I am nearly done, so please be patient. La Critique de L’École des femmes is an extraordinary play but life has slowed me down. Moreover, confinement takes its toll. I have been indoors since early March.
The American Presidential Election has also been on my mind. It was a close race, but I am proud of the American people. We need to put an end to the pandemic. Wearing a mask is essential. Gatherings are out of the question, and one must wash one’s hands.
So I return to my post. Whoever is reading my post must not delete paragraphs to make it shorter. I can delete what is not essential, but we are reading the play. A mere description will not yield good results. The quality of La Critique de L’École des femmes stems mainly from its dialogues.
MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC.
ORONTE. JULIE, (daughter of) fille d’Oronte.
NÉRINE, (a schemer) femme d’intrigue, (false) feinte Picarde.
LUCETTE, (false) feinte Gasconne.
ÉRASTE, (in love with) amant de Julie.
SBRIGANI, Napolitain, (a schemer) homme d’intrigue.
PREMIER MÉDECIN (doctor). SECOND MÉDECIN. L’APOTHICAIRE. UN PAYSAN (peasant). UNE PAYSANNE. PREMIER MUSICIEN (musician). SECOND MUSICIEN. PREMIER AVOCAT (lawyer). SECOND AVOCAT. PREMIER SUISSE (Swiss). SECOND SUISSE. UN EXEMPT. DEUX ARCHERS. PLUSIEURS MUSICIENS, JOUEURS D’INSTRUMENTS, ET DANSEURS.
La scène est à Paris
SCENE ONE / Scène première ORONTE, PREMIER MÉDECIN.
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac escapes the doctor’s house carrying a chair. The first doctor thinks that Monsieur de Pourceaugnac must be treated:
Marque d’un cerveau démonté, et d’une raison dépravée, que de ne vouloir pas guérir. Premier médecin à Sbrigani (II. i)
[It is a sign of a disordered brain, and of a corrupted reason, not to wish to be cured.] 1st doctor to Sbrigani (II. 1)
Sbrigani tells the 1st doctor that M de Pourceaugnac may be at Oronto’s house. He, Sbrigani, will prepare a new batterie a trick:
Je vais de mon côté dresser une autre batterie, et le beau-père est aussi dupe que le gendre. Sbrigani au premier médecin (II. i)
I, on my part, will go and bring another battery into play; and the father-in-law shall be duped as much as the son-in-law. Sbribani to 1st doctor (II. 1, p. 114)
SCENE TWO ORONTE, PREMIER MÉDECIN.
According to the 1st doctor, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac belongs to him.
Votre prétendu gendre a été constitué mon malade: sa maladie qu’on m’adonné à guérir, est un meuble qui m’appartient, et que je compte entre mes effets; et je vous déclare que je ne prétends point qu’il se marie, qu’au préalable il n’ait satisfait à la médecine, et subi les remèdes que je lui ai ordonnés. Premier médecin à Oronte (II. ii) [Your intended son-in-law has been constituted my patient; his disease, which I have been told to cure, is property which belongs to me, and which I reckon among my possessions; and I declare to you that I will not suffer him to marry before he has given satisfaction to the medical Faculty, and taken the remedies which I have prescribed for him.] 1st doctor to Oronte (II. 2, p. 114)
If Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is ill, Oronte will cancel the wedding.
Je n’ai garde, si cela est, de faire le mariage. Oronte au premier médecin (II. ii)
[If that is the case, I do not intend to conclude this match.] Pourceaugnac to 1st doctor (II. 2, p. 115)
SCENE THREE SBRIGANI, en marchand flamand, ORONTE.
Sbrigani goes to Oronte’s house wearing Flemish clothes and says that Monsieur de Pourceaugnac owes a great deal of money:
Et sti Montsir de Pourcegnac, Montsir, l’est un homme que doivre beaucoup grandement à dix ou douze marchanne flamane qui estre venu ici. Sbrigani to Oronte (II. iii)
[And this Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, Sir, is a man who owes a great deal to ten or twelve Flemish merchants who have come hither.] Sbrigani to Oronte (II. 3, p. 116)
This Flemish gentleman is awaiting the wedding because Oronte will pay his creditors (ses créanciers).
