I may not be able to post Les Fâcheux today. It would be too long a post. But I could indicate that in Les Fâcheux, first performed on 17 August 1661, at Vaux-le-Vicomte, Nicolas Fouquet‘s magnificent castle, the spectator/reader goes from bore to bore, all of whom want to talk to our hero, Éraste, a marquis who loves Orphise to whom he seems unable to catch up. He does catch up to her in an unexpected dénouement.
The play is therefore repetitive. Éraste is forever interrupted by bores. But one of the episodes, Act Two, Scene Four, features Éraste who is asked by Clymène and Orante, to play umpire, adjudicator, in a debate on whether jealousy is a sign of love.
C’est une question à vider difficile,/ Et vous devez chercher un juge plus habile Éraste à Clymène et Orante (II. iv) [That is a question difficult to settle; you had best look for a more skilful judge.] Éraste to Clymène and Orante (II. 4)
Pour moi de son esprit j’ai trop bon témoignage,/ 400Pour craindre qu’il prononce à mon désavantage./ Enfin ce grand débat qui s’allume entre nous,/ Est de savoir s’il faut qu’un amantsoit jaloux. Orante à Éraste (II. iv) [For my part, I am too much assured of his sense to fear that he will decide against me. Well, this great contest which rages between us is to know whether a lover should be jealous.] Orante to Éraste (II. 4)
Ou, pour mieux expliquer ma pensée et la vôtre,/ Lequel doit plaire plus d’un jaloux ou d’un autre. Orante à Éraste (II. iv)
[Or, the better to explain my opinion and yours, which ought to please most, a jealous man or one that is not so?] Orante to Éraste (II. 4)
405Pour moi, sans contredit, je suis pour le dernier. Clymène à tous (II. iv)
[For my part, I am clearly for the last.] Clymène to all (II. 4)
Et dans mon sentiment je tiens pour le premier. Orante à tous (II. iv)
[As for me, I stand up for the first.] Orante to all (II. 4)
Je crois que notre cœur doit donner son suffrage,/ À qui fait éclater du respect davantage. Orante à tous (II. iv)
445 Et je veux, qu’un amant pour me prouver sa flamme, Sur d’éternels soupçons laisse flotter son âme,/ Et par de prompts transports, donne un signe éclatant/ De l’estime qu’il fait de celle qu’il prétend./ On s’applaudit alors de son inquiétude,/ Et s’il nous fait parfois un traitement trop rude,/ Le plaisir de le voir soumis à nos genoux,/450 S’excuser de l’éclat qu’il a fait contre nous,/ Ses pleurs, son désespoir d’avoir pu nous déplaire, /Est un charme à calmer toute notre colère. Orante à tous (II. iv)
[I would that a lover, in order to prove his flame, should have his mind shaken by eternal suspicions, and, by sudden outbursts, show clearly the value he sets upon her to whose hand he aspires. Then his restlessness is applauded; and, if he sometimes treats us a little roughly, the value he sets upon her to whose hand he aspires. Then his restlessness is applauded; and, if he sometimes treats us a little roughly, the pleasure of seeing him, penitent at our feet, to excuse himself for the outbreak of which he has been guilty, his tears, his despair at having been capable of displeasing us, are a charm to soothe all our anger.] Clymène to all (II. 4)
Si pour vous plaire il faut beaucoup d’emportement,/ Je sais qui vous pourrait donner contentement;/ 455Et je connais des gens dans Paris plus de quatre,/ Qui comme ils le font voir, aiment jusques à battre. Orante à tous (II. iv) [If much violence is necessary to please you, I know who would satisfy you; I am acquainted with several men in Paris who love well enough to beat their fair ones openly.] Orante to all (IV. 4)
Éraste’s answer is:
Puisqu’à moins d’un arrêt je ne m’en puis défaire,
Toutes deux à la fois je vous veux satisfaire; 465 Et pour ne point blâmer ce qui plaît à vos yeux,
Le jaloux aime plus, et l’autre aime bien mieux. Éraste to all (II. iv)
[Since I cannot avoid giving judgment, I mean to satisfy you both at once; and, in order, not to blame that which is pleasing in your eyes, the jealous man loves more, but the other loves more wisely.]. Éraste to all (IV. 4)
Who would appreciate reducing a man to sudden outbursts, applauding a man’s restlessness?Who would wish to be treated a little roughly and enjoy seeing the penitent at one’s feet, witness his tears and his despair?
If Clymène enjoys the pain she inflicts, we could perhaps put her on the same footing as our tormented and jaloux, or on the other side of the same coin. This is not love.
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?]
Moreover, before leaving la Princesse d’Élide, a comédie galante, the word galant should be investigated. Although Italy’s Baldassare Castiglione wrote Il Cortegiano, France is the birthplace of both l’honnête homme and le galant homme. As I have noted in an earlier post, sprezzatura is not associated with l’honnête homme because “honnêteté” is not a stance. L’honnête homme had to be virtuous.
I should also note that the term ‘galant,’ overrides disciplines. I know the word ‘galant’ mainly from musicology classes. Johann Sebastian Bach’s son, Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, was a founder of the galant style in music and, according to the Wikipedia entry on galant music, Johann Christian Bach took it further. Galant music is less complex than Baroque music.
However, the term galant originates in France where the galant homme was a close relative of l’honnête homme. The birth of l’honnête homme can be traced back to Baldassare Castiglione. But l‘honnête homme was not a “dandy.”
RÉCIT DE L’AURORE
Quand l’amour à vos yeux offre un choix agréable,
Jeunes beautés laissez-vous enflammer:
Moquez-vous d’affecter cet orgueil indomptable,
Dont on vous dit qu’il est beau de s’armer: Dans l’âge où l’on est aimable Rien n’est si beau que d’aimer.
[When Love presents a charming choice Respond to his flame, oh youthful fair! Do not affect a pride which no one can subdue, Though you’ve been told such pride becomes you well. When one is of a lovely age.]
Soupirez librement pour un amant fidèle,
Et bravez ceux qui voudraient vous blâmer;
Un cœur tendre est aimable, et le nom de cruelle
N’est pas un nom à se faire estimer:
↵ Dans l’âge
Dans le temps où l’on est belle,
Rien n’est si beau que d’aimer.
