There have been many Dandins. I remember François Rabelais‘ Perrin Dandin (Pantagruel, Third Book XLI), perhaps an early Dandin. Given the oral tradition, this Perrin Dandin may not be the first.
However, there is a Perrin Dandin in Racine’s Les Plaideurs (1668) and in La Fontaine’s “L’Huître et les Plaideurs” (“The Oyster and the Litigants”). La Fontaine’s “Oyster and the Litigants” was published in his second volume of fables (1678), but may date back to the early 1670s.
Perrin Dandin is a simple citizen in the “Pantagruel” of Rabelais, who seats himself judge-wise on the first stump that offers, and passes off hand a sentence in any matter of litigation; a character who figures similarly in a comedy of Racine’s, and in a fable of La Fontaine’s.
Ironically, Jean Racine‘s Les Plaideurswas first performed in November 1668, at l’Hôtel de Bourgogne, Paris’ most prominent venue. It therefore premiered, in Paris, the same month as Molière’s George Dandin. Molière’s George Dandin is not a judge, but whenener he runs to his in-laws, he brandishes a contract. I have pointed out that in Paris, George Dandin was no longer a comédie-ballet and pastoral. It was a three-act farce in which a peasant lived the consequences of a marriage which, he thought, would elevate him to gentilhommerie. George Dandin’s Gentilhommerie is the Sotenvilles. “Sot” means stupid (and related adjectives).
A sotie is classified as a medieval farce and morality. Some argue, however, that it is a separate genre. Marrying Angélique, whom he had not courted (galanterie), was unesottise (foolish or silly) on the part of George Dandin. Could he not see sot in her parents’ name? They are Monsieur and Madame de Sotenville (from sot), and Madame de Sotenville was born a La Prudoterie, from prude. In Molière’s Le Misanthrope, Arsinoé is the opposite of Célimène. The prude is the opposite of the mondaine. Moreover, names such as Sotenville do not seem real. They seem and may be allegorical.
Whereas the characters in a farce would be distinguished individuals with proper names, the characters in the soties were pure allegories. The characters had names such as “First Fool” and Second Fool”, or “Everyman”, “Pilgrim” etc. Sometime there would be a leader of the fools, called “Mother Fool” (Mère Sotte).
(See Sotie, Wikipedia.) Mère Sotte was the papacy. Soties were banned.
The above Dandin is not Molière’s George Dandin. It is Jean Racine’s Perrin Dandin featured in Les Plaideurs (1668). Racine’s Dandin is a besotted judge who has to judge at all times. While judging dogs, he allows his son Léandre to marry Chicanneau’s daughter Isabelle.
DANDIN : judge, LÉANDRE : son of Dandin, fils de Dandin. CHICANNEAU : bourgeois. ISABELLE : Chicanneau’s daughter, fille de Chicanneau (chinanery). LA COMTESSE. PETIT JEAN : portier. L’INTIMÉ : secrétaire. LE SOUFFLEUR (prompt).
L’Huître et les Plaideurs
In my opinion, the best-known Dandin is Jean de La Fontaine’s. He is featured in L’Huître et les Plaideurs (The Oyster and the Litigants). Two pèlerins find an oyster. They both claim ownership of the oyster. Perrin Dandin walks by our pèlerins who decide he should judge who is the owner of the oyster. Perrin Dandin eats the oyster and takes our pilgrims’ money.
Un jour deux Pèlerins sur le sable rencontrent Une Huître que le flot y venait d’apporter : Ils l’avalent des yeux, du doigt ils se la montrent ; A l’égard de la dent il fallut contester. (read more)
Pendant tout ce bel incident, Perrin Dandin arrive : ils le prennent pour juge. Perrin fort gravement ouvre l’Huître, et la gruge, Nos deux Messieurs le regardant. Ce repas fait, il dit d’un ton de Président : Tenez, la cour vous donne à chacun une écaille Sans dépens, et qu’en paix chacun chez soi s’en aille. Mettez ce qu’il en coûte à plaider aujourd’hui ; Comptez ce qu’il en reste à beaucoup de familles ; Vous verrez que Perrin tire l’argent à lui, Et ne laisse aux plaideurs que le sac et les quilles.
JEAN DE LA FONTAINE
Livre 9, fable 9
Two pilgrims on the sand espied
An oyster thrown up by the tide.
In hope, both swallowed ocean’s fruit;
But before the fact there came dispute.
Amidst this sweet affair, Arrived a person very big, Ycleped Sir Nincom Periwig.
They made him judge, to set the matter square.
Sir Nincom, with a solemn face,
Took up the oyster and the case:
In opening both, the first he swallowed,
And, in due time, his judgment followed.
“Attend: the court awards you each a shell
Cost free; depart in peace, and use them well.”
Foot up the cost of suits at law,
The leavings reckon and awards,
The cash you’ll see Sir Nincom draw,
And leave the parties—purse and cards. JEAN DE LA FONTAINE
Book 9, Fable 9
L’Huître et les Plaideurs (Commons Wikimedia)
I wrote that comedy has redeeming mechanisms, such as the deceiver deceived, or trompeur trompé. In l’École des femmes, despite raising a wife, Agnès, Arnolphe loses her when she meets young Horace. Her instinct leads Agnès to fall in love with Horace and find safety in his presence. Yet, one sympathizes with Arnolphe. He loves Agnès, but he doesn’t know galanterie. The comedy ends in the traditional marriage. But comedy has more than one plot formula. Farces are circular. Dandin will forever plead his cause, but what if he had opened the bolted door when Angélique was desperate, and comforted her. Beauty loves Beast.
But suddenly I remembered the medieval soties, not to mention Reynard the Fox, its comic trial and Bruin losing the skin of his nose when it gets wedged in an opening in a log. But it’s “no skin off my nose,” as it grows back. It’s like a cartoon. Jill Mann, who translated the Ysengrimus, the birthplace of Reynard the Fox, into English, compares this phenomenon to the flattened cat of cartoons who fluffs up again. In the world of cartoons, injuries may be reversible.
George Dandin lived before cartoons, but Molière knew the sotie and the cartoonish Reynard the Fox (Le Roman de Renart).
The Wikipedia entry on sotie compares the genre to carnivals. Mikhail Baktin, who studied Rabelais, identified the carnivalesque in Rabelais, a world upside down. Molière has not broken any rule. The carnivalesque is a constante in literature. However, Molière has a way of humanizing fools and vice versa. The Misanthrope is the epitome in this æsthetics.
I will make these words, my last words on George Dandin who is both right and wrong. But he is less a fool than the Sotenvilles, or is it the reverse?
By the way, “se dandiner” means to waddle and Dandin is a family name. George Dandin’s name is not allegorical.
____________________ Mère Sotte was the papacy. Soties were banned. Jill Mann, “The Satiric Fiction of the Ysengrimus,” in Kenneth Varty (ed.), Reynard the Fox: Social Engagement and Cultural Metamorphoses in the Beast Epic from the Middle Ages to the Present (New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2000), p. 11.
(This post is very long. If you have read Molière’s “George Dandin” revisited (1), go to Act Two.)
George Dandin: a Comédie-Ballet & Pastoral
George Dandin ou le Mari confondu (George Dandin or the Abashed Husband) is a comédie-ballet combining a three-act farce and a pastoral in the form of interludes mainly. The comedy and the lyrics to the pastoral were written by Molière to music by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Contemporaries loved the music to George Dandin. It premièred at Versailles on 15 July 1668, as part of a Grand Divertissement royal celebrating the French victory at Aix-la-Chapelle. The comédie-ballet was performed three times at Saint-Germain-en-Laye from 3 to 6 November. However, when, on 9 November 1668, the three-act George Dandin was given in Paris, at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, the pastoral had been removed.