Oui, Montsir obtenir, et depuis huite mois, nous afoir obtenir une petite sentence contre lui, et lui à remettre à payer tou ce créanciers de sti mariage que sti Montsir Oronte donne pour son fille. Sbrigani (II. iii)
[Yes, Sir; and eight months ago, we have obtained a little judgment against him; and he has put off paying all his creditors until this marriage, if this Mr. Oronte gives him his daughter.] Sbrigani dressed in Flemish clothes to Oronte (II. 3, p. 116) Sbrigani habillé en marchand flamand à Oronte (II. iii).
Oronte thinks that this information is not bad.
L’avis n’est pas mauvais. Je vous donne le bonjour. Oronte (II. iii)
(Aside). This is not a bad warning. (Aloud). I wish you good day. Oronte (II. 3, p. 116)
Sbrigani bumps into Monsieur de Pourceaugnac who tells him that he thought he would dine and sleep, but fell into the hands of doctors. He escaped carrying a chair.
Tout ce que je vois, me semble lavement. Pourceaugnac à Sbrigani (II. iv)
Everything which I see appears an enemy [enema] to me. Pourceaugnac to Sbrigani (II. 4, p. 117)
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac remembers his being handed over to doctors and apothecaries. He repeats their words and Sbrigani’s.
Je vous laisse entre les mains de Monsieur. Des médecins habillés de noir. Dans une chaise. Tâter le pouls. Comme ainsi soit. Il est fou. Deux gros joufflus. Grands chapeaux. Bon di, bon di. Six pantalons. Ta, ra, ta, ta: Ta, ra, ta, ta. Alegramente Monsu Pourceaugnac. Apothicaire. Lavement. Prenez, Monsieur, prenez, prenez. Il est bénin, bénin, bénin. C’est pour déterger, pour déterger, déterger. Piglia-lo sù, Signor Monsu, piglia-lo, piglia-lo, piglia-lo sù. Jamais je n’ai été si soûl de sottises. Pourceaugnac à Sbrigani (II. iv)
[I leave you in the hands of this gentleman. Doctors dressed in black. In a chair. Feel the pulse. That it be so. He is mad. Two stout boobies. Big hats. Buon di. buon di. Six pantaloons. Ta, ra, ta, ta ; ta, ra, ta, ta. Allegramente, monsu Pourceaugnac. An apothecary. Injection. Take it, Sir; take it, take it. It is gentle, gentle, gentle. It is to loosen, to loosen, loosen. Piglialo su, signor Monsu; piglialo, piglialo, pigliao su. Never have I been so crammed with silliness.] Pourceaugnac to Sbrigani (II. 4, p. 117)
Ironically, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac tells his woes to the confidence trickster who is engineering his demise. One is reminded of Horace confiding in Arnolphe (The School for Wives). Sbrigani’s next trick is to question Julie’s virtue. She would be a coquette.
SCENE FIVE ORONTE, POURCEAUGNAC.
When they first meet, Oronte and Pourceaugnac behave like enemies.
Croyez-vous, Monsieur Oronte, que les Limosins soient des sots? Pourceaugnac (II. v) Croyez-vous, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, que les Parisiens soient des bêtes? Oronte (II. v) Vous imaginez-vous, Monsieur Oronte, qu’un homme comme moi soit affamé de femme? Pourceaugnac (II. v) Vous imaginez-vous, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, qu’une fille comme la mienne soit si affamée de mari? Oronte (II. v) [Think you, Mr. Oronte, that the Limousins are fools? Pourceaugnac (II. 5, p.119-120)
Think you, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, that the Parisians are idiots. Oronte (II. 5, p. 120)
Do you imagine, Mr. Oronte, that a man like me is so hungry after a woman ? Pourceaugnac (II. 5, p. 120) Do you imagine, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, that a girl like mine is so hungry after a husband ?] Oronte (II. 5, p. 120)
SCENE SIX JULIE, ORONTE, MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC.