[Breathe freely sighs for him who faithful loves And challenge those who wish to blame your ways. A tender heart is lovely; but a cruel maid Will never be a title to esteem. When one is fair and beautiful Naught is so handsome as to love.]
Molière’sPsyché was written in collaboration with dramatists Pierre Corneille and Philippe Quinault. As director of the Troupe du Roi, Molière attended to several requests on the part of Louis XIV. These precluded his full participation, in a play based on the myth of Psyche, a theme he chose in 1670. Molière wrote the Prologue, Act One and the first scene of Acts Two and Three. The music was composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully, to a libretto by Philippe Quinault. Pierre Beauchamp(s) was the play’s main choreographer. Scenery and stage effects, planned by Molière, were coordinated by Carlo Vigarani.
Molière’s Psyché was first performed at the Théâtre des Tuileries because this royal residence had sophisticated machinery, la salle des machines. It has been said that Louis XIV wanted to re-use a décor of hell built for Francesco Cavalli’s Ercole amante (Hercules in love), performed in 1662. For instance, when the immortal Venus, the Roman goddess of love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, etc. descends from some lofty abode lamenting rivalry from a mere mortal, she does so in a machine. Her rival, Psyche, is the most beautiful woman in the world. Special effects provided magnificence to the festivities that followed the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1668), a victory for Louis XIV. After the Théâtre du Palais-Royal was renovated, at the troupe du Roi‘s expense, Psyché was staged at Molière’s troupe usual venue, the Théâtre du Palais-Royal.
Molière chose the subject of his play, the Tale of Cupid and Psyche, shortly after the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1668) was signed. Psyche was a popular narrative in 17th-century France. It was used by Isaac de Benserade (1656, a ballet) and La Fontaine (1669, a novel). However, Psyche’s main source is 2nd century Apuleius’ Golden Ass. The Golden Ass, first entitled TheMetamorphosis, is a frame story containing “digressions,” or inner tales, one of which, and the most memorable, is the Tale of Cupid and Psyche. Apuleius had read Ovid (20 March 43 BCE – 17/18 CE) whose Metamorphoses was an extremely influential work.
In the Golden Ass, Lucius Apuleius wants to be transformed into a bird, but he is mistakenly metamorphosed into an ass. The novel contains tales, but none as elegant as The Tale of Cupid and Psyche, Apulée’s Âge d’or. Few have endured. The Tale of Cupid and Psyche so differs from its sister tales that it seems a deviation rather than a digression (an inner tale). It appears misplaced, but its subject isn’t. Psyche will be transformed into an immortal, which is consistent with the carnivalesque, but dares reversing the Creation myth. Moreover, gods and humans interact as in magical realism. Mortals, such as Psyché’s sisters Aglaure and Cidippe can be jealous of Psyche’s beauty, the most beautiful woman in the world. Venus is a goddess and immortal.
Jupiter. Venus. Love (Cupid). Zephyr. AegialeandPhaëne,two Graces. The King. Psyche. Aglaura (sister to Psyche). Cidippe (sister to Psyche . CleomenesandAgenor, two princes, Psyche’slovers. Lycas, captain of the guards. A River God Two Cupids.
The front of the stage represents a rustic spot, while at the back the sea can be seen in the distance.
As a play Psyche’s main theme is Venus’ jealousy. It is expressed in the Prologue, which I will quote at some length:
Moi, la fille du dieu qui lance le tonnerre,
Mère du dieu qui fait aimer;
Moi, les plus doux souhaits du ciel et de la terre,
Et qui ne suis venue au jour que pour charmer;
Moi, qui par tout ce qui respire
Ai vu de tant de vœux encenser mes autels,
Et qui de la beauté, par des droits immortels,
Ai tenu de tout temps le souverain empire;
Moi, dont les yeux ont mis deux grandes déités
Au point de me céder le prix de la plus belle,
Je me vois ma victoire et mes droits disputés
Par une chétive mortelle!
Le ridicule excès d’un fol entêtement
Va jusqu’à m’opposer une petite fille!
Sur ses traits et les miens j’essuierai constamment
Un téméraire jugement!
Et du haut des cieux où je brille,
J’entendrai prononcer aux mortels prévenus:
« Elle est plus belle que Vénus! » Vénus,Prologue, p. 6, 101
I, the daughter of the Thunderer, mother of the love-inspiring god;
I, the sweetest yearning of heaven and earth, who received birth only to charm;
I, who have seen everything that hath breath utter so many vows at my shrines,
and by immortal rights have held the sovereign sway of beauty in all ages;
I, whose eyes have forced two mighty gods to yield me the prize of beauty
—I see my rights and my victory disputed by a wretched mortal.
Shall the ridiculous excess of foolish obstinacy go so far as to oppose to me a little girl?
Shall I constantly hear a rash verdict on the beauty of her features and of mine,
and from the loftiest heaven where I shine shall I hear it said to the prejudiced world, “She is fairer than Venus”? Venus,Prologue
ACT ONE AGLAURE, CIDIPPE.
Auglure and her sister Cidippe bemoan their sorry fate and agree that they must be less reserved than they have been.