Henri van Laun‘s six-volume translation of the plays of Molière, an Internet Archive publication, includes the text of a three-act play and the text of the pastoral. The two could be separated. The pastoral lightened an otherwise sombre farce. We are still using Henri van Laun’s translation of the three-act play and the toutmoliere.net’s collection of Molière’s plays.
In my post on the Jalousie du Barbouillé, I stated that the Jalousiedu Barbouillé was a blueprint for George Dandin. George Dandin repeats the bolted door episode (Act Three)rom . In Molière, the unfortunate daughters of the nobility who were married against their will not be wives. Cuckoldry enters the picture. La Jalousie du Barbouillé does establish one of Molière central figures, le jaloux. It also introduces le cocu. If he marries, le jaloux faces cuckoldry.
Listed below, are sources Molière may have used when he wrote George Dandin:
*The Dolopatos was an Indian work written before the Common Era, and translated into Arabic and Hebrew (see Salon littéraire).
However, ascertaining sources for George Dandin and other plays by Molière is difficult. We know that Molière was well educated. He was a student at the Collège de Clermont, the current Lycée Louis-le-Grand. It was the finest lycée in Paris. Molière read Roman dramatists Plautus and Terrence, and may have read Greek dramatist Aristophanes. He also studied law.
Molière’s first company, l’Illustre Théâtre, established in June 1643, went bankrupt two years later. So, in August 1645, Molière was jailed briefly, a day or so. He then left Paris and toured the provinces of France until the late 1650s. His base was Pézenas, but the répertoire of his troupe cannot be determined in an accurate manner. He didn’t write the plays members of his troupe performed. There is a story about a lost suitcase, but it seems his actors may have improvised their role, or nearly so, as did the stock characters of the Commedia dell’arte.
However, Molière also borrowed from native French farces and fabliaux. As we have seenLe Médecin malgré lui (The Doctor in spite of himself) is rooted in the Vilain Mire, a medieval French fabliau about a doctor. By the seventeenth century, the original text of the Vilain Mire may have been a mere memory, but its subject matter had entered an oral tradition to return to a written tradition. In 1656, Barbazan published the first volume of his: Fabliaux et contes des poètes français du XIIIe, XIVe et XVe siècles. Barbazan’s collection “shares several elements with Le Médecin malgré lui, and, incidentally, Georges [sic] Dandin.” (See Molière 21). The complete French fabliaux were published in 1986. (See Molière 21.) For our purposes, the closest source of George Dandin is Molière’s own Jalousie du Barbouillé.
Georges Dandin (George Dandin), husband of Angelica
Angelica (Angélique), Georges Dandin’s wife
Sir Sotenville (Monsieur de Sotenville), Angelica’s father
Mrs Sotenville (Madame de Sotenville), Sir Sotenville’s wife
Clitander (Clitandre), in love with Angelica
Claudine, Angelica’s servant
Lubin, Clitandre’s servant
Colin, Dandin’s servant
As the curtain lifts, Dandin tell spectators or readers how foolish he was to marry above his rank. He is a wealthy peasant.
Ah! qu’une femme Demoiselle est une étrange affaire, et que mon mariage est une leçon bien parlante à tous les paysans qui veulent s’élever au-dessus de leur condition, et s’allier comme j’ai fait à la maison d’un gentilhomme. George Dandin, seul (I. i, p. 1) (or p. 349)
[Ah ! what a strange thing it is to be a woman of quality and a wife! and what an instructive lesson my marriage is to all peasants who wish to raise themselves above their condition…, and to ally themselves, as I have done, to a nobleman’s family.] George Dandin, alone (I. 5, p. 261) ( or p. 349)
Dandin more or less bought Angélique, thereby affording the Sotenvilles money that would allow them to live up to their rank.
He complains that all he has acquired is a title: “de La Dandinière,” and being related to both the Sotenville and the La Prudoterie families. To the Sotenvilles and their daughter, he remains a peasant:
L’alliance qu’ils font est petite avec nos personnes. C’est notre bien seul qu’ils épousent, et j’aurais bien mieux fait, tout riche que je suis, de m’allier en bonne et franche paysannerie[.] Dandin, seul (I. i, p. 1)
[We ourselves count for very little in the match : they only marry our property; and I would have done much better[.] Dandin, alone (I. 1, p. 261) (or p. 349)
Dandin realizes he has made a mistake:
George Dandin, George Dandin, vous avez fait une sottise la plus grande du monde.
[George Dandin! George Dandin! you have committed the greatest folly in the world.] Dandin, alone (I. 1, p. 261) (or p. 349)
So, the action begins in scene two, when Dandin sees someone leaving his house. The person he sees is Lubin, Clitandre’s valet, who has delivered a message to Angélique. Not knowing who Dandin is, he tells him everything:
C’est que je viens de parler à la maîtresse du logis de la part d’un certain Monsieur qui lui fait les doux yeux, et il ne faut pas qu’on sache cela. Entendez-vous? Lubin à Dandin (I. ii, p. 3)
[Because I have just been delivering a message to the mistress of the house from a certain gentleman who has an eye upon her; and it must not be known. Do you understand?] Lubin to Dandin (I. 2, p. 261) or p. 350 Voilà la raison. On m’a enchargé de prendre garde que personne ne me vît, et je vous prie au moins de ne pas dire que vous m’ayez vu. Lubin à Dandin (I. ii, p. 3) [I have been told to take care that no one should see me; and let me beg of you, at least, not to say that you have seen me.] Lubin to Dandin (I. 2, p. 262) or p. 351 Le mari, à ce qu’ils disent, est un jaloux qui ne veut pas qu’on fasse l’amour à sa femme, et il ferait le diable à quatre si cela venait à ses oreilles. Vous comprenez bien. Lubin à Dandin(I. ii, p. 3 )
[The husband, from what they tell me, is dreadfully jealous, who will not allow his wife to be made love to; and there would be the devil to pay if it came to his ears. Now, do you understand?] Lubin à Dandin (I. 2, p. 263) (or p. 351)
Dandin wishes to know whether Angélique sent a message back to Clitandre.
Elle m’a dit de lui dire… Attendez, je ne sais si je me souviendrai bien de tout cela. Qu’elle lui est tout à fait obligée de l’affection qu’il a pour elle, et qu’à cause de son mari qui est fantasque, il garde d’en rien faire paraître, et qu’il faudra songer à chercher quelque invention pour se pouvoir entretenir tous deux. Lubin à Dandin (I. ii, p. 5)
[She has told me to tell him . . . stop; I do not know if I shall remember it all: that she is very much obliged to him for his affection towards her, and that he must be very careful not to show it, on account of her husband, who is whimsical, and that he must bethink himself to invent something, so that they may converse with each other.]