Julie joins her father and Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. She makes believe that she can’t wait to be Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’s wife.
On vient de me dire, mon père, que Monsieur de Pourceaugnac est arrivé. Ah le voilà sans doute, et mon cœur me le dit. Qu’il est bien fait! qu’il a bon air! et que je suis contente d’avoir un tel époux! Souffrez que je l’embrasse, et que je lui témoigne… Julie (II. vi)
[They have just told me, father, that Monsieur de Pourceaugnac has arrived. Ah! this is he no doubt, and my heart tells me so. How well he is built! how well he looks! and how glad I am to have such a husband! Permit me to embrace him, and to show him that . . .] Julie (II. 6, p. 120)
She would like to caress him, but Oronte will not allow her to touch Pourceaugnac.
Ne voulez-vous pas que je caresse l’époux que vous m’avez choisi? Julie (II. vi)
[May I not caress the husband whom you have chosen for me?] Julie (II. 6, p. 120)
Oronte tells Monsieur de Pourceaugnac that he has debts to repay that he is expected to pay debts, which eliminates Monsieur de Pourceaugnac.
La feinte ici est inutile, et j’ai vu le marchand flamand, qui, avec les autres créanciers, a obtenu depuis huit mois sentence contre vous. Oronte (II. vi)
[The pretence is useless; and I have seen the Flemish merchant, who, with other creditors, obtained judgment against you eight months ago.] Oronte to Pourceaugnac (II. 7)
Quel marchand flamand? quels créanciers? quelle sentence obtenue contre moi? Pourceaugnac (II. vi)
[What Flemish merchant? What creditors? What judgment obtained against me?] Pourceaugnac (II. 7, p. 122)
LUCETTE, ORONTE, MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC.
Next, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is confronted by two women, Lucette and Nérine, both of whom claim they were married to Pourceaugnac and that he abandoned them. Beware, Nérine is a trickster, or femme d’intrigue. As for Lucette, she is learning the craft quickly. Lucette says she married in Pézenas and Nérine, in Chin-Quentin. Everyone was in attendance
Ah! tu es assy, et à la fy yeu te trobi aprés abé fait tant de passés. Podes-tu, scélérat, podes tu sousteni ma bisto? Lucette à Pourceaugnac (II. vii)
[Ah! you are here, and I find you at last, after my many journeys in search of you. Can you bear to look me in the face, you scoundrel?] Lucette to Pourceaugnac (II. 8, p. 122)
Qu’est-ce veut cette femme-là? Pourceaugnac (II. vii)
[What does this woman want?] Pourceaugnac (II. 8, p. 122)
Que te boli, infame! Tu fas semblan de nou me pas connouysse, et nou rougisses pas, impudent que tu sios, tu ne rougisses pas de me beyre? Nou sabi pas, Moussur, saquos bous dont m’an dit que bouillo espousa la fillo; may yeu bous declari que yeu soun safenno, et que y a set ans, Moussur, qu’en passan à Pezenas el auguet l’adresse dambé sas mignardisos, commo sap tapla fayre, de me gaigna lou cor, et m’oubligel praquel mouyen à y douna la man per l’espousa. Lucette à Pourceaugnac (II. vii)
[What do I want, you infamous wretch! You pretend not to know me; and you do not blush, rogue that you are, you do not blush to see me. (To Oronte). I do not know, Sir, whether it is you, as I have been told, whose daughter he wants to marry; but I declare to you that I am his wife, and that seven years ago, when he was passing through Pézenas, he was artful enough, with his pretty speeches in which he is so clever, to gain my heart, and, by these means, persuaded me to give him my hand in marriage. Lucette to Pourceaugnac (II. 8, p. 122)
Oh ! Oh ! Oronte (II. vii) Que diable est-ce ci ? [What the devil is this [the syringe]? Pourceaugnac (II. 8, p. 123)
Lou trayté me quitel trés ans aprés, sul preteste de qualques affayres que l’apelabon dins soun païs, et despey noun ly resçauput quaso de noubelo ; may dins lou tens qui soungeabi lou mens, m’an dounat abist, que begnio dins aquesto bilo, per se remarida danbé un autro jouena fillo, que sous parens ly an proucurado, sensse saupré res de sou prumié mariatge. Yeu ay tout quitat en diligensso, et me souy rendudo dins aqueste loc lou pu leau qu’ay pouscut , per m’oupousa en aquel criminel mariatge, et confondre as elys de tout le mounde lou plus méchant day homme. Lucette à Pourceaugnac (I. vii) [The wretch left me three years afterwards, under the pretext of some business which took him to his country; and since then I have had no tidings from him ; but when I was least thinking about it, they warned me that he was coming into this town to marry again another young girl which her parents had promised him, without knowing anything of his first marriage. I immediately left everything, and I have come hither as quickly as I could, to oppose this criminal union, and to unmask the most wicked of men before the eyes of the world.] Lucette to Pourceaugnac (II. 8, p. 152)
SCENE EIGHT NÉRINE en Picarde, LUCETTE, ORONTE, MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC.