SCÈNE PREMIÈRE (first scene)
Quelle fatalité secrète,
Ma sœur, soumet tout l’univers
Aux attraits de notre cadette,
Et de tant de princes divers
Qu’en ces lieux la fortune jette,
N’en présente aucun à nos fers? Auglure à Cidippe ( I. v. 180, p. 9)
[My sister, what secret fatality makes the whole world bow before our younger sister’s charms? and how is it that, amongst so many different princes who are brought by fortune to this place, not one has any love for us?] Auglura to Cidippe (I. 1)
Est-il pour nous, ma sœur, de plus rude disgrâce, 196
Que de voir tous les cœurs mépriser nos appas,
Et l’heureuse Psyché jouir avec audace
D’une foule d’amants attachés à ses pas? Aglaure (I. i. v. 196 -, p. 9)
[Can there be for us, my sister, any greater trial than to see how all hearts disdain our beauty, and how the fortunate Psyche insolently reigns with full sway over the crowd of lovers who ever attend her?] Cidippe (I. 1)
Sur un plus fort appui ma croyance se fonde, 273 /Et le charme qu’elle a pour attirer les cœurs, /C’est un air en tout temps désarmé de rigueurs, /Des regards caressants que la bouche seconde, /Un souris chargé de douceurs /Qui tend les bras à tout le monde, /Et ne vous promet que faveurs. Aglaure (I. 1. v. 273 -, p. 12)
[My opinion is founded on a more solid basis, and the charms by which she draws all hearts to herself are a demeanour at all times free of reserve; caressing words and looks; a smile full of sweetness, which invites everyone, and promises them nothing but favours.] Aglaure (I. 1)
Oui, voilà le secret de l’affaire, et je voi /Que vous le prenez mieux que moi. 290 C’est pour nous attacher à trop de bienséance, /Qu’aucun amant, ma sœur, à nous ne veut venir, /Et nous voulons trop soutenir /L’honneur de notre sexe, et de notre naissance. /Les hommes maintenant aiment ce qui leur rit, 295 /L’espoir, plus que l’amour, est ce qui les attire, /Et c’est par là que Psyché nous ravit / Tous les amants qu’on voit sous son empire. /Suivons, suivons l’exemple, ajustons-nous au temps, /Abaissons-nous, ma sœur, à faire des avances, 300 /Et ne ménageons plus de tristes bienséances /Qui nous ôtent les fruits du plus beau de nos ans.
Cygippe [Yes, that is the secret; and I see that you understand it better than I. It is because we cling too much to modesty, sister, that no lovers come to us; it is because we try to sustain too strictly the honour of our sex and of our birth. Men, nowadays, like what comes easily to them; hope attracts them more than love; and that is how Psyche deprives us of all the lovers we see under her sway. Let us follow her example, and suit ourselves to the times; let us stoop, sister, to make advances, and let us no longer keep to those dull morals which rob us of the fruits of our best years.]
The sisters resolve to be more forthright with the princes who love Psyché.
SCENE TWO CLÉOMÈNE, AGÉNOR, AGLAURE, CIDIPPE.
The princes visit. They say that they have little power over their feelings. It is Psyche they love. According to the sisters, they will be harmed by Psyche. She will not respond to their love.
Les voici tous deux, et j’admire /Leur air et leur ajustement. Aglaure (I. i, p. 13)
(Here they both are. I admire their manners and attire. Aglaure (I. 1)
Ils ne démentent nullement /Tout ce que nous venons de dire. Cidippe (I. i, p. 13)
They in no way fall short of all that we have said of them. Aglaure (I. 1)
Scène II CLÉOMÈNE, AGÉNOR, AGLAURE, CIDIPPE.
D’où vient, Princes, d’où vient que vous fuyez ainsi? /Prenez-vous l’épouvante, en nous voyant paraître? Aglaure (I. ii, p. 13)
Wherefore, princes, wherefore do you thus hasten away? Does our appearance fill you with fear? Aglaure (I. 2)
The princes tell Aglaure and Cidippe that they love Psyche and have little power over their feelings.
Est-ce que l’on consulte au moment qu’on s’enflamme? /Choisit-on qui l’on veut aimer? /Et pour toute son âme, /Regarde-t-on quel droit on a de nous charmer? Cléomène ( I. ii, v. 347-, p. 15)
[Do we reason when we fall in love? Do we choose the object of our attachment? And when we bestow our hearts, do we weigh the right of the fair one to fascinate us?] Cléomène (I. 2.)
Sans qu’on ait le pouvoir d’élire, /On suit, dans une telle ardeur /Quelque chose qui nous attire, /Et lorsque l’amour touche un cœur, 355/On n’a point de raisons à dire. Agénor (I. ii, v. 351-, p. 15)
[Without having the power of choosing, we follow in such a passion something which delights us; and when love touches a heart, we have no reasons to give.] Agénor (I. 2)
They may be dissatisfied, says Cidippe:
L’espoir qui vous appelle au rang de ses amants /Trouvera du mécompte aux douceurs qu’elle étale; /Et c’est pour essuyer de très fâcheux moments, 365/Que les soudains retours de son âme inégale. Cidippe (I. ii, p. 15) [The hope which calls you into the rank of her lovers will experience many disappointments in the favours she bestows; and the fitful changes of her inconstant heart will cause you many painful hours.] Cidippe (I. 2)
The princes no longer know their own worth, which makes the sister pity the love that guides them. They could find a “more constant heart.”
366Un clair discernement de ce que vous valez /Nous fait plaindre le sort où cet amour vous guide, /Et vous pouvez trouver tous deux, si vous voulez, /Avec autant d’attraits, une âme plus solide. Cidippe (I. ii, p. 16)
[A clear discernment of your worth makes us pity the fate into which this passion will lead you; and if you wished, you could both find a more constant heart and charms as great.] Cidippe (I. 2)
Par un choix plus doux de moitié /Vous pouvez de l’amour sauver votre amitié, /Et l’on voit en vous deux un mérite si rare, /Qu’un tendre avis veut bien prévenir par pitié /Ce que votre cœur se prépare. Cidippe (I. ii, v. 370-, p. 16)
[A choice sweeter by half can rescue your mutual friendship from love; and there is such a rare merit apparent in you both that a gentle counsel would, out of pity, save your hearts from what they are preparing for themselves.] Cidippe (I. 2)
Scène III PSYCHÉ, CIDIPPE, AGLAURE, CLÉOMÈNE, AGÉNOR.
Psyche tells her lovers that her fate is to be decided by a father.