Lubin to Dandin (I. 2, p. 264) (or p. 352)
Having heard Lubin, Dandin engages in another soliloquy. It appears he will be a “cocu,” which is a breech of the marriage contract. He must tell the Sotenvilles, but his in-laws find fault with the language he uses. Madame de Sotenville does not want to be called belle-mère, mother-in-law. She belongs to the nobility:
Ne vous déferez-vous jamais avec moi de la familiarité de ce mot de ma belle-mère, et ne sauriez-vous vous accoutumer à me dire Madame. Madame de Sotenville à Dandin (I. iv. p. 6)
[Will you never divest yourself, with me, of the familiarity of that word, mother-in-law, and can you not accustom yourself to call me Madam?] Madame de Sotenville to Dandin (I. 4, p. 255) (or p. 354)
Monsieur de Sotenville will not allow Dandin to refer to his daughter as “ma femme” (my wife). She is Madame. He also insists on being called “Sir:”
Doucement, mon gendre. Apprenez qu’il n’est pas respectueux d’appeler les gens par leur nom, et qu’à ceux qui sont au-dessus de nous il faut dire Monsieur tout court. Monsieur de Sotenville à Dandin (I. iv, p. 6)
[Gently, son-in-law. Let me tell you that it is not respectful to address people by their names, and that we must only say, “Sir,” to those above us.] Monsieur de Sotenville to Dandin (I. 4, p. 254) (or p. 354)
Moreover, George Dandin is told that being related to the Sotenville and the La Prudoterie families is a privilege. Madame de Sotenville is a La Prudoterie. His title has not elevated Dandin. Having been duly humiliated, he dares tell that a gentleman is in love with Angélique.
Je vous ai dit ce qui se passe pour vous faire mes plaintes, et je vous demande raison de cette affaire-là. Dandin aux Sotenvilles (I. iv, p. 9) [I have told you what is going on, to justify my complaints; and I ask you for satisfaction in this matter.] Dandin to Sotenville (I. 4, p. 258) (or p. 357)
The Sotenvilles will investigate.
Nous allons éclaircir l’affaire. Suivez-moi, mon gendre, et ne vous mettez pas en peine, vous verrez de quel bois nous nous chauffons lorsqu’on s’attaque à ceux qui nous peuvent appartenir. Sotenville à Dandin (I. iv, p. 10)
[We are going to clear the matter up. Follow me, son-in-law, and do not trouble yourself. You shall see what we are made of, when people attack those who
may belong to us.] Sotenville to Dandin (I. 4, p. 258) (or p. 357)
Monsieur de Sotenville speaks to Clitandre who tells him that he is being slandered.
Voilà une étrange médisance. Qui vous a dit cela, Monsieur? Clitandre à Sotenville (I. v, p. 11)
[What strange slander is this ! Who has told you
that, Sir?] Clitandre to Sotenville(I. 5. p. 259) (or p. 359)
Having denied he sent une ambassade to Angélique, Clitandre wants to know who told Dandin that he sent une ambassade to Angélique. It could be Angélique herself:
Est-ce donc vous, Madame, qui avez dit à votre mari que je suis amoureux de vous ? Clitandre à Angélique (I. vi, p. 12)
[Is it you then, Madam, who have told your husband that I am in love with you?] Clitandre to Angélique (I. 6, p. 260) (or p. 360)
She defends herself by making believe she is accusing him, but if reversed her words are an invitation to Clitandre to continue the galanterie. It’s a brilliant double entendre.
Moi, et comment lui aurais-je dit? Est-ce que cela est? Je voudrais bien le voir Je voudrais bien le voir vraiment que vous fussiez amoureux de moi. Jouez-vous-y, je vous en prie, vous trouverez à qui parler. C’est une chose que je vous conseille de faire. Ayez recours pour voir à tous les détours des amants. Essayez un peu par plaisir à m’envoyer des ambassades, à m’écrire secrètement de petits billets doux, à épier les moments que mon mari n’y sera pas, ou le temps que je sortirai pour me parler de votre amour. Vous n’avez qu’à y venir, je vous promets que vous serez reçu comme il faut. Angélique à Clitandre (I. vi, pp. 12-13)
[I? And how could I have told him? Is it so then? I should really like to see you in love with me. Just attempt it, pray; you will find out with whom you have to deal; I advise you to try the thing! Have recourse, by way of experiment, to all the lovers’ stratagems: just attempt to send me, for the fun of it, some messages, to write me some small love letters secretly; to watch the moments of my husband’s absence, or when I am going out to tell me of your love: you have only to set about it, I promise you you shall be received as you ought.] Angélique to Clitandre (I. 6, p. 260) (p. 360)
After speaking with Angélique, Clitandre and Angélique both deny having sent or received a message. Clitandre is a gentilhomme and Angélique, Dandin’s wife, the daughter of the Sotenvilles. They are credible, but Dandin isn’t. Despite the money he gave the impoverished Sotenvilles, all Dandin received is a hollow title and a marriage contract, he remains a peasant. He has no credibility.
Si bien donc que si je le trouvais couché avec ma femme, il en serait quitte pour se dédire? Dandin à Sotenville (I. vi, p. 15)
[Thus, if I had found him in bed with my wife, he would get off by simply denying it?] Dandin to Sotenville (I. 8, p. 262) (or p. 363)
I will skip the episode where Dandin has to apologize to the Sotenvilles and Clitandre. They’ve lied, but they are “personnes de qualité,”
Woman’s Head by François Boucher, c. 1750 (WikiArt.org)
In Greek literature, George Dandin, would be called an agroikós (rustic), a stock character. He is a peasant who has married into the upper classes and wishes to be separated from his wife when he realizes that he has simply bought a title: de la Dandinière. His marriage is a mésalliance. There have always been mésalliances. Some of us marry the wrong man or woman. In 17th-century France, aristocrats spent a fortune in an attempt to see Louis getting up (le lever) and going to bed (le coucher). They wanted to be ‘seen.’ Consequently, they spent a great deal of money and could not endow more than one of their daughters.
The Sotenvilles do not live in Paris, but they needed money and their best source was a rich peasant, the agroikós of Greek comedy. Dandin, our agroikós tells Angélique that she should live as wives live:
Je veux que vous y fassiez ce que fait une femme qui ne veut plaire qu’à son mari. Quoi qu’on en puisse dire, les galants n’obsèdent jamais que quand on le veut bien, il y a un certain air doucereux qui les attire ainsi que le miel fait les mouches, et les honnêtes femmes ont des manières qui les savent chasser d’abord. Dandin à Angélique (II. i, p. 22) [I wish you to do what a wife who only wishes to please her husband should do. Whatev[er people may say, gallants never trouble a woman unless she wishes it. There are certain sweet looks which attract them, as honey does flies; and virtuous women have a manner that drives them away immediately.] Dandin to Angélique (II. 4, p. 269) (or p. 369)
Moi, les [men] chasser! et par quelle raison? Je ne me scandalise point qu’on me trouve bien faite, et cela me fait du plaisir. Angélique à Dandin (II. ii, p. 22) [I, drive them away! and for what reason? I am not scandalised at being thought handsome, and it affords me pleasure.] Angélique to Dandin(II.4, p. 270) (or p. 369)
Angélique thinks her husband should be pleased to know that other men admire his wife. Dandin should play that part:
Le personnage d’un honnête homme qui est bien aise de voir sa femme considérée. Angélique à Dandin (II. iv, p. 23)
[The part of a sensible man, who is glad to see his wife admired.] Angélique to Dandin (II. 4, p. 270) (or p. 369)
But the Dandins do not admire wives committing adultery. Besides, does she have obligations? She claims she doesn’t and that the Dandins will get used to her lifestyle, if they want to:
Oh les Dandins s’y accoutumeront s’ils veulent. Car pour moi je vous déclare que mon dessein n’est pas de renoncer au monde, et de m’enterrer toute vive dans un mari. Comment, parce qu’un homme s’avise de nous épouser, il faut d’abord que toutes choses soient finies pour nous, et que nous rompions tout commerce avec les vivants? C’est une chose merveilleuse que cette tyrannie de Messieurs les maris, et je les trouve bons de vouloir qu’on soit morte à tous les divertissements et qu’on ne vive que pour eux. Je me moque de cela, et ne veux point mourir si jeune. Angélique à Dandin (II. iv, p. 23)