At first, Scene Eight seems a copy of Scene Seven, because a second woman, Nérine, claims that she married Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. She is from Picardy and speak a dialectical French. Both women quarrel.
Quaign’inpudensso! Et coussy, miserable, nou te soubenes plus de la pauro Françon, et del paure Jeanet, que soun lous fruits de nostre mariatge? Lucette à Pourceaugnac (II. viii)
[What impudence! How now, you wretch, you remember no longer poor little Francois, and poor Jeannette, who are the fruits of our union?] Lucette à Pourceaugnac (II. 9, p. 155)
Bayez un peu l’insolence. Quoy? tu ne te souviens mie de chette pauvre ainfain, no petite Madelaine, que tu m’as laichée pour gaige de ta foy? Nérine à Pourceaugnac (II. viii)
[Just look at the insolence! What! you do not remember that poor child, our little Madelaine, which you left me as a pledge of your fidelity?] Nérine to Pourceaugnac (II. ix, p. 155)
Beny Françon, beny, Jeanet, beny, toustou, beny, toustoune, benre à un payre dénaturat la duretat qu’el a per nautres. Lucette aux enfants (II. viii)
[Come here Francois, come here Jeannette, come all of you, come and show an unnatural father his want of feeling for us all.] Lucette to the children (II. ix, p. 124)
Ah, papa ! papa ! papa ! Les enfants [the children] (II. viii)
Diantre soit des petits fils de putains ! Pourceaugnac (II. viii)
[The devil take the strumpet’s brats!] Pourceaugnac (II. 10, p. 125)
Lucette says that everyone in Pézenas saw her marry Pourceaugnac and Nérine reports that all Chin-Quentin saw her wed Pourceaugnac. Tout Pézenas a bist nostre mariatge. Lucette (II. viii) Tout Chin-Quentin [St-Quentin] a assisté à no noche. Nérine (II. viii)
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is exhausted and screams for help.
Au secours ! au secours ! où fuirai-je ? Je n’en puis plus. Pourceaugnac (II. viii) [Help! help! where shall fly? I can bear this no longer] Pourceaugnac (II. 10, 125)
As Monsieur de Pourceaugnac leaves, frightened, Oronte says that he should be hanged. That is our “cas pendable.” This expression is a favourite among students of Molière and moliéristes. Pendable comes from pendre, to hang.
SCENE NINE MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC, SBRIGANI.
Sbrigani emerges victorious. He has orchestrated all of Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’s setbacks, while asking that no one go too far. Sbrigani can fool anyone. He is one of French literature’s finest tricksters, after Renart (Reynard the Fox).
Je conduis de l’œil toutes choses, et tout ceci ne va pas mal. Nous fatiguerons tant notre provincial, qu’il faudra, ma foi, qu’il déguerpisse.
Sbrigani (II. ix)
[I am managing these things very nicely, and everything goes well as yet. We shall tire our provincial to such an extent that upon my word, he will be obliged to decamp.]