Ce n’est pas à mon cœur qu’il faut que je défère /Pour entrer sous de tels liens; /Ma main, pour se donner, attend l’ordre d’un père, 445/Et mes sœurs ont des droits qui vont devant les miens. Psyché (I. iii, p. 18) [I must not listen to my heart only before engaging in such a union, but my hand must await my father’s decision before it can dispose of itself, and my sisters have rights superior to mine.] Psyché (I. 3)
But she goes on to say:
Oui, Princes, à tous ceux dont l’amour suit le vôtre, /Je vous préférerais tous deux avec ardeur;460/Mais je n’aurais jamais le cœur /De pouvoir préférer l’un de vous deux à l’autre. /À celui que je choisirais, /Ma tendresse ferait un trop grand sacrifice, Et je m’imputerais à barbare injustice 465 /Le tort qu’à l’autre je ferais. /Oui, tous deux vous brillez de trop de grandeur d’âme, /Pour en faire aucun malheureux, /Et vous devez chercher dans l’amoureuse flamme /Le moyen d’être heureux tous deux.
Si votre cœur me considère /Assez pour me souffrir de disposer de vous, / J’ai deux sœurs capables de plaire, /Qui peuvent bien vous faire un destin assez doux, /Et l’amitié me rend leur personne assez chère, 475 /Pour vous souhaiter leurs époux. Psyche (I. iii, p. 18) [Yes, Princes, I should greatly prefer you to all those whose love will follow yours, but I could never have the heart to prefer one of you to the other. My tenderness would be too great a sacrifice to the one whom I might choose, and I should think myself barbarously unjust to inflict so great a wrong upon the other. Indeed, you both possess such greatness of soul that it would be wrong to make either of you miserable, and you must seek in love the means of being both happy. If your hearts honour me enough to give me the right of disposing of them, I have two sisters well fitted to please, who might make your destinies happy, and whom friendship endears to me enough for me to wish that you should be their husbands.] Psyche (I. 3)
Un cœur dont l’amour est extrême /Peut-il bien consentir, hélas, /D’être donné par ce qu’il aime? /Sur nos deux cœurs, Madame, à vos divins appas 480 /Nous donnons un pouvoir suprême, / Disposez-en pour le trépas, /Mais pour une autre que vous-même /Ayez cette bonté de n’en disposer pas. Cléomène (I. iii, p. 19) [Can a heart whose love, alas! is extreme, consent to be given away by her it loves? We yield up our two hearts, Madam, to your divine charms, even should you doom them to death; but we beg you not to make them over to any one but yourself.] Cléomène (I. 3)
Scène IV LYCAS, PSYCHÉ, AGLAURE, CIDIPPE, CLÉOMÈNE, AGÉNOR
In Scene Four, Psyche is summoned to see the king. She is afraid.
De ce trouble si grand que faut-il que j’attende? Psyché à Lycas (I. iv, p. 21)
[What am I to augur from your agitation? Psycheto Lycas (I. 4)
Scène V AGLAURE, CIDIPPE, LYCAS.
In Scene Five, Psyche learns from the king, that an oracle demands that she be led to a hill, dressed for a “pompous mournful line.” A monster/serpent will be her husband.
Que l’on ne pense nullement 525 /À vouloir de Psyché conclure l’hyménée; /Mais qu’au sommet d’un mont elle soit promptement /En pompe funèbre menée, /Et que de tous abandonnée, /Pour époux elle attende en ces lieux constamment 530 /Un monstre dont on a la vue empoisonnée, /Un serpent qui répand son venin en tous lieux, /Et trouble dans sa rage et la terre et les cieux. Lycas (I. v, p. 22)
“No one must think to lead
Psyche to Hymen’s shrine;
But all with earnest speed,
In pompous mournful line,
High to the mountain crest
Must take her; there to await,
Forlorn, in deep unrest,
A monster who envenoms all,
Decreed by fate her husband;
A serpent whose dark poisonous breath
And rage e’er hold the world in thrall,
Shaking the heavens high and realms of death.” Lycas (I. 5)
Scène VI AGLAURE, CIDIPPE.
In Scene Six, Psyche’s sisters say they cannot grieve. On the contrary, they are relieved.
À ne vous point mentir, je sens que dans mon cœur /Je n’en suis pas trop affligée. Cidippe (I. vi, p. 23) [To speak the truth, my heart is not very much grieved at it.] Cidippe (I. 6)
Moi, je sens quelque chose au mien /Qui ressemble assez à la joie. /Allons, le Destin nous envoie545/Un mal que nous pouvons regarder comme un bien. Aglaure (I. vi, p. 23) [My heart feels something which very much resembles joy. Let us go; Fate has sent us a calamity which we can consider as a blessing.] Aglaure (I. 6)
I would love to conclude, but we must read the rest of the play. Remember that jealousy is a prominent theme in Molière’s plays and 17th-century French literature. However, jealousy in Molière is usually of a comedic nature. It is Arnolphe’s plight and it is linked to cuckoldry. (See The School for Wives, Wikipedia.)
In Psyché, Molière is true to the myth. Venus is jealous because Psyche is the most beautiful woman in the world, yet a mere mortal. Only mortals, Psyche’s two sisters, can be jealous of Psyche. They will harm her and nearly cause her death.
The juxtaposition of a mortal and an immortal is problematical. It is incongruous. Psyche’s beauty of a transitory nature. The soul, the psyche, has been deemed and is still deemed immortal. As a human being, Psyche will experience metamorphoses. She will age and die. This is l’humaine condition. Venus is a goddess and, therefore, immortal. However, after a string of trials and tribulations, Psyche ascends to godliness, an honest twist consistent with the carnivalesque, but a reversal of the Judeo-Christian creation myth.
Psyché is an “all’s well that ends well” narrative. Our young lovers marry… But the play is a part of a celebration: festivities. “Pump and circumstance” colours Psyche. Louis is seen as divine, albeit briefly.
Le plus puissant des rois Interrompt ses exploits Pour donner la paix à la terre. Descendez, mère des Amours, Venez nous donner de beaux jours. Flore (Prologue)
The din of battle is stayed;
The mightiest king of earth
His arms aside has laid;
Of peace ’tis now the birth!
Descend thou, lovely Venus,
And blissful hours grant us! Flora (Prologue)
___________________ Pierre Corneille is the author of Le Cid(1636), a play that generated a quarrel, la Querelle du Cid, which occurred shortly after the Académie-Française was established. Tragédies would have to respect classicism’s rule of the “three unities.” These consisted in one action that lasted no longer than 24 hours, and took place in one location: action, temps,lieu. Classicism inherited its rules from Aristotle.