[I declare that I do not intend to renounce the world, and to bury myself alive with a husband. What ! because a man thinks fit to marry us, everything must be at an end immediately, and we must break off all intercourse with every living being! This tyranny of husbands is a marvellous thing; and I think it very kind of them to wish that we should be dead to all amusements; and that we should live for them only! I laugh at that, and do not wish to die so young.] Angélique to Dandin (II. 4, p. 270) (or pp. 369-370)
Moi? je ne vous l’ai point donnée de bon cœur, et vous me l’avez arrachée. M’avez-vous avant le mariage demandé mon consentement, et si je voulais bien de vous? Vous n’avez consulté pour cela que mon père, et ma mère, ce sont eux proprement qui vous ont épousé, et c’est pourquoi vous ferez bien de vous plaindre toujours à eux des torts que l’on pourra vous faire. Pour moi, qui ne vous ai point dit de vous marier avec moi, et que vous avez prise sans consulter mes sentiments, je prétends n’être point obligée à me soumettre en esclave à vos volontés, et je veux jouir, s’il vous plaît, de quelque nombre de beaux jours que m’offre la jeunesse; prendre les douces libertés, que l’âge me permet, voir un peu le beau monde, et goûter le plaisir de m’ouïr dire des douceurs. Préparez-vous-y pour votre punition, et rendez grâces au Ciel de ce que je ne suis pas capable de quelque chose de pis. Angélique à Dandin (II. iv, p. 23)
[I did not make them willingly, and you forced them from me. Did you, before marriage, ask me my consent, and whether I cared for you ? You consulted only my father and mother. In reality, they have married you, and therefore you will do well always to complain to them about the wrongs which you may suffer. As for me, who did not tell you to marry me, and whom you took without consulting my feelings, I do not pretend to be obliged to submit, like a slave, to your will; and, by your leave, I mean to enjoy the few happy days of my youth, to take the sweet liberties which the age allows me, to see the fashionable world a little, and to taste the pleasure of having pretty things said to me. Prepare yourself for this, for your punishment; and thank Heaven that I am not capable of something worse.] Angélique to Dandin (II. 4, p. 270) (or p. 370)
Clitandre has been prowling around and George Dandin has seen him. He then learns from Lubin that Monsieur le Vicomte is with Angélique. George looks through the keyhole and sees Clitandre with his wife. At that very moment, kairos, the Sotenvilles arrive. Clitandre is about to leave, but he sees the Sotenvilles and Dandin. Angélique will make believe she is angry at Clitandre and will hit him with a stick. But it is her husband she hits: Dandin. The Sotenvilles are delighted to see their daughter chase Clitandre away and tell Dandin that he must be very happy.
In Act Three, during a dark night, Lubin takes Clitandre to Dandin’s house and Claudine leads him to Angélique. Because it is dark, there is quite the chassé-croisé, a mix-up. Our lovers believe Dandin is sound asleep. He was, but he has heard his wife going down the steps and he inadvertently bumps into Lubin who thinks Dandin is Claudine and talks again. Dandin knows that the Vicomte is with Angélique. He asks Colin, his servant, to fetch the Sotenvilles and to do so as quickly as possible.
When Clitandre is about to leave Angélique, he thinks that perhaps she is a wife to Dandin.
Oui. Mais je songe qu’en me quittant, vous allez trouver un mari. Cette pensée m’assassine, et les priviléges qu’ont les maris sont des choses cruelle pour une amant qui aime bien. Clitandre à Angélique (III. v, p. 38)
[Yes. But I cannot help remembering that, when you leave me, you go back to a husband. This thought kills me; and a husband’s privileges are cruel things to a fond lover.] Clitandre to Angélique (III. 5, 282) (or p. 385) Serez-vous assez fort pour avoir cette inquiétude, et pensez-vous qu’on soit capable d’aimer de certains maris qu’il y a. On les prend, parce qu’on ne s’en peut défendre, et que l’on dépend de parents qui n’ont des yeux que pour le bien, mais on sait leur rendre justice, et l’on se moque fort de les considérer au delà de ce qu’ils méritent. Angélique à Clitandre (III. v, p. 38)
[Are you weak enough to have such anxiety, and do you think it possible to love a certain sort of husbands? We marry them, because we cannot help ourselves, and
because we depend upon our parents, who look only riches; but we know how to be even with them, and we take good care not to value them above their deserts.] Angélique to Clitandre (III. 5, p. 282-283) (or p. 385)
Claudine warns Angélique that she and Clitandre must part.
Madame, si vous avez à dire du mal de votre mari, dépêchez vite, car il est tard. Claudine à Angélique (III. v, p. 38)
[Madam, if you have any harm to say of your husband, you had better make haste, for it is getting late.] Claudine to Angélique (III. 6, p. 283) (or p. 386)
Angélique and Claudine are returning indoors, but the door is locked. This episode was rehearsed in the Jalousie du Barbouillé. Angélique pleads with Dandin, but she must feigns suicide to re-enter the house. When the Sotenvilles arrive, Angélique is free to accuse her husband of having been out drinking.
Angélique’s father asks her to forgive Dandin:
Allons, venez, ma fille, que votre mari vous demande pardon. Sotenville à Angélique (III. vii, p. 47)
[Come hither, daughter, that your husband may ask your pardon.] Sotenville to Angélique (III. 14, p. 290) (or p. 393)
Moi ? lui pardonner tout ce qu’il m’a dit ? Non, non, mon père, il m’est impossible de m’y résoudre, et je vous prie de me séparer d’un mari avec lequel je ne saurais plus vivre. Angélique to Sotenville (III. vii, p. 47)
[I! pardon him after all that he has said to me? No, no, father I cannot possibly make up my mind to it; and I beg of you to separate me from a husband with whom I can no longer live.] Angélique to Sotenville (III. 14, p. 290) (or p. 393)
Angélique wants to end the marriage and so does Dandin, but Angélique’s father will not let her leave her husband.
Ma fille, de semblables séparations ne se font point sans grand scandale, et vous devez vous montrer plus sage que lui, et patienter encore cette fois.
[Such separations, daughter, are not brought about without a great deal of scandal; and you should show yourself wiser than he, and be patient once more.] (p. 395) Sotenville Comment patienter après de telles indignités? Non, mon père, c’est une chose où je ne puis consentir.
[How can I be patient after such indignities? No, father, I cannot consent to it.] Angélique Il le faut, ma fille, et c’est moi qui vous le commande.
[You must, daughter; I command you.] (p.395) Sotenville Ce mot me ferme la bouche, et vous avez sur moi une puissance absolue.
[This word stops my mouth. You have absolute authority over me.] Angélique What gentleness. Claudine FR III. vii, p. 47
EN III. 14, p. 290-291 (or p. 395)
As for Dandin, he must kneel down and apologize to his wife, repeating, word for word, as though he were a child, what Monsieur de Sotenville says.
Therefore, George says to himself that all he can do is drown himself:
Ah ! je le quitte maintenant, et je n’y vois plus de remède, lorsqu’on a comme moi épousé une méchante femme, le meilleur parti qu’on puisse prendre, c’est de s’aller jeter dans l’eau la tête la première. Dandin (III. viii, p. 48)
[Ah! I give it up altogether, and I can see no help for it. When one has married, as I have done, a wicked wife, the best step on can take is to go and throw one’s self into the water, head foremost.] Dandin (III. 15, p. 291) (or p. 396)
Angélique provides the most probable dénouement, which is the absence of a dénouement. Yet nothing is missing.
