDRÉE, suivante de la Comtesse.
JEANNOT, laquais de Monsieur Tibaudier.
CRIQUET, laquais de la Comtesse.
Most of Scene One is a conversation between Julie and le Vicomte, the comedy’s young lovers. First, the Vicomte tells Julie that he bumped into a fâcheux, which delayed him. He then goes on to say that he doesn’t like making believe he is in love with the Comtesse. He laments his role. It is a “comedy.”
Que cette feinte où je me force n’étant que pour vous plaire, j’ai lieu de ne vouloir en souffrir la contrainte, que devant les yeux qui s’en divertissent. Que j’évite le tête-à-tête avec cette comtesse ridicule, dont vous m’embarrassez, et en un mot que ne venant ici que pour vous, j’ai toutes les raisons du monde d’attendre que vous y soyez. Le Vicomte à Julie (Scène première)
[[…] I am induced not to wish to suffer the annoyance of it, except in the presence of her who is amused by it; that I avoid the tête-à-tête with this ridiculous Countess, with whom you hamper me; and, in one word that, coming here but for you, I have all the reasons possible to await until you are here.] The Vicount Julie (Scene One, p. 64)
The Comtesse is besotted with rank and has just returned from Paris where she was surrounded by aristocrats. This, no doubt, has further consolidated her conviction that aristocrats are personnes de qualité. Julie reports to the Vicomte, the man she loves, that glittering Paris has besotted the Comtesse.
Notre comtesse d’Escarbagnas, avec son perpétuel entêtement de qualité, est un aussi bon personnage qu’on en puisse mettre sur le théâtre. Le petit voyage qu’elle a fait à Paris, l’a ramenée dans Angoulême, plus achevée qu’elle n’était. L’approche de l’air de la cour a donné à son ridicule de nouveaux agréments, et sa sottise tous les jours ne fait que croître et embellir. Julie au Vicomte (Scène première)
[Our Countess of Escarbagnas, with her perpetual hobby of quality, is as good a character as one could put on the stage. The little excursion which she has made to Paris has brought her back to Angoulême more perfect than she was. The proximity of the court-air has given new charms to her absurdity, and her silliness does but grow and become more beautiful every day.] Julie to the Viscount (Scene One, p. 65)
We know why the Vicomte has entered the fray. How can two bourgeois compete with a person of rank? In fact, our bourgeois are somewhat tired of courting the Comtesse. It is hoped that a petite comédie, le Vicomte as suitor, will make Monsieur Tibaudier and Monsieur Harpin press their suit. Le Vicomte, a real aristocrat is about to treat the Comtesse with a comédie. Le Vicomte‘s bourgeois rivals have been invited to attend.
We meet the Comtesse in Scene Two. She has caught a glimpse of the Vicomte leaving through a back door. She is alarmed, but Julie, her suivante, reassures her:
Non, Madame, et il a voulu témoigner par là qu’il est tout entier à vos charmes. Julie à la Comtesse (Scène II)
[No, Madam, and by this he wished to show that he is entirely to your charms.] Julie to the Countess (Scene Two, p. 67)
The Comtesse‘s haughty behaviour is mostly objectionable. She scolds Andrée for using the word armoire, instead of garde-robe (closet). She scolds both Andrée and Criquet, for not knowing the word soucoupe, saucer. In fact, Criquet doesn’t know the word écuyer (equerry). We also have the matter of wax candles. They may have disappeared. Andrée has suif candles, tallow candles. Finally, Andrée gets so nervous that she drops a glass sitting on a tray and breaks it. The image at the top of this post shows Andrée dropping a glass. However, SceneTwo contains an extremely revealing conversation between la Comtesse and Julie, which will be discussed.
Before he arrives, Monsieur Thibaudier, one of the Comtesse‘s bourgeois suitors has Jeannot take pears to the Comtesse, to which a note is attached. The note will be read by the Vicomte to everyone in Scene Four. However, the Comtesse surprises us. As Scene Three is closing, she praises Monsieur Tibaudier:
Ce qui me plaît de ce Monsieur, c’est qu’il sait vivre avec les personnes de ma qualité, et qu’il est fort respectueux. La Comtesse à tous (Scene III)
[What pleases me in this Mr. Tibaudier is, that he knows how to behave with persons of my rank, and that he is very respectful.] The Countess to all (Scene Fourteen, p. 74)
In Scene Four, le Vicomte tells the Comtesse that the comedians are ready and that, in a quarter of an hour, they should all leave for the large room, la salle. The Countess warns that she does not want une cohue, a crush.