Love to all of you 💕
Acte 5, Scène 4: Prélude de Trompettes pour Mars 00:00 Acte 5, Scène 4: Chanson “Laissons en paix toute la Terre” 01:48 Acte 5, Scène 4: Derniere Entrée 02:36 Acte 5, Scène 4: “Chantons les Plaisirs charmants” (chœur) 04:27 Olivier Laquerre (bass / Mars)
Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra & Chorus Paul O’Dette & Stephen Stubbs (conductor)
AlthoughLe Sicilien ou l’amour peintreforms part ofIsaac de Benserade’s Ballet des Muses, and is a comédie-ballet, written by Molière and composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully, it differs from the third entrée: the incomplete Mélicerte and Comic Pastoral. Mélicerte and the Comic Pastoral were pièces de circonstance or plays written for a momentary event. The mourning period that followed the death of Anne d’Autriche, Louis XIV’s mother, was drawing to a close and would give way to festivities that were to take place at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. In other words, these were pièces de circonstance, momentary plays. Molière never wrote the third act of Mélicerte FR and removed the Comédie pastorale‘s FR theatrical scenes. Le Sicilien ou l’Amour peintre was a late entry, the fourteenth. It was first performed on 13 or 14 February at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. It was not shown at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal until 10 June 1667, due to the severe illness Molière’s suffered after the festivities at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
Moreover, in Le Sicilien, gone are shepherds and shepherdesses.These inhabited the literature of an earlier seventeenth century. The second half of the seventeenth century is often referred to as le Grand Siècle (1661-1715). Louis XIV’s reign began in 1661. The quest for a Golden Age is a permanent feature of literature, and would characterize eighteenth-century fêtes galantes. These would be oniriques, or dream-like. As for Le Sicilien ou l’Amour peintre, its main subject matter would be galanterie and the galant homme. Adraste, disguised as an artist and a Frenchman, is a galant homme. Juxtaposed to Adraste is Dom Pèdre, whose jealous nature keeps him from learning the spellbinding words of galanterie. He loves Isidore, a freed Greek slave, but he so fears losing her that he doesn’t use the words that could endear him to her. We remember l’École des femmes, The School for Wives‘ Arnolphe.
In fact, one could sum up Le Sicilen ou l’Amour peintre by quoting The School for Wives (L’École des femmes). Arnolphe is too jealous to make himself loved. He admonishes Agnès, innocence personified, but Horace knows the appropriate “deux mots,” couple of words, that make him attractive.
Tenez, tous vos discours ne me touchent point l’âme.
Horace avec deux mots en ferait plus que vous. Agnès à Arnolphe (V. iv, p. 73) [All you say does not touch my heart.
Horace could do more with a couple of words.] Agnès to Arnolphe (V. 4. p. 157)
Le Sicilien ou l’Amour peintre is a one-act pastoral and comédie-ballet. The Ballet des Muses consisted of ballets mainly. Voltaire loved it. He wrote: « C’est la seule petite pièce en un acte où il y ait de la grâce. » ‟It is the only little play in one act that has grace.” Molière had graced his one-act Sicilien and, although it was performed as the last ballet at Saint-Germain, it was also performed in Paris. It fared better at Saint-Germain than in Paris, which does not make it a lesser play. However, finding roots is difficult. One may grope, but Molière’s earlier plays are his main source.
Our dramatis personæ are
DON PEDRO, a Sicilian gentleman
ADRASTE, a French gentleman, in love with Isidore
ISIDORE, a Greek girl, Don Pedro’s slave.
A SENATOR. HALT, a Turk, Adraste’s slave.
ZAIDE, a young slave girl.*
Two SERVANTS. MUSICIANS. A SLAVE, singing. SLAVES, dancing. MOORS OF BOTH SEXES, dancing. *Zaïde is CLIMÈNE, Adraste’s sister.
Adraste would like to speak to Isidore.
In scene five, he complains that Don Pedre is keeping Isidore out of sight. He has seen her and believes they are in love, but he tells Hali that it seems impossible to speak to Isidore. Lovers need to speak to one another.
Quoi! tous nos soins seront, donc, inutiles? et, toujours, ce fâcheux jaloux se moquera de nos desseins? Adraste à Hali (Sc. v, p. 6)
[What ! Shall all our trouble be for nothing ? Shall this tiresome, jealous fellow always laugh at our attempts?] Adraste to Hali (Sc. v, p. 65)
Non, le courroux du point d’honneur me prend; il ne sera pas dit qu’on triomphe de mon adresse; ma qualité de fourbe s’indigne de tous ces obstacles; et je prétends faire éclater les talents que j’ai eus du Ciel. Hali à Adraste (Sc. v, p. 6)
[No. I get angry, and my honour is at stake; it shall not be said that anyone has outwitted me. My reputation as a rogue disdains all these obstacles ; and I am determined to show the talents that Heaven has given me.] Hali to Adraste (Sc. 5, p. 66)
A stratagem is planned. Pedro will be fooled into thinking that Adraste is Damon, an artist who is supposed to paint a portrait of Isidore. Don Pedro introduces the artist:
Voici un gentilhomme que Damon nous envoie, qui se veut bien donner la peine de vous peindre. Dom Pèdre à Isidore (Sc. xi, p. 13) [This is a gentleman whom Damon sends us, and who will be kind enough to undertake your portrait.] Don Pedro to Isidore (Sc.12, p. 72)
When he meets Isidore, the artist embraces her, so Don Pedro is miffed. Isidore, however, “accepts this honour:”
Holà, Seigneur Français, cette façon de saluer n’est point d’usage en ce pays. (Don Pedro) [Hullo! Sir Frenchman, this way of saluting is not the fashion in this country.] C’est la manière de France. (Adraste)
[It is the fashion of France.] La manière de France est bonne pour vos femmes; mais pour les nôtres, elle est, un peu, trop familière. (Don Pedro)
[The fashion of France may suit your ladies; but for ours, it is somewhat too familiar.] Je reçois cet honneur avec beaucoup de joie; l’aventure me surprend fort; et, pour dire le vrai, je ne m’attendais pas d’avoir un peintre si illustre. (Isidore) [I accept this honour with much pleasure. The adventure surprises me immensely; and, to tell the truth I did not expect to have such an illustrious painter.]