Tout ce que vous me faites faire ne servira de rien, et vous verrez que ce sera dès demain à recommencer. Angélique à M. de Sotenville (III. vii, p. 47)
[Whatever you make me do will be of no use; we shall have to recommence to-morrow, you will see.] Angélique to the Sotenvilles (III. 14, p. 291) (or p. 395)
If Dandin doesn’t drown, he will seek and find Angélique and Clitandre, perhaps in flagrante delicto, in the midst of it. He will run to the Sotenvilles and ask for satisfaction. There is a contract, but Angélique was never consulted. Her father probably said to her: “I command you.” Sotenville is both a pater familias and an impoverished aristocrat. All he could think of were his needs. The Sotenvilles are besotted by their rank, as we can see in Act One. As for Angélique, she was wronged, but she’s a “coquette.” However, the comedic formula used by Molière is consistent with that of farces: the deceiver deceived, except that Dandin knows he made a mistake.
J’enrage de bon cœur d’avoir tort, lorsque j’ai raison. (Dandin, I. vi, p. 15 )
[It makes me mad to be put in the wrong when I am in the right.] (I. 7. p. 262) (or p. 262)
Will Moore writes that “Dandin is essentially in the right, but he is in all actual cases made to appear in the wrong.” But, according to Jules Brody, Alceste is “morally” right and “esthetically” wrong. In George Dandin, Molière remembers Le Misanthrope. Alceste is a jaloux and vain. “Je veux qu’on me distingue…” (I. i. v. 64, p. 3). “I must be singled out; to put it flatly,” (I. 1, Wikisource), but he seems “morally” right.
_________________________ There is disagreement concerning the date.  See W. G. Moore, Molière: a New Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968 ), p. 118.  See Jules Brody, “Don Juan” and “Le Misanthrope,” or the Esthetics of Individualism in Molière,” PMLA, 84 (May 1969) pp. 539-76.
I found an anecdote in a book on Molière published by Paris-Match. Boileau, a key figure in the development of the French language and literature, was asked by Louis XIV to identify the greatest writer of his reign. Boileau said that it was Molière. Louis was surprised, but he told Boileau that he, Boileau, was in a better position to judge.
Quel a été le plus grand écrivain de mon règne? (Louis) [Who was the greatest writer of my reign?] C’est Molière. (Boileau) [It’s Molière.] Ma foi, je ne l’aurais pas cru. Mais, indubitablement, vous êtes meilleur juge que moi en la matière. (Louis) [Is that so? I wouldn’t have thought so. But you are, undoubtedly, the better judge in this matter.]
I bought this book when I lived in France. It had just been published. It is not an academic presentation of Molière, but it is informative, accurate by 1969 standards, and it has illustrations I have not seen navigating the internet.
About George Dandin
There are several procès (legal proceedings or trials) in Molière. In George Dandin, we are dealing with a contract, a marriage contract. All George Dandin knows is what Lubin, Valère’s valet, has told him. Angélique has received a letter from Clitandre. He is in love. Lubin takes the letter to Angélique who replies that she is very interested in Clitandre, but that he must be careful, because her husband is jealous.
The Sotenvilles, Angélique’s parents, will investigate. Clitandre will deny having sent a letter (une ambassade) and Angélique will deny having received a letter.
Hearsay is not valid and aristocrats deny allegations credibly, or by way of being aristocrats: dans les formes. Dandin has a title. He is George de La Dandinière, but he will always be a peasant. As for Angélique, she will always say that he signed a contract with her family, and not with her. She had nothing to do in this matter, which is mostly accurate. As early as the end of Act One, Dandin has to apologize to the Sotenvilles and Clitandre. He repeats words dictated to him by Monsieur de la Sotenville.
With George Dandin, we move a little past cuckoldry. Dandin, a wealthy peasant, learns that his wife, Angélique, has a lover, Clitandre, an aristocrat. Dandin believes this is proof of adultery or impending adultery, but it isn’t proof. The Sotenvilles, Angélique’s parents, would need to see Clitandre in bed with Angélique. But even if they did, Clitandre might still get off, by denying. Dandin is a mere peasant.
Si bien donc que si je le trouvais couché avec ma femme, il en serait quitte pour se dédire. Dandin aux Sotenvilles (I. vi, p. 15)
[Thus, if I had found him in bed with my wife, he would get off by simply denying it?] Dandin to the Sotenvilles (I. 7, p. 262)
Aristocracy is a mask and Dandin was naïve and vain. Vanity is a sin. Dandin could not become a gentilhomme. He may as well drown. Although he is right, he is wrong.
J’enrage de bon cœur d’avoir tort, lorsque j’ai raison. Dandin, seul (I. vi, p. 15)
[(Aside). It makes me mad to be put in the wrong, when I am in the right.] Dandin, alone (I. 8, p. 262)
George Dandin is not an “all’s well that ends well” scenario. George Dandin is a farce. The formula for farces is “tel est pris qui croyait prendre” or “deceiver deceived.” According to this comedic formula, Dandin will always complain and will always be forced to apologize.
La Jalousie du Barbouillé is a one-act farce, first performed in 1660. It is often associated with Le Médecin volant. Both are early plays. However, Le Barbouillé seems the blueprint for George Dandin, first performed in 1668. George Dandin is a rich peasant who foolishly marries into an impoverished aristocracy. La Jalousie du Barbouillé was staged a few times after it premièred, but the farce was unexpectedly removed from Molière’s répertoire and the text itself vanished. It was found by Jean-Baptiste Rousseau in the eighteenth century, but was not included in the complete works of Molière until the 1819 edition.
The Molière21 research group warn that ancestors to Molière’s plays are probably too numerous to list. Cuckoldry and jealousy have long been the subject of farces and fabliaux. Cuckoldry also provided canevas, plots, to the commedia dell’arte. However, Wikipedia’s entry on La Jalousie du Barbouillé mentions sources. One is the commedia dell’arte‘s Villano gelosi, another is a tale from Boccacio’s Decameron,Le Jaloux corrigé. Moreover, the angry or disconsolate Barbouillé and Dandin are incarnations of Pedrolino (Pierrot), the rejected and sad clown.
Le Barbouillé, husband to Angélique.
Valère, lover to Angélique.
Cathau, maid to Angélique.
Gorgibus, father to Angélique.
Villebrequin (accompanies Gorgibus).
La Jalousie du Barbouillé features one of Molière’s main figures: the jaloux. Le jaloux combines two comedic functions. On the one hand, he is “in love,” but on the other hand, he is the blocking character of comedy, thealazṓn of Greek Old Comedy. If he has yet to marry, he resembles Arnolphe. Reprimands and imprecations are his native and only tongue. We have just read Le Sicilien ou l’Amour peintre. Had Dom Pèdre known the laws of gallantry, Isidore may not have fled with Adraste.
After le Jaloux marries, he remains a jaloux because he fears cuckoldry, which is his fate. The cocu is the laughing-stock of the society of the play. In La Jalousie du Barbouillé, his name suggests that his face is smeared: barbouillé.