Je ne veux point de cohue au moins. Que l’on dise à mon suisse qu’il ne laisse entrer personne. La Comtesse au Vicomte (Scène IV)
I will have no crush at least. (To Criquet). Tell my porter to let no one enter. The Countess to the Viscount (Scene Fifteen, p. 74)
So the Vicomte, who is treating la Comtesse to a comedy, is ready to cancel the performance. One cannot let in the whole town, but spectators are needed.
En ce cas, Madame, je vous déclare que je renonce à la comédie, et je n’y saurais prendre de plaisir, lorsque la compagnie n’est pas nombreuse. Croyez-moi, si vous voulez vous bien divertir, qu’on dise à vos gens de laisser entrer toute la ville. Le Vicomte à la Comtesse (Scène IV)
[In this case, Madam, I must inform you that I shall abandon the comedy; and I cannot take any pleasure in it, if the company be not numerous. Believe me, that if you wish to amuse yourself well, you should tell your people to let the whole town come in.] The Viscount to the Countess (Scene Fifteen, p. 74)
The Viscount then reads the note Monsieur Tibaudier has sent with the pears. Monsieur Tibaudier has made it clear that the Comtesse has been cruel, so we expect the Comtesse to be to react angrily, but she doesn’t. Some académicien might find fault with the note, but she likes it.
Il y a peut-être quelque mot qui n’est pas de l’Académie; mais j’y remarque un certain respect qui me plaît beaucoup. La Comtesse à tous (Scène II)
[There may, perhaps, be some word in it which does not belong to the Academy; but I can read a certain respect in it which pleases me much.] The Countess to all (Scene Fifteen.75)
Vous avez raison, Madame, et Monsieur le Vicomte dût-il s’en offenser, j’aimerais un homme qui m’écrirait comme cela. Julie à la Comtesse (Scene IV)
[You are quite right, Madam, and, at the risk of offending the Viscount, I should love a man who wrote to me in this way.] Julie to the Countess (Scene Fifteen, p. 75)
In Scene Five, the Comtesse welcomes Monsieur Tibaudier rather warmly and the Viscount reads aloud Monsieur Tibaudier’s poems. They are so lovely that the Viscount says to himself that he has been outranked by Monsieur Thibaudier.
The Comtesse enjoys being courted by a Viscount, which we have seen in Scene Two, but she likes Monsieur Tibaudier’s note.
Self-interest and Jealousy
Scene Two is most revealing. It points to the organising principles of the play. Self-interest informs the behaviour of the Countess, and so does vanity. She may first appear obsessed with rank, but she is guided by vanity, and fear of losing the Comtesse‘s affection keeps her suitors vying for her affection.
Scene Two: Julie wonders how, having just travelled to Paris, the Comtesse can manage lowly Angoulême. She has been at Court where she met le beau monde (celebrities). Can she return to the company of a Counsellor at Law, Monsieur Tibaudier, and a tax farmer, Monsieur Harpin. They do not have a title.
Je m’étonne, Madame, que de tous ces grands noms que je devine, vous ayez pu redescendre à un monsieur Tibaudier, le conseiller, et à un monsieur Harpin, le receveur des tailles. La chute est grande, je vous l’avoue. Car pour Monsieur votre vicomte, quoique vicomte de province, c’est toujours un vicomte, et il peut faire un voyage à Paris, s’il n’en a point fait; mais un conseiller, et un receveur, sont des amants un peu bien minces [thin], pour une grande comtesse comme vous. Julie à la Comtesse (Scène II)
[I am surprised, Madam, that after all these great names at which I guess, you have been able to come down again to a Mr. Tibaudier, a counsellor at law, and to a Mr. Harpin, a receiver of taxes. The fall is great, I confess; for, as for your Viscount, though but a country Viscount, he is at any rate a Viscount, and may make a journey to Paris, if he have not already done so: but a counsellor at law, and a receiver of taxes are somewhat inferior lovers for a grand Countess like you.] Julie to the Countess (Scene Eleven, p. 71)
There can be no doubt that the Comtesse inhabits the world La Rochefoucauld described. Self-interest makes it necessary for her to accommodate her bourgeois suitors who must be rivals.