(Sc. xi, p. 13/Sc.12, p. 72)
Despite the presence of Dom Pèdre, Adraste courts Isidore whom, until then, he has only seen. Isidore doesn’t know whether he is truthful, but Adraste is convincing:
Oui, charmante Isidore, mes regards vous le disent depuis plus de deux mois, et vous les avez entendus: je vous aime plus que tout ce que l’on peut aimer, et je n’ai point d’autre pensée, d’autre but, d’autre passion, que d’être à vous toute ma vie. Adraste à Isidore (Sc. xii, p. 16)
[Yes, charming Isidore, my looks have told you as much for the last two months, and you have understood them. I love you more than aught else, and have no other thought, no other aim, no other passion, than to be yours all my life.] Adraste to Isidore (Sc. 8, p. 75)
Je ne sais si vous dites vrai, mais vous persuadez. Isidore à Adraste (Sc. xii, p. 16)
[I do not know whether you speak the truth ; but you make me believe you.] Isidore to Adraste (Sc. 8, p.75)
[What are you waiting for?] Adraste to Isidore (Sc. 14, p. 76)
[To make up my mind.] Isidore to Adraste (Sc. 14, p. 76)
[Ah ! when people love with all their hearts, they
make up their minds quickly.] Adraste to Isidore (Sc. 14, p. 76)
[Very well then ! yes, I consent to it.] Isidore to Adraste (Sc. 14, p. 76)
In Scene XIV, Climène, Adraste’s sister, bursts onto the scene, asking to be protected from a jealous husband. Don Pedro is surprised. He believes Frenchmen are not jealous. But the French, it appears, excel in every way.
Les Français excellent toujours dans toutes les choses qu’ils font[.]
So, Don Pedro lets Climène/Zaïde enter wearing a veil. He lest her join the artist and Isidore, not knowing that he will be tricked. Climène gives Isidore her veil, which is how Adraste and Isidore leave unnoticed.
Ah! Seigneur cavalier, sauvez-moi, s’il vous plaît, des mains d’un mari furieux dont je suis poursuivie. Sa jalousie est incroyable, et passe dans ses mouvements tout ce qu’on peut imaginer. Il va jusques à vouloir que je sois, toujours, voilée; et pour m’avoir trouvée le visage un peu découvert, il a mis l’épée à la main, et m’a réduite à me jeter chez vous, pour vous demander votre appui contre son injustice. Mais je le vois paraître. De grâce, Seigneur cavalier, sauvez-moi de sa fureur. Climène/Zaïde à Dom Pèdre (Sc. xiv, p. 18) [Ah, Sir, save me, I beseech you, from the hands of an enraged husband who is close upon my heels. His jealousy is incredible, and surpasses in its violence every-thing imaginable. He carries it so far as to wish me to be always veiled ; and for having found me with my face a little uncovered he has drawn his sword, and he has compelled me to throw myself upon you, and to ask for your protection against his injustice. But I see him coming ; for heaven’s sake, honoured Sir, save me from his fury.] Zaïde/Climène to Don Pedro (Sc. 15, p. 77) Entrez là-dedans, avec elle, et n’appréhendez rien. Dom Pèdre à Climène/Zaïde (Sc. xiv, p. 18)
[Go in there with her, and fear nothing.] Don Pedro to Zaïde/Climène (Sc. 15, p. 77)
In short, in Le Sicilien, Molière remembers jealous and possessive men. These men court women speaking the language of accountants. Moreover, they often resort to the law. They have rights. Don Pedro speaks to the Senator who can only think of a mascarade he has written. It’s a dialogue de sourds. Molière remembers Arnolphe. He also remembers Horace who tells each one of his plans to Arnolphe, but defeats Arnolphe.
According to Marcel Gutwirth, Molière main characters are le Jaloux, jealous men, l’Imposteur (le faux dévot) and the zanni, clever servants and fourbes, tricksters. However, among these three types are Argan (The Imaginary Invalid), Harpagon (The Miser) and Arnolphe. These characters are obsessed. Harpagon is quite happy to retrieve his cassette.
Molière did not finish Mélicerte and destroyed La Comédie pastorale, the Comic Pastoral‘s theatrical scenes. As for Le Sicilien ou l’amour peintre, The Sicilian; or, Love Makes the Painter, it was an afterthought, or so it appears. But we have just read three humble, but delightful little plays, as moliéresque as can be.
Would that I had written: “Quand l’hiver a glacé nos guérets, …” (La Pastorale comique)
_________________________  Maurice Rat, ed., Les Œuvres complètes de Molière (Paris: Gallimard [La Pléiade], 1956), p. 950.  Marcel Gutwirth, Molière ou l’invention comique (Paris: Ménard, 1966), p. 24.
Molière‘s (15 January 1722 – February 1773) Bourgeois gentilhomme, a five-act comedy, premièred on 14 October 1670, at the Château de Chambord, before the court and Louis XIV himself. Although it is a play, i.e. fiction, the Bourgeois gentilhomme may constitute our best portrayal of a rich bourgeois in 17th-century France. By the Grand Siècle, the second half of the 17th century, several levels of bourgeoisie were emerging: “petite,” “moyenne,” “haute,” and “grande bourgeoisie.” Monsieur Jourdain had obviously climbed to the upper half of that ladder. He is sufficiently rich to hire various “masters:” dancing, music, philosophy, all of whom make futile attempts to teach him “aristocracy.”
Moreover, as is usually the case in comedies, Monsieur Jourdain is opposing the marriage of his daughter Lucile to the man she loves, Cléonte, a bourgeois. Monsieur Jourdain will not be able to force Lucile into an unhappy marriage because the conventions governing comedy favour the marriage of the young couple. Cléonte will fool Monsieur Jourdain into believing he has been turned into a mamamouchi, a Turkish aristocrat, and he will marry Lucile disguised as the son of the grand Turc.