Yes, Angélique has met Valère and, serving the couple, is Cathau, Angélique’s maid. She is on the lookout. If she sees Gorgibus, Angélique’s father, she warns Valère and Angélique, who stop speaking as lovers do. Valère knows how to change topics:
Mademoiselle, je suis au désespoir de vous apporter de si méchantes nouvelles ; mais aussi bien les auriez-vous apprises de quelque autre ; et, puisque votre frère est fort malade… Valère à Angélique (Sc. iv, p. 5)
[Mademoiselle, I am very sorry to bring you such bad news, but, you would have heard it from some one else, and since your brother is ill…] Valère to Angélique (Sc. 4)
The Barbouillé’s Soliloquy
As the curtain lifts, the Barbouillé engages in a soliloquy, as will George Dandin. His soliloquy, or tirade, is a litany of the wrongs he endures, saddled as he is, with a flirtatious wife. He wishes her dead, but would be hanged if he had no proof of adultery:
Il faut avouer que je suis le plus malheureux de tous les hommes ! J’ai une femme qui me fait enrager : au lieu de me donner du soulagement et de faire les choses à mon souhait, elle me fait donner au diable vingt fois le jour ; au lieu de se tenir à la maison, elle aime la promenade, la bonne chère, et fréquente je ne sais quelle sorte de gens. Ah ! pauvre Barbouillé, que tu es misérable ! Il faut pourtant la punir. Si tu la tuais… L’intention ne vaut rien, car tu serais pendu. Si tu la faisais mettre en prison… La carogne en sortirait avec son passe-partout. Que diable faire donc ? Mais voilà monsieur le docteur qui passe par ici, il faut que je lui demande un bon conseil sur ce que je dois faire. Barbouillé (Sc. I, p. 1)
[Everybody must acknowledge that I am the most unfortunate of men! I have a wife who plagues me to death; and who, instead of bringing me comfort and doing things as I like them to be done, makes me swear at her twenty times a day. Instead of keeping at home, she likes gadding about, eating good dinners, and passing her time with people of I don’t know what description. Ah! poor Barbouillé, how much you are to be pitied! But she must be punished. Suppose you killed her…? It would do no good, for you would be hung afterwards. If you were to have her sent to prison…? The minx would find means of coming out. –What the deuce are you to do?
But here is the doctor coming out this way; suppose I ask his advice on my difficulties.] Barbouillé (Sc. 1)
The Barbouillé seeks the help of a doctor, a pedant, who is passing by. This doctor cannot give advice. The Barbouillé says a few words, which is all our pedant requires to display his knowledge. Doctors have the reputation of presenting bills. At the end of Scene two, the Doctor therefore indulges in a long tirade aimed at showing that expense is no object. He does’nt take money. The tirade being too long, I will indicate that it is at the very end of Scene ii, p. 4, FR Scene 2, EN.
In the meantime, Monsieur Gorgibus, Angélique’s father, walks on stage, accompanied by Villebrequin, his entourage. Gorgibus fears cuckoldry as much as the Barbouillé, if not more. Should his daughter commit adultery, which is almost unavoidable, Gorgibus’ reputation would suffer. He is forever visiting his daughter and her husband, begging them to stop quarrelling. They quarrel. (Sc. v, p. 5):
Hé quoi? toujours se quereller! vous n’aurez point la paix dans votre ménage? Gorgibus au Barbouillé (Sc. v)
[What! will you always be quarrelling! Will you never have peace at home?] Gorgibus to Barbouillé (Sc. 5)
An incoherent doctor butts in. For instance, he asks the Barbouillé not to use the word enrager: j’enrage [I am bursting with rage.], which is not the correct verb.Whether the Barbouillé uses enrager or an another word is irrelevant. He is a nuisance. As the scene ends, the doctor is dragged away, a cord attached to his foot.
Au milieu de tout ce bruit, le Barbouillé attache le Docteur par le pied, et le fait tomber ; le Docteur se doit laisser sur le dos ; le barbouillé l’entraîne par la corde qu’il lui a attachée au pied, et, pendant qu’il l’entraîne, le Docteur doit toujours parler, et compter par ses doigts toutes ses raisons, comme s’il n’était point à terre. (Sc. vi, pp. 8-9) [In the midst of all this, Le Barbouillé ties the Doctor by the legs with a rope, throws him down on his back, and drags him away; the Doctor goes on talking all the time, and counts all his arguments on his fingers, as if he were not on the ground.]
In La Jalousie du Barbouillé, Molière rehearses George Dandin ou le Mari confondu, performed in 1668. The two comedies share an episode. The Barbouillé’s Angélique is late returning home and finds herself locked out of the Barbouillé’s house. The Barbouillé will not open the door to let his wife enter.
Oui? Ah! ma foi, tu peux aller coucher d’où tu viens, ou, si tu l’aimes mieux, dans la rue, dans la rue : je n’ouvre point à une coureuse comme toi. Comment, diable! être toute seule à l’heure qu’il est! Je ne sais si c’est imagination, mais mon front m’en paraît plus rude de moitié. Barbouillé à Angélique (Sc. xi, p. 10)
[Yes, you catch me! You may go and sleep where you come from; I shall not open to a gad-about like you. What! alone at this time of night! I don’t know if it is fancy, but my forehead seems to me already rougher by half.] Barbouillé to Angélique (Sc. 11)
The Barbouillé so insists on keeping the door closed that Angélique says she will do something he will regret.
Sais-tu bien que si tu me pousses à bout, et que tu me mettes en colère, je ferai quelque chose dont tu te repentiras? Angélique au Barbouillé (Sc. xi, p. 11) [Do you know that if you push me too far, and put me in a passion, I may do something which will make you repent your unkindness.] Angélique to Barbouillé (Sc. 11)
Tiens, si tu ne m’ouvres, je m’en vais me tuer devant la porte ; mes parents, qui sans doute viendront ici auparavant de se coucher, pour savoir si nous sommes bien ensemble, me trouveront morte, et tu seras pendu. Angélique au Barbouillé (Sc. xi, p. 11)
[I declare that if you do not open to me, I will kill myself before the door; my parents will no doubt come here before going to bed, to see if we are all right together, and they will find me dead, and you will be hanged.] Angélique to Barbouillé (Sc. 11)
She then makes believe she’s killed herself. Frightened, he goes out of the house, allowing her to enter. It was a trick which George Dandin will play on his wife, in the hope he will be vindicated. He would have the upper hand from the point of you of the law. (Act III. final scenes)
Le jaloux is doomed, whether or not he is in the right. Courting, le Jaloux cannot make himself loved. He cannot be loved. Once he marries, Molière’s jaloux is cuckolded, un cocu and barbouillé, smeared. He is the laughing-stock of the play’s society and he shames his in-laws, however vigilant a Gorgibus or a Barbouillé. Gorgibus asks his daughter to kiss her “husband:”
Allons, ma fille, embrassez votre mari, et soyez bons amis. Gorgibus à Angélique (Sc. xii, p. 12) [Come, daughter, kiss your husband, and be friends.] Gorgibus to Angélique (Sc. 13)
One does not ask a woman to kiss her husband, nor does one ask a husband to apologize to his wife (George Dandin, p. 291). Angélique and Valère will become lovers. The Sotenville (George Dandin) are prosperous again, but they have sold a daughter and Dandin regrets marrying into the aristocracy. He blames himself.
As the curtain falls, Villebrequin, who has refused the hear sixty to eighty pages of instruction from a reappearing doctor, suggests all go to supper.
Allons-nous-en souper ensemble, nous autres. Villebrequin à tous(Sc. xiii, p. 13) Let us all go and have some supper together. Villebrequin to all (Sc. 13)
This invitation is formulaic and The Jealousy of the Barbouillé, an enigmatic comedy. “Nous autres” go to supper, but George Dandin, a second Barbouillé, feels he may as well drown (George Dandin, p. 291).
We have read all the plays in which Molière satirised doctors and we know why. In 17th century Europe, medicine was not sufficiently advanced for doctors to help patients. However, there were doctors. The sick sought their assistance believing they could be cured. They could not be cured and doctors knew. Yet, doctors collected fees that made many of them wealthy. As well, there were charlatans. I omitted a short scene in which L’Amour médecin’s Sganarelle goes to buy orviétan from a charlatan.