Ce sont gens qu’on ménage dans les provinces pour le besoin qu’on en peut avoir, ils servent au moins à remplir les vides de la galanterie, à faire nombre de soupirants; et il est bon, Madame, de ne pas laisser un amant seul maître du terrain, de peur que faute de rivaux, son amour ne s’endorme sur trop de confiance. La Comtesse à Julie (Scène II)
[They are people whom we conciliate in the provinces for the need we may have of them; they serve at least to fill up the vacancies of gallantry; to increase the number of suitors; and it is well, Madam, not to let one lover be sole master, for fear, that, failing rivals, his love may go to sleep through too much confidence.] The Countess to Julie (Scene Eleven, p. 72)
The Countess is the widowed mother of three sons, one of whom, le Comte, still has a tutor, Monsieur Bobinet. In Scene Eight, Monsieur Harpin, who enters the stage tardily and rather tempestuously, intimates that he has been a donneur. Might the Countess need money and have accepted money?
Monsieur Tibaudier en use comme il lui plaît, je ne sais pas de quelle façon monsieur Tibaudier a été avec vous, mais Monsieur Tibaudier n’est pas un exemple pour moi, et je ne suis point d’humeur à payer les violons pour faire danser les autres. Monsieur Harpin (Scène VIII)
[Mr. Tibaudier behaves as it pleases him: I do not know on what footing he is with you; but Mr. Tibaudier is not an example for me, and I am not disposed to pay the violins to let others dance.] Monsieur Harpin (Scene Twenty-One, p. 81)
Her relationships with Messieurs Tibaudier and Harpin were waning. Hence a recourse to jealousy. Monsieur Tibaudier presses his suit successfully. His verses and true love eliminate le Vicomte.
Monsieur Bobinet has arrived. He is the tutor to the Countess’ son, the Count. He reports on the Count and also brings news of the Comtesse’s two other sons:
Comment se portent mes deux autres fils, le Marquis et le Commandeur? La Comtesse à Monsieur Bobinet (Scene VI)
How fare my two other sons, the Marquis and the Commander? The Countess to Monsieur Bobinet (Scene Seventeen, p. 77)
She wants to know where the Count is and what he is doing. Monsieur Bobinet replies that the Count is in her “beautiful apartment with the alcove” working.
Il compose un thème, Madame, que je viens de lui dicter, sur une épître de Cicéron. La Comtesse à monsieur Bobinet (Scene VI)
He is composing an exercise, Madam, which I have just dictated to him upon an epistle of Cicero. La Comtesse à monsieur Bobinet (Scene Seventeen, p.77)
Given that the Vicomte has been more or less eliminated, the Comtesse wishes for her son to greet Monsieur Tibaudier. Monsieur Tibaudier is delighted, thereby pleasing the Comtesse. She is a Comtesse, which is rank, but this comtesse thrives on being admired.
Je suis ravi, Madame, que vous me concédiez la grâce d’embrasser Monsieur le Comte votre fils. On ne peut pas aimer le tronc, qu’on n’aime aussi les branches. Monsieur Tibaudier à la Comtesse (Scène VII)
[I am enchanted, Madam, that you concede me the favour of embracing the Count, your son. One cannot love the trunk without also loving the branches.] Monsieur Tibaudier to the Countess (Scene Fourteen, p. 78)
We also learn that although she has three grown (or almost) sons, she still looks young.
Hélas! quand je le fis, j’étais si jeune que je me jouais encore avec une poupée. La Comtesse à Julie (Scène VII) [Alas! when he was born, I was so young that I was still playing with a doll.] The Countessto Julie (Scene Eighteen, p. 78)
She is floating in mid-air when we hear that the comedians are ready.