In comedies, the young couple, their loyal servants and, at times, avuncular figures always overcome the alazôn of the theater of ancient Greece, the blocking character. Monsieur Jourdain, will be opposed by a collective eirôn. The same stock characters exist in the Commedia dell’arte.
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme is a comédie-ballet. The music was composed by Italian-born Lully (Giovanni Battista Lulli; 28 November 1632 – 22 March 1687) and the choreography was the work of Pierre Beauchamp (30 October 1631 – February 1705). Monsieur Jourdain meets his demise—he is fooled—during the ballet, entitled Ballets des Nations.
“Jacqueries” & “Croquants”
According to popular lore, the mob who stormed the Bastille on 14 July 1789 consisted, to a larger or lesser extent, of famished peasants. It is altogether possible, and probable, that famished peasants were among the ruffians who stormed the Bastille. For instance, there had been peasant uprisings:
La Jacquerie of 1358 (the 14th century), and other popular uprisings often called jacqueries, after the Jacquerie of 1358;
“Croquants” (crushing) was the name given to members of the First and Second Estates who levied taxes from the Third Estate: peasants and bourgeois. The worst of these taxes was “la Taille” a temporary direct land tax that had become a permanent tax in 1439, the 15th century.
However, in all likelihood, the citizens who stormed the Bastille were a diverse group but mostly bourgeois. In the 17th century, there was a “drift to the city.” W. H. Lewis writes that “the least-favoured faubourg [suburb] of the most oppressive town offered a better way of life to the ambitious commoner than did the countryside[.]”[i]
Among the citizens of a town, there were thugs and other malfaisants. As for the word “jacquerie,” Jacques was the name given peasants, hence Jacquou le Croquant[ii], the title of a 2007 film on a young rebel. The film’s monarchy, however, is that of the Bourbon restoration (1815-1830), not the monarchy of l’ancien régime.
It would appear that the people who stormed the Bastille on 14 July 1789 were a motley group who became a mob. Among the people who helped radicalize the Revolution, there may have been peasants, but allow me to repeat that France’s Third Estate did not consist solely of peasants and “petitbourgeois.” It was a more varied group that probably included the frequently idealized sans-culottes (without knee breeches).
The story has been told otherwise. The popular view is that starving peasants stormed the Bastille. As stated above, starving peasants may have been involved in the storming of the Bastille, but the more likely account is that an angry mob led the charge. (See History Bastille Day) Peasants often inhabited distant “provinces,” too far from Paris. Most lived under the authority of a seigneur who may have been a good person, but not necessarily. We have yet to discuss Mozart‘s Marriage of Figaro (K 492), an opera buffa, on an Italian libretto (the text) by Lorenzo da Ponte, of the second of three plays by Pierre Beaumarchais called the Figaro trilogy.[iii]
Bourgeois were persons who started to live in a bourg (as in neighbour, a town) in the 12th century. They were commerçants, tradesmen, doctors, lawyers, etc. According to W. H. Lewis, “to the French noble, [the town] was a portion of his seigneurie which had enfranchised itself from his yoke, obtained many financial privileges, and was growing steadily richer while he [noble] grew poorer and more insignificant.”[iv] Beginning in the Middle Ages, guilds were formed to protect tradesmen who, however, often had to pay costly dues to the guild. Our trade unions date back to these medieval guilds and the people they protected were bourgeois who, by the seventeenth century, were numerous as well as rich and often living in Paris.
Some aristocrats were Mayors, but most stayed away from towns. However, although Monsieur Jourdain does not succeed in marrying his daughter to a nobleman, many aristocrats and their sons married bourgeoises, the ingénue of comedy, because of the dowry they brought. Daughters had to be endowed, which was difficult for aristocrats who spent a fortune living away from the family castle to be near Louis XIV’s court and be noticed by him.
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme is a comedy, a formulaic and Shakespearian “[a]ll’s well that ends well.” However, many bourgeoises were forced to marry a decrepit old man. Molière’s Miser(L’Avare; 1668) is not poor, on the contrary. Yet, given that Anselme is willing to marry Élise without a dowry: “sans dot,” Harpagon, the miser, wants her to marry Anselme. But Anselme turns out to be Valère’s rich father and, therefore, the father of the man who wants to marry Élise, the Miser’s daughter. He is also the father of the young woman, Mariane, who wants to marry the Miser’s son (Cléante).
An Élite Bourgeoisie
By 1789, some bourgeois had risen in status. In fact, they had already done so in the seventeenth century and the town they inhabited could be Paris. Colbert (29 August 1619 – 6 September 1683) a bourgeois, was Louis XIV’ Minister of Finance from 1765 to 1783. We also know Charles Perrault (12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703) who created the fairy tale as we know it, the Contes de ma mère l’Oye[The Tales of Mother Goose] (mid 1690s). His sources were Italian, but as told by Italians, fairy tales were at times too bawdy for children. Perrault was a salonnier (salonist) and his brother Claude Perrault, a medical doctor and architect. Claude Perrault designed the colonnade du Louvre, the east façade, the columns of the Louvre.
Consequently, when Louis XVI convened the Estates-General in 1789, the Third Estate was not necessarily the lesser estate. Jean-Sylvain Bailly (15 September 1736 – 12 November 1793; by guillotine), who presided over the Tennis Court Oath (20 June 1789), was a bourgeois, a freemason and the Mayor of Paris. I doubt that he participated in the storming of the Bastille, on 14 July 1789, but sans-culottes may have been participants as well famished peasants. The Revolutions behind the Revolution were, to a large extent, the advent of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution.
“As the feudal society was transformed into the early capitalist society of Europe, the bourgeoisie were the spearhead of progress in industry and science and of social change.
By the 17th century, this middle class was supporting principles of natural rights and constitutional government against the theories of divine right and privilege of the sovereign and the nobility. Thus, members of the bourgeoisie led the English revolution of the 17th century and the American and French revolutions of the late 18th century. These revolutions helped to establish political rights and personal liberty for all free men.” Armstrong Economics.com
W. H. Lewis’ Splendid Century is an online publication. W. H. Lewis is C. S. Lewis‘ brother, to whom we owe The Chronicles of Narnia and other brilliant and fanciful works. I have not found a finer account of the 17th century in France than W. H. Lewis’ Splendid Century. Not only is the Splendid Century informative, but it reads like a novel.Click onSplendid Century. “The Town” is chapter VII.