(seul) Me voilà justement un peu plus incertain que je n’étais auparavant. Morbleu, il me vient une fantaisie. Il faut que j’aille acheter de l’orviétan, et que je lui en fasse prendre. L’orviétan est un remède dont beaucoup de gens se sont bien trouvés. Sganarelle (II. vi, p. 13)
[(the two doctors leave) Here I am now a little more uncertain than I was before. The devil! A fantasy has come to me. I have to go buy some snake oil and make her take it — snake oil is a remedy which many people are very fond of.] Sganarelle (II. 6, pp. 16-17)
Thibaut and his son Perrin consult Sganarelle, who has been made into a doctor. Thibaut tells Sganarelle that Perrin’s mother suffers from hypocrisie (hypocrisy).
Alle est malade d’hypocrisie, Monsieu. Thibaut to Sganarelle (III. ii, p. 24)
[She’s got the hypocrisy, Sir.] Thibaut to Sganarelle (III. 2, p. 24)
The use of the word hypocrisie instead of hydropisie is ironic, but consistent with Molière’s satirical portrayal of doctors. Moreover, Sganarelle is not hearing anything because he has yet to be paid. After he is paid deux écus, Sganarelle can hear, which is another satirical element:
Voilà un garçon qui parle clairement, qui s’explique comme il faut. Vous dites que votre mère est malade d’hydropisie, qu’elle est enflée par tout le corps, qu’elle a la fièvre, avec des douleurs dans les jambes : et qu’il lui prend, parfois, des syncopes, et des convulsions, c’est-à-dire des évanouissements ? Sganarelle to Perrin (III. ii, p. 24)
[Now I understand! Here’s a boy who speaks clearly and explains things as he should. You say your mother is suffering from hydropsia, is swollen everywhere, and has a fever, with pains in the legs, and sometime she is taken with fits and convulsions, that is to say, with fainting?] Sganarelle to Perrin (III. 2, p. 39)
Sganarelle has learned that doctors collect first. However, he can hear hydropisie, dropsy, instead of hypocrisie and his diagnostic could be accurate.
I will insert these omissions in their appropriate posts.
I wrote one chapter of my thesis on George Dandin. I re-read it during the week-end and I had the feeling I was reading a text written by an author other than myself. I have also written a post on George Dandin. He is an agroikós, a rustic character, featured in Middle Greek comedy. The comedy of Ancient Greece, Attic comedy, is usually divided into three periods and I will associate at least one writer which each period. Greece’s best-known comic playwrights are:
Aristophanes (c. 446 – c. 386 BCE) is associated with Old Comedy,
Antiphanes (c. 408 to 334 BCE), with Middle Comedy (the agroikos), and
Menander (c. 342/41 – c. 290 BCE) with New Comedy.
I should also mention Philemon (c. 362 BCE– c. 262 BCE). He is associated with New Comedy.
Molière was also familiar with Rome’s Atellanfarce and with the comedies of Rome’s Plautus (c. 254 – 184 BCE) and Terence (c. 195/185 – c. 159? BC). As well, he knew the commedia dell’arte‘s stock characters. These may be archetypes and are discussed in Northrop Frye‘s Anatomy of Criticism(1959), which, I believe, is essential reading. We have seen the alazṓn, the blocking character of comedy, and the eirôn, the alazṓn’s opponent. The alazṓn has many names. I have also mentioned the pharmakós. The pharmakós is the scapegoat.
George Dandin is an agroikos. This play was discussed in a post, but the pastorals were not. They are:
____________________ L’orviétan était un remède miracle, une sorte de panacée qu’un charlatan italien, Jeronimo Ferranti, prétendait avoir apporté d’Orvieto et qui fut vendu avec beaucoup de succès par lui-même et ses descendants jusqu’au XVIIIe siècle. [Orvietan was a miracle cure, a sort of panacea that an Italian charlatan, Jeronimo Ferranti, claimed he brought from Orvieto, and which he and his descendants sold successfully until the 18th century.] toutmolière.net
I have used the wordagôn. It means struggle and appears in several contexts. (See Agôn, Wiki2.org.)
George Dandin ou le Mari confondu (George Dandin or the Abashed Husband) is a three-act comédie-balletwritten by Molière and composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully. It premièred on 18 July 1668,at Versailles. The comédie-ballet was part of a Grand Divertissement royal, a celebration of the French victory at Aix-la-Chapelle. On 9 November 1668, it was performed as a three-act play at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal. Devoid of its pastoral interludes, consisting mainly in a conversation between shepherdesses George Dandin was a rather sombre three–act farce. The pastoral lightened George Dandin.
Pastorals find their origin in Guarini‘s (1538-1612) Pastor Fido (1590), The Faithful Shepherd. As for GeorgeDandin, a farce, it may also be rooted in Giovanni Boccacio‘s (1313-1375) Decameron, 4th, 7th, and 8th days. The Decameron contains 100 tales told by young men and women hiding from the plague. These were very influential. Chaucer may have read the Decameron when he was on a mission to Italy in 1372. The structure of his Canterbury Tales resembles that of the Decameron.
George Dandin is also associated with an Indian work, the Dolopatos, written before the Common Era and translated into Arabic and Hebrew (see Salon littéraire). It was also translated into Latin and then French. It could be that Molière’s own Jalousie du Barbouillé, which may date back to 1650, was the dramatist’s source.
In Greek literature, George Dandin, would be called an agroikos (rustic), a stock character. He is a peasant who has married into the upper classes and wishes to be separated from his wife when he realizes that he has simply bought a title: de la Dandinière. Such incidents were frequent in 17th-century France because aristocrats wanted to be ‘seen’ at court, which costs a fortune. They could not afford dowries for all their daughters. Often only one was endowed.
Angélique’s parents, the Sotenvilles, are impoverished nobility, but they do have a home in Paris. In order to live up to their rank, the Sotenvilles literally sold their daughter to Dandin. Nothing is more important to the Sotenvilles than their rank, which vilifies them. As for George Dandin, although he bought the title of Monsieur de la Dandinière, the Sotenvilles (sot=stupid) continue to see him as a peasant and so does their daughter. In Molière as in Shakespeare, one must to one’s own self be true. Dandin’s marriage is a mésalliance, and Angélique is a “lamb,” as Claudine calls her.
A Mésalliance – Cuckoldry
In Act III, Scene 5, Clitandre points to the incongruous aspect of Angélique’s marriage to Dandin:
(…) et que c’est une étrange chose que l’assemblage qu’on a fait d’une personne comme vous avec un homme comme lui !
[(…) and that the union of a woman like you to a man like him is somewhat strange.(III, 5)]
The marriage has not been consummated (Act III, Scene V ), but there is a contract.
Typically, in Molière, a mésalliance (marrying into a different class) and a forced marriage (un mariage forcé) lead to cuckoldry, the fate so feared by Arnolphe(L’École des femmes, 1662). Dandin was foolish and the Sotenvilles, sots, as their name suggest. When her parents will not allow her to be separated from Dandin, Claudine, Angélique’s maid, says: “It is a pity to see a poor young wife treated in such a fashion; it cries to Heaven for vengeance.” (Claudine, III, 12) However, Dandin is treated neither as a husband nor as a nobleman.
Georges Dandin (George Dandin), husband of Angelica
Angelica (Angélique), Georges Dandin’s wife
Sir Sotenville (Monsieur de Sotenville), Angelica’s father
Mrs Sotenville (Madame de Sotenville), Sir Sotenville’s wife
Clitander (Clitandre), in love with Angelica
Claudine, Angelica’s servant
Lubin, Clitandre’s servant
Colin, Dandin’s servant
The play is a three-act farce and the overall dramatic action, the deceiver deceived, or trompeur trompé, is reflected in each act. The action is triggered in the same manner as in L’École des femmes. Dandin is told that he has a rival, Clitandre, by the rival’s valet, Lubin. Like Arnolphe, Dandin believes this intelligence will help him. He wishes to prove to his in-laws that he has a wicked wife from whom he should be separated, which her parents would never allow. However, Clitandre or Angélique always talk their way out of every ploy used by the ill-fated Dandin.