Sbrigani (II. 11, p. 125)
SCENE TEN MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC, SBRIGANI.
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac continues to believe Sbrigani is a friend, which is not altogether wrong, yet wrong. Above all, Sbrigani is a consummate con-man, or confidence trickster.
Pourceaugnac tells Sbrigani that it rains women and enema in this land.
Oui. Il pleut en ce pays des femmes et des lavements. Pourceaugnac (II. x)
[Yes. It rains syringes and women in this country.] Pourceaugnac (II. 12, p. 124)
Afterwards, they discuss legal help. He could be arrested for polygamy. Sbrigani knows exactly whom to pick.
Je le veux, et vais vous conduire chez deux hommes fort habiles; mais j’ai auparavant à vous avertir de n’être point surpris de leur manière de parler; ils ont contracté du barreau certaine habitude de déclamation, qui fait que l’on dirait qu’ils chantent, et vous prendrez pour musique tout ce qu’ils vous diront. Sbrigani à Pourceaugnac(II. x)
I shall do so, and shall take you to two very able men; but I must warn you beforehand not to be surprised at their way of speaking. They have contracted from the bar a certain habit of declamation which would lead one to suppose that they were singing, and you might mistake everything they say for music. Sbrigani to Pourceaugnac (II. 12, p. 126)
SBRIGANI, MONSIEUR DE POURCEAUGNAC, DEUX AVOCATS musiciens, dont l’un parle fort lentement, et l’autre fort vite, accompagnés de DEUX PROCUREURS et de DEUX SERGENTS.
Scene eleven is an interlude. Two lawyers recite or sing that Monsieur de Pourceaugnac will pay for his “crimes.” Two public prosecutors (procureurs) and sergeants beat them up.
La polygamie est un cas pendable, Est un cas pendable. Lawyers (II. xi)
Polygamy is a business,
Is a hanging business. Lawyers (II.12, p. 126)
In Act Three, Scene One, Sbrigani describes justice as it is carried out in Paris. The trial takes place after the man who has been arrested was been hanged. There is no trial. That country is one where one likes to see a Limosin, hanged.
N’importe, ils ne s’enquêtent point de cela; et puis ils ont en cette ville une haine effroyable pour les gens de votre pays, et ils ne sont point plus ravis que de voir pendre un Limosin. Sbrigani à Pourceaugnac (III. ii)
[It matters not; they do not inquire into that; and besides, they have got a terrible hatres in this town for people from your country; and nothing gives them greater delight than to see a Limousin hanged.] Scribani to Pourceaugnac (III. 2, p. 161)
Pourceaugnac, disguised as a woman, meets two Suisses (guards) who want to make love to Monsieur de Pourceaugnac who seems une femme de qualité. They are stopped by police officers.
In Scene III, Pourceaugnac is arrested by an Exempt, a police officer whom Sbrigani will bribe using Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’s money. The Exempt leads Monsieur de Pourceaugnac out of Paris.
In Scene Six, Sbrigani has news for Oronte. Julie followed Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. In Scene Seven, Éraste takes her back to her father. Oronte is so pleased that he gives his daughter in marriage to Éraste
Je vous suis beaucoup obligé; et j’augmente de dix mille écus le mariage de ma fille. Allons, qu’on fasse venir le notaire pour dresser le contrat.
Oronte (III. ix)
[I am much obliged to you, and I add ten thousand crowns to the marriage portion of my daughter. Come, let them a notary to draw up the contract.]
(III. 9, p. 169)
In Scene Eight, as all wait for the the lawyer, an interlude entertains everyone.
I will close here because of fatigue. However, I will attempt to publish a short conclusion tomorrow, if possible. My first post has commentaries. Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is a pharmakós, a scapegoat. Although it has many shades, comedy is comedy. It is home to laughter. Our young lovers will marry, but I doubt Monsieur de Pourceaugnac will ever return to Paris. Sbrigani is the zanni of the commedia dell’arte.
“Dormez, dormez,” is part of an “interlude” in Molière-Lully’