Les comédiens envoient dire qu’ils sont tout prêts. Criquet (Scène VII)
The actors send me to say that they are quite ready. Criquet (Scene Twenty, p. 79)
Le Vicomte reflects that:
Il est nécessaire de dire, que cette comédie n’a été faite que pour lier ensemble les différents morceaux de musique, et de danse, dont on a voulu composer ce divertissement, et que… Le Vicomte à tous (Scene VII) [It is necessary to say that this comedy has been written only to connect together the different pieces of music and dancing of which they wished to compose this entertainment, and that…] The Viscount to all (Scene Twenty, p. 79)
Is the dramatist within his play and is this play a théâtre dans le théâtre? I believe he is.
Monsieur Harpin joins everyone when the comedy has already started. He is a fâcheux.
Parbleu la chose est belle, et je me réjouis de voir ce que je vois. Monsieur Harpin (Scène VIII)
Zounds! that is a pretty set out, and I rejoice to see what I do see. Monsieur Harpin (Scene Twenty-One, p. 79)
Eh têtebleu la véritable comédie qui se fait ici, c’est celle que vous jouez, et si je vous trouble, c’est de quoi je me soucie peu. Monsieur Harpin (Scène VIII)
Eh! the deuce! The real comedy which is performed here, is played by you; and if I do trouble you, I care very little about it. Monsieur Harpin (Scene Twenty-One, p. 80)
Monsieur Harpin thinks the Vicomte is his rival.
Eh ventrebleu, s’il y a ici quelque chose de vilain, ce ne sont point mes jurements, ce sont vos actions, et il vaudrait bien mieux que vous jurassiez, vous, la tête, la mort et la sang, que de faire ce que vous faites avec Monsieur le Vicomte. Monsieur Harpin (Scène VIII)
Eh! Odds bobs! if there be anything nasty, it is not my swearing, but your goings on; and it would be better for you to swear, heads, ‘s deaths, and blood, than to do what you are doing with the Viscount. Monsieur Harpin (Scene Twenty-One, p. 80)
The Vicomte does not understand what is going on.
Je ne sais pas, Monsieur le Receveur, de quoi vous vous plaignez, et si... Le Vicomte à Monsieur Harpin (Scene VIII)
I do not know, Mr. Receiver, of what you have to complain; and if… The Viscount to Monsieur Harpin (Scene Twenty-One, p. 80)
And the Comtesse doesn’t know why Monsieur Harpin speaks to everyone.
Quand on a des chagrins jaloux, on n’en use point de la sorte, et l’on vient doucement se plaindre à la personne que l’on aime. La Comtesse à Monsieur Harpin (Scene VIII)
When one has jealous cares, one ought not to behave in this manner; but to come and complain gently to the person one loves. The Countess to Monsieur Harpin (Scene Twenty-One, p. 80)
Contrary to Monsieur Tibaudier, Monsieur Harpin has not gone to visit the Countess and complain. He has chosen instead to accuse the Viscount and to make a mockery of himself. In fact, Monsieur Harpin becomes quite offensive. Once again, he alludes to giving/receiving money.
Je veux dire, que je ne trouve point étrange que vous vous rendiez au mérite de Monsieur le Vicomte, vous n’êtes pas la première femme qui joue dans le monde de ces sortes de caractères, et qui ait auprès d’elle un Monsieur le Receveur, dont on lui voit trahir, et la passion, et la bourse pour le premier venu qui lui donnera dans la vue ; mais ne trouvez point étrange aussi que je ne sois point la dupe d’une infidélité si ordinaire aux coquettes du temps, et que je vienne vous assurer devant bonne compagnie, que je romps commerce avec vous, et que Monsieur le Receveur ne sera plus pour vous Monsieur le Donneur. Monsieur Harpin (Scene VIII)
[I mean that I find nothing strange in it that you should give way to the merits of the Viscount; you are not the first woman who plays that sort of character in society, and who has a Receiver after her, whose affection and purse one finds her betray for the first comer who suits her views. But do not think it strange that I am not the dupe of an infidelity so common to the coquettes of the present day, and that I come to assure you before decent company, that I break off all connection with you, and that Mr. Receiver shall no longer be Mr.Giver to you.] Monsieur Harpin (Scene Twenty-0ne, p. 81)
We know already that in Scene Nine, la scène dernière, le vicomte and Julie will learn that their families will allow them to marry and that le Vicomte will tell the Comtesse to marry Monsieur Tibaudier. She will resist a little, but ask Monsieur Tibaudier to marry her.
C’est sans vous offenser, Madame, et les comédies veulent de ces sortes de choses. Le Vicomte à la Comtesse (Scène dernière)
It was meant without offence, Madam; comedies require these sorts of things. The Viscount to the Countess (Scene Twenty-Two, p. 81)
Julie has been fully “schooled.”
Je vous avoue, madame, qu’il y a merveilleusement à profiter de tout ce que vous dites, c’est une école que votre conversation, et j’y viens tous les jours attraper quelque chose. Julie à la Comtesse (Scène II)
[I confess to you, Madam, that there is a marvellous deal to learn by what you say; your conversation is a school, and every day I get hold of something in it.] Julie to the Countess (Scene Fourteen, p. 72)
In this comedy, jealousy is used to overcome obstacles to the marriage of the Comtesse. Monsieur Tibaudier presses his suit when a Vicomte is courting the Comtesse. On the other hand, Monsieur Harpin becomes jealous and his own worst enemy. This obstacle is to the Comtesse‘s marriage is mostly vanity on her part, which can translate as rank, but not necessarily. The Comtesse acts in her best interest. In 17th-century France, the bourgeoisie was growing and many bourgeois were rich.
However, we have a doubling or two couples. Le Vicomte and Julie face a more traditional obstacle. His father and her brothers oppose the Vicomte‘s marriage to Julie. A billet is delivered to the Vicomte. He may marry Julie. Comedy demands a fortunate péripétie, or turn of events. La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas is an “all’s that ends well” comedy. But first, all will watch the end of the comedy within the comedy. LeBallet des ballets was a divertissement.
I have read Lucien Dallenbach’s Récit spéculaire and I am reading Georges Forestier’s Le Théâtre dans le Théâtre. Years ago, I read Jean Rousset’s books. According to Georges Forestier, the embedded (enchâssé-e) element is the missing Pastoral, situated between Scenes Eight and Nine (p. 353). I would call other allusions to comedy “self-referential.”
I’m ready to post La Comtesse d’Escarbagnas, a fine little comedy of manners and comédie-ballet also entitled le Ballet des ballets. It was performed 580 times before the French Revolution.The main character, la Comtesse, is besotted by rank. She is a widowed personne de qualité, her spouse was a count, who is seeking a second husband. She does not marry an aristocrat, but a bourgeois who loves her and looks upon her as une personne de qualité. Monsieur Tibaudier is very frank, but he loves the Comtesse and she will remain a Comtesse. When the curtain lifts, she has just returned Paris. The dénouement is a happy one. It is an “all’s well that ends well,” Molière champions the happiness of loving couples.
LA COMTESSE D’ESCARBAGNAS.
LE COMTE, son fils (son).
LE VICOMTE, amant (in love with) de Julie.
JULIE, amante du Vicomte.
MONSIEUR TIBAUDIER, conseiller, amant de la Comtesse.
MONSIEUR HARPIN, receveur des tailles (tax farmer), autre amant de la Comtesse. MONSIEUR BOBINET, précepteur (tutor) de Monsieur le Comte.
ANDRÉE, suivante de la Comtesse.
JEANNOT, laquais de Monsieur Tibaudier.
CRIQUET, laquais de la Comtesse.
La scène est à Angoulême.
The Suitors: Tibaudier and Harpin
La Comtesse is courted by three men:
Monsieur Harpin, and
When the Vicomte starts courting the Comtesse, Monsieur Tibaudier and Monsieur Harpin do no think they have a chance. The Viscount has a rank and the Comtesse is obsessed with rank. Two of her suitors are bourgeois and do not like having a rival who is Vicomte. Monsieur Harpin becomes a jaloux and rudely interrupts a comédie le Vicomte is offering la Comtesse. Monsieur Harpin’s jealousy is not revealed until the very end of the comedy, when he barges in on le vicomte‘s comédie.
However, Monsieur Tibaudier and Monsieur Harpin do not know le Vicomte is not their rival. Le Vicomte is in love with Julie, but they cannot marry until his father and her brothers approve the marriage. In fact, the Comtesse‘s only available suitors are Monsieur Tibaudier and Monsieur Harpin, one of whom is un jaloux, who enters late and disgraces himself.
When the inner comedy begins, the Vicomte’s gift to the comtesse, all has been arranged. La Comtesse will marry Monsieur Tibaudier. Monsieur Harpin is a jaloux whom we do not see until it’s too late. So, as events unfold, Monsieur Harpin having stayed away, the only suitor seeking the Comtesse‘s affection is Monsieur Tibaudier who dearly loves the Comtesse.
However, when invited to attend the comédie, Monsieur Tibaudier will not go the Comtesse‘s house until Jeannot has carried a gift of pears to which a message is attached. The messages is clear. He has been waiting for too long.
Madame, je n’aurais pas pu vous faire le présent que je vous envoie, si je ne recueillais pas plus de fruit de mon jardin, que j’en recueille de mon amour. Monsieur Tibaudier (Scene IV) [Madam, I could not have made you the present which I send you, if, I gathered as little fruit from my garden as I gather from my love.] Monsieur Tibaudier (Scene Fifteen)
Monsieur Tibaudier has written:
Les poires ne sont pas encore bien mûres, mais elles en cadrent mieux, avec la dureté de votre âme, qui par ses continuels dédains, ne me promet pas poires molles. Trouvez bon, Madame, que sans m’engager dans une énumération de vos perfections, et charmes, qui me jetterait dans un progrès à l’infini, je conclue ce mot, en vous faisant considérer que je suis d’un aussi franc chrétien, que les poires que je vous envoie, puisque je rends le bien pour le mal, c’est-à-dire, Madame, pour m’expliquer plus intelligiblement, puisque je vous présente des poires de bon-chrétien, pour des poires d’angoisse, que vos cruautés me font avaler tous les jours. Tibaudier, votre esclave indigne (Scène V)
[The pears are not yet very ripe; but they will go all the better with the hardness of your heart, which, by its continuous disdain, does not promise me anything soft. Permit me. Madam, without entering upon an enumeration of your perfections and charms which would betray me in a never ending progress, to conclude this note by calling your attention to the fact that I am as good a Christian as the pears which I send you, since I return good for evil; which means, Madam, to express myself more intelligibly, that I offer you pears of bon-chrétien for choke-pears which your cruelty makes me swallow every day.
Tibaudier, your unworthy slave.]
La Comtesse is not offended. She welcomes Monsieur Thibaudier has a stool brought for him and the Vicomte reads his poetry.
Une personne de qualité Ravit mon âme, Elle a de la beauté, J’ai de la flamme; Mais je la blâme D’avoir de la fierté. (Scène V)
[A lady of quality
Ravishes my soul:
She has beauty,
I have love;
But I blame her
For having pride.]
He doesn’t think of his rank, except to say that he has been supplanted or outranked.
Me voilà supplanté, moi, par Monsieur Tibaudier. Le Vicomte (Scene V)
[Here I am supplanted [outranked] by Mr. Tibaudier.] The Viscount (Scene Eleven)
Outranked he is. La Comtesse cannot find anything wrong with Monsieur Tibaudier. So, when it is revealed — the péripétie, that the Vicomte can marry Julie, the Viscount himself gives la Comtesse to Monsieur Tibaudier as a husband. Monsieur Harpin has disgraced himself, and, he, the Viscount, loves Julie.
Le Vicomte knows that Monsieur Tibaudier truly loves la Comtesse, whom he will always consider “une personne de qualité.”
As for Julie, she has made le Vicomte wait, but has she been cruel?
C’est trop lontemps, Iris, me mettre à la torture [.] Le Vicomte Scène première
[Too long, Iris, have you put me to the torture[.]] The Viscount (Scene One)
But le Vicomte replaces Julie’s name with the name Iris in the poem he recites. The name Iris belongs to John Lyly‘s euphuism. He complains Iris is making him wait too long, but he has distanced Julie by naming her Iris. Julie protests. Why should women be depicted as a man’s torturer. It has seemed long. Julie and the Vicomte want to marry, but their families are objecting. It must seem an endless wait, but what could she do?
However, suddenly, everything turns around. It’s a péripétie. Le Vicomte tells la Comtesse what it means:
Cela veut dire, Madame, que j’épouse Julie, et si vous m’en croyez, pour rendre la comédie complète de tout point, vous épouserez Monsieur Tibaudier, et donnerez Mademoiselle Andrée à son laquais dont il fera son valet de chambre. Le Vicomte à la Comtesse (Scène dernière)
[This means, Madam, that I marry Julia ; and if you believe me, to render the comedy more complete in all points, you will marry Mr. Tibaudier, and give Miss Andrée to his lacquey, of whom he shall make his valet.] The Viscount to the Countesse(Scene Twenty-Two)
The Comtesse feels, briefly, that this is offensive
Quoi, jouer de la sorte une personne de ma qualité? La Comtesse (Scène dernière)
[What ! to hoodwink a person of my rank thus?] The Comtesse (Scene Twenty-Two)
Le Vicomte tells her that he has not offended her. This is the Will of comedy, or an “all’s well that ends well.”
C’est sans vous offenser, Madame, et les comédies veulent de ces sortes de choses. Le Vicomte à la Comtesse (Scène dernière)
[It was meant without offence, Madam; comedies require these sorts of things.] The Viscount to the Countess (Scene Twenty-Two)
Therefore, the Comtesse tells monsieur Tibaudier that she will marry him. The Countess to Monsieur Thibaudier (Scene Twenty-Two)
Oui, Monsieur Tibaudier, je vous épouse, pour faire enrager tout le monde. La Comtesse à Monsieur Thibaudier (Scène dernière)
[Yes, Mr. Tibaudier, I marry you in order to put the whole world in a rage.] The Countess to Mr Tibaudier (Scene Twenty-Two)
He thinks it is a very great honour:
Ce m’est bien de l’honneur, Madame. Monsieur Tibaudier à la Comtesse (Scène dernière) [It is a great honour to me, Madam.] Monsieur Tibaudier to the Countess (Scene Twenty Two)
All then go to see the end of the comédie the Vicomte was giving to Julie under the name of the Comtesse. Monsieur Harpin barges in, speaking impolitely, and is removed.
Molière has created a comedy where there is only one genuine suitor to la Comtesse. We suspect this is the case when le Vicomte tells Julie that she is making play a role in a comedy and complains that this has gone on for too long. She is not responsible for the delay. Cléante’s father and her brothers oppose her marriage to Cléante, the Vicomte. He protests because it has gone on too long and reads a poem where he depicts his plight as a “double martyrdom.” Time is relative. If one has a poire d’angoisse inserted in one’s mouth, time lasts forever. If one is happy, time flies.
C’est trop longtemps, Iris, me mettre à la torture, Et si je suis vos lois, je les blâme tout bas, De me forcer à taire un tourment que j’endure Pour déclarer un mal que je ne ressens pas. Faut-il que vos beaux yeux à qui je rends les armes, Veuillent se divertir de mes tristes soupirs, Et n’est-ce pas assez de souffrir pour vos charmes, Sans me faire souffrir encor pour vos plaisirs? Le Vicomte à Julie (Scène première) [Too long, Iris, have you put me to the torture, And if I obey your laws, I blame them silently For forcing me to conceal the torment which I endure, To confess a pain which I do not feel.
(…) This double martyrdom is too much at one time;
And if by pity you are not overcome,
I die both by the feint and by the truth. The Viscount to Julie (Scene One)]
Le Vicomte and Julie are typical young lovers who face blocking characters. Cléante’s father would be a heavy father, but Julie does not agree that the Vicomte is a double martyrdom. However, she wants a copy of the letter. It is reverse flattery, but flattery.
Je vois que vous vous faites là bien plus maltraité que vous n’êtes; mais c’est une licence que prennent messieurs les poètes, de mentir de gaieté de cœur, et de donner à leurs maîtresses des cruautés qu’elles n’ont pas, pour s’accommoder aux pensées qui leur peuvent venir. Cependant je serai bien aise que vous me donniez ces vers par écrit. Julie au Vicomte (Scène première)
I see that you make yourself out to be more ill-treated than you are; but to tell falsehoods wantonly, to attribute to their mistresses cruelties which they do not
feel, is a license which gentlemen poets take, to accommodate themselves to the ideas with which they may be inspired. I should, however, be very glad, if you would give me these verses in writing.] Julie to the Viscount (Scene One)
The Vicomte makes believe he is in love with the Comtesse, and he cannot tell that Julie is the woman he loves. But he provides a rival to Monsieur Tibaudier and to Monsieur Harpin, which he doesn’t like.
But he calls Julie Iris. This language is akin to John Lyly‘s euphuism, a witty, courtly style that distances Julie.
Love to all of you💕 This post is not complete, but it can stand alone. I will publish whatever is missing, excluding quotations used in this post.
_____________________  toutmoliere.net  A pear-shaped instrument to keep the mouth open. One could not scream when thieves took everything.  I believe this could also be translated as “who will be her lackey.” At Court, a lower rank individual was not allowed to sit in an armchair. The stool was a pliant. It could fold.
There is so much to tell about Molière and particularly Les Fâcheux. In fact, I still have Les Fâcheux in mind. We see two pirouettes.
La Rivière and friends, thugs, turn against Damis and try to kill him.
Éraste, un soldat before he was un courtisan, saves Damis, who is the blocking-character, but whom gratitude changes. He enables the marriage he would not allow, which is a complete reversal and comedy, farce in particular. It is comic irony.
The image below shows Éraste, and his companion would be Orchise.
La Fontaine and Molière probably met at approximately this point in history. La Fontaine was a protégé of Nicolas Fouquet. In a letter, une épître, to Maucroix, La Fontaine praised Molière. Les Fâcheux, “par sa manière,” had pleased him.
C’est un ouvrage de Molière :
Cet écrivain, par sa manière,
Charme à present toute la Cour
De la façon dont son nom court,
Il doit être par delà Rome. Je suis ravi car c’est mon homme. Te souvient-il bien qu’autrefois,
Nous avons conclu d’une voix
Qu’il allait ramener en France
Le bon goût et l’art de Térence?
Plaute n’est plus qu’un plat bouffon,
Et jamais il ne fit si bon
Se trouver à la comédie;
Car je ne pense pas qu’on y rie
De maint trait jadis admiré
Et bon in illo tempore
Nous avons changé de méthode :
Jodelet n’est plus à la mode,
Et maintenant il ne faut pas
Quitter la nature d’un pas.
[It is a work by Molière, this writer whose manner now charms the Court. The way his name is running, he must be beyond Rome, I’m delighted because he’s my man. Do you remember how, in older days, we agreed that he would bring back to France the good taste and the art of Terence? Plautus is now no more than a flat buffoon, and never has it been so good to see comedies. For I do not think that one laughs at features admired in the past and which were good in illo tempore (then). We’ve changed methods. Jodeletis no longer in, and we cannot leave nature by even a step.] (The translation is mine. It is not polished, but it is Molière theory.)
Molière depicted his century as he saw it and heard it. That is “nature” Molière’s in his century.
____________________  Jodelet played Jodelet in the Précieuses ridicules. His face was enfariné, or covered with flour. Molière played Mascarille.  See Maurice Rat, ed. Œuvres complètes de Molière (Pléiade, 1956), p. 861.
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.
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.
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. 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 Misanthropecontains 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:
215J’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]
ERASTE, in love with ORPHISE, ORPHISE, in love with ERASTE DAMIS, guardian to Orphise, LA MONTAGNE, servant to Eraste, L’EPINE, servant to Damis.
CLIMÈNE. LA RIVIERE and Two COMRADES.
The Scene is at PARIS.
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./115Je 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:
150Au 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?
153Mais 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.
155Quoi 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)
165Peste 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.
213Monsieur, 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!/215J’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:
275Je 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?
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)
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.
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).
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!795À 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 éclatfameux,/ 810Je 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)
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,/ 820Qu’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)
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.
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.
My computer doesn’t work. It needs a new keyboard and my connection to Microsoft stopped when two-step verification was installed. My keyboard will be replaced and I will also purchase a new computer. I knew this computer was still alive, but the new computer will be better. I cannot post easily using the on-screen keyboard.
However, here is music from Le Bourgeois gentilhomme:
Je languis nuit et jour, et mon mal est extrême,
Depuis qu’à vos rigueurs vos beaux yeux m’ont soumis : ↵
Si vous traitez ainsi, belle Iris, qui vous aime,
Hélas ! que pourriez-vous faire à vos ennemis ? ↵
[(Singing)I languish night and day, my suffering is extreme/Since to your control your lovely eyes subjected me;/If you thus treat, fair Iris, those you love,/Alas, how would you treat an enemy?]