In Act One, Clitandre, who happens to be with Angélique, suggests that Angélique betrayed him.
Est-ce donc vous, Madame, qui avez dit à votre mari que je suis amoureux de vous ? (Clitandre, I. v)
[Is it you then, Madam, who have told your husband that I am in love with you?] (Clitandre, I, 6)
She defends herself by making believe she is accusing him, but if reversed her words are an invitation to Clitandre to continue the galanterie. It’s a brilliant double entendre. Dandin is then asked to apologize to Clitandre who is a genuine gentilhomme. (I. 8)
In Act Two, once again Lubin tells George everything. Angélique’s parents are brought to see their daughter breaking the terms of the contract, her marriage contract. Act Two, Scene 3 resembles L’École des femmes (III, 2). Dandin tries to impress upon his wife that, given the marriage contract, she has duties, but she is very quick to state that George married her parents. She was not consulted. Angélique denies that she has obligations towards George. When Dandin asks her to chase galants away she speaks as does Agnès in L’École des femmes. She will not chase galants away.
Moi, les [men courting her] chasser ! et par quelle raison ? Je ne me scandalise point qu’on me trouve bien faite, et cela me fait du plaisir. (Scene ii) [I drive them away! and for what reason? I am not scandalised at being thought handsome, and it affords me pleasure.] (Scene 4)
Angélique is caught speaking with Clitandre, but she feigns anger at Clitandre. (Scene 10) Once again, Dandin is punished. It seems Clitandre is being hit with a stick, but George Dandin is the victim.
In Act Three, Angélique thinks George is sleeping. She is outside with Clitandre. It’s night time and very dark. Believing he is speaking with Claudine, Lubin tells George Dandin everything. But matters are as in the School for Wives, he is speaking to the young couple’s barbon, Dandin. The latter asks Colin, his valet, to seek his in-laws.
In Scene 5, Clitandre is worried. Husbands have privileges. Angélique tells him that she does not make love with Dandin:
Serez-vous assez fou pour avoir cette inquiétude, et pensez-vous qu’on soit capable d’aimer de certains maris qu’il y a ? (Scène v) [Are you weak enough to have such anxiety, and do you think it is possible to love a certain sort of husbands?] (Scene 5)
In Scene VI, Angélique and Claudine, her maid, cannot re-enter the house. George Dandin has bolted the door. She tells him she has wronged him and, in desperation, she makes believe she has killed herself. When he opens the door to see if she is dead, she and Claudine lock him out. The Sotenvilles arrive and Angélique accuses George Dandin of having spent the evening drinking.
Angélique wants to end the marriage and so does Dandin, but Angélique’s father will not let her leave her husband. Monsieur de Sotenville gives himself the puissance absolue, the absolute power (Scène 7), of a pater familias. Angélique is asked by her father to forgive Dandin, a husband from whom she wants to be separated.
Moi ? lui pardonner tout ce qu’il m’a dit ? Non, non, mon père, il m’est impossible de m’y résoudre, et je vous prie de me séparer d’un mari avec lequel je ne saurais plus vivre. (Scène 7)
[I! pardon him after all that he has said to me? No, no, father I cannot possibly make up my mind to it; and I beg of you to separate me from a husband with whom I can no longer live.] (Scene 14)
As for Dandin, the Sotenvilles force him to kneel down and apologize to Angélique. Therefore, George says to himself that all he can do is go and drown himself, which is indeed all the he can do:
Ah ! je le quitte maintenant, et je n’y vois plus de remède, lorsqu’on a comme moi épousé une méchante femme, le meilleur parti qu’on puisse prendre, c’est de s’aller jeter dans l’eau la tête la première. (Scène 8)
[Ah! I give it up altogether, and I can see no help for it. When one has married, as I have done, a wicked wife, the best step on can take is to go and throw one’s self into the water, head foremost.] (Scene 15)
As noted above, in Molière, mésalliance and forced marriages lead to cuckoldry. All Dandin has gained by marrying Angélique is a title: de la Dandinière, a hollow and ridiculous title. “Se dandiner” means to waddle.
A Problematical comedy
Monsieur de Sotenville: a pater familias – fear
Marriage being a contract and a sacrament, Molière’s George Dandin is a problematical farce. In L’École des femmes, Arnolphe and Agnès were not married. But the Sotenvilles are George Dandin’s in-laws and parasites. They married Angélique to him because of the money he could provide.
Initially, George Dandin was also a parasite. He wanted a title. But the curtain rises on a desperate husband who wishes to see the marriage terminated. We know that the marriage has not been consummated. (Scene V)
Monsieur de Sotenville is the archetypal pater familias. Claudine obeys because she is afraid of him. Fear is very much a factor in Molière. The Sotenvilles may still need Dandin’s money, but more importantly, a separation could be a scandal. They are the Sotenvilles:
Ma fille, de semblables séparations ne se font point sans grand scandale, et vous devez vous montrer plus sage que lui, et patienter encore cette fois. (Scène vii)
[Such separations, daughter, are not brought about without a great deal of scandal; and you should show yourself wiser than he, and be patient once more.] (Scene 14)
Honour is invoked, but far more severe a threat is the authority Monsieur de Sotenville has given himself. He possesses his daughter.
You must, daughter; I command you. (Monsieur de Sotenville, Scene 14)
[This word stops my mouth. You have absolute authority over me.] (Angélique, Scene 14)
“Poor lamb,” says Claudine, Angélique’s maid.
As Angélique bemoans, it will happen again and again. The structure of farces allows constant reversals. They are like the Saturnalia of ancient Rome.
Tout ce que vous me faites faire ne servira de rien, et vous verrez que ce sera dès demain à recommencer. (Angélique, Scène 7)
[Whatever you make me do will be of no use; we shall have to recommence to-morrow, you will see. (Scene 14)]
In the world of comedy, there are no rules of marriage. The genre promotes the marriage of the young lovers. In this play, however, the dramatic structure, i.e. the reversals, dominate. However, while militating in favour of the real young lovers, the farce is unkind to Angélique and Clitandre. They cannot marry because Angélique’s parents will not allow their daughter to come home.
George Dandin is filled with comical scenes, such as the double entendre. The manner in which the Sotenvilles deal with George is also comical. (I. 4) So is the way in which Monsieur de Sotenville introduces himself to Clitandre. He mentions his lineage. (I. 5) In fact, the Sotenvilles are ridiculous. In George Dandin, lineage is mocked as it has never been. Madame de Sotenville’s maiden name is de la Prudoterie.
It could be said therefore that Molière rescues the comedic by pushing the farce to an extreme. Everything is a joke. When the curtain falls, the play will not have taken place. It will have been a joke.
The most famous line of the play is:
“J’enrage de bon cœur d’avoir tort, lorsque j’ai raison.” (Dandin, I. i)
[It makes me mad to be put in the wrong when I am in the right.] (I. 7)
In fact, Dandin is both in the wrong and in the right. According to Will G. Moore, “Dandin is essentially in the right, but he is in all actual cases made to appear in the wrong.”
_________________________ There is disagreement concerning the date.  Michel Serres, Le Parasite (Paris : Hachette littératures, coll. Pluriel, 1997 ), p. 361-373.  See W. G. Moore, Molière: a New Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968 ), p. 118.