[i] W. H. Lewis, The Splendid Century: Life in the France of Louis XIV (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1957 ), p. 161.
[ii] “Croquant” is derived from “croquer:” to bite as in to crush. “Croquant” uprisings were often called “jacqueries.” The 2007 film adaptation of a novel by Eugène Le Roy (1836-1907) is entitled Jacquou [Jacques] le Croquant.
Nicolas Fouquet, by Sébastien Bourdon (Musée national du château de Versailles) (Photo credit: Larousse)
The story of the “City Rat and the Country Rat,” or “Town Mouse and Country Mouse” is not insignificant. Our country mouse is as poor as the peasants who paid the astronomical bill Louis XIV ran up building Versailles. But Louis had seen Vaux-le-Vicomte, the castle Nicolas Fouquet, the “Superintendent of Finances,” had built for himself and Louis XIV was not about to be housed in humbler dwellings than the magnificent château owned by his “surintendant des Finances,” a patron of Jean de La Fontaine, and various authors and artists.
Nicolas Fouquet,[i] marquis de Belle-Île, vicomte de Melun et Vaux (27 January 1615 – 23 March 1680) was “Superintendent of Finances” in France between 1653 and 1661. A lawyer by training, he had risen to prominence rapidly and had been named “Superintendant of Finances,” a position Italian-born Cardinal Jules Mazarin (14 July 1602 – 9 March 1661), who ruled France, could not deny him. Fouquet knew that Mazarin was using his own position as “Prime Minister” to amass wealth, while the “country mice” of France lived in abject poverty.
Nicolas Fouquet’s château, Vaux-le-Vicomte,[ii] had been built by the future architect of Versailles: Louis Le Vau, and was decorated by Versailles’ future painter Charles Le Brun, who owed his training as an artist to a powerful individual, le chancelier Séguier.[iii] As for the grounds, they were designed by landscape artist André Le Nôtre. Fouquet had therefore assembled the team that would later build Louis XIV’s castle at Versailles, a community where his father, King Louis XIII, a composer, had a hunting lodge he used as his main residence. Fouquet also owned Belle-Île-sur-Mer, a fortified island where he could live if ever he needed a safe haven. As well, Fouquet had bought several private properties in Paris, “hôtels” or “hôtels particuliers,” and, in 1651, a widower, Fouquet married a very wealthy Spanish woman, Marie de Castille.
In 1661, shortly after Louis XIV ascended the throne, Fouquet hosted a fête that could not be rivalled and that convinced Louis XIV, first, that Fouquet was using public funds for private purposes and, second, that he, the King, needed a castle that would be more beautiful than the castle of a mere “subject,” at any cost.
Moreover, on 17 August 1661, dramatist Molière premièred Les Fâcheux, a comedy and a ballet, at Vaux-le-Vicomte. The king loved to dance and had discovered a composer who could provide the appropriate music, Italian-born Giovanni Battista Lulli, renamed Jean-Baptiste Lully (28 November 1632 – 22 March 1687). Molière was one of Fouquet’s protégés, but he was also a friend of Louis XIV.
Louis quickly suspected embezzlement (malversation de fonds publics) on the part of Nicolas Fouquet, abolished the position of Superintendant of Finances, arranged for Fouquet to accompany him to Nantes where D’Artagnan, whose full name was Charles Ogier de Batz de Castelmore, Comte d’Artagnan (c. 1611 – 25 June 1673), one of his Musketeers (les mousquetaires de la maison militaire du roi de France), took the very wealthy Fouquet into custody. Famed and prolific novelist Alexandre Dumas, père(24 July 1802 – 5 December 1870) used D’Artagnan as the leading figure in his Trois Mousquetaires (1844).
This festive event sealed Fouquet’s fate.Whether or not justice was served, we may never know, but in December 1664, after a three-year trial, Nicolas Fouquet was found guilty of embezzlement and sentenced to banishment, a sentence commuted to life imprisonment. (See Fouquet, Wikipedia.) Fouquet died at Pignerol (now Pinerolo), in 1680. Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who coveted a place as a member of the Conseil du Roi, assembled the material that would serve to destroy Fouquet, a possible rival. Unlike Louis XIII, who let France be governed by prime ministers: Cardinal Richelieu, replaced, in 1642, by Cardinal Jules Mazarin, Louis XIV did not want a prime minister.
Interestingly, Fouquet served his sentence in the same prison as the man with the iron mask(l’homme au masque de fer), whose identity has yet to be determined, but who was Fouquet’s man-servant for a short period. Rumour has it that the man in the iron mask may have been Louis XIV’s father. Louis XIII is unlikely to have fathered a son. As noted above, he preferred to live with friends in his hunting lodge at Versailles, where Louis XIV, would have his castle built.
Fouquet as patron of the Arts: Jean de La Fontaine
Vaux-le-Vicomte had been a lesson to La Fontaine who set about writing fables that he called “a comedy immense,” cultivating a discreet form of congeniality with his peers and hosts. I believe he was the rustic rather than the city rat. Between the lines of his fables, he painted a fresco of his era. However, he did so using anthropomorphism. His animals, the elements, the trees, all were humans in disguise and stereotypes, which protected the fabulist. The Lion may be king, but the King is not a lion and would not want to be. Imagine the ridicule Louis XIV would have brought unto himself, if he had allowed anyone to think that he was an animal, La Fontaine’s lion. La Fontaine therefore wrote
Une ample comédie à cent actes divers
Et dont la scène est l’univers.
Le Bûcheron et Mercure (V.i; V.1)
Thus swells my work—a comedy immense
Its acts unnumbered and diverse,
Its scene the boundless universe.
The Woodman and Mercury (V.i; V.1)
Fouquet’s story is well-known. Absolutism would not allow transgressions. Not only was Fouquet jailed for the remainder of his life, but the possessions he cherished were seized. Under Louis XIV, the only person who could keep a king humble was Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, whose sermons are famous and who emphasized that all of us are mere mortals: memento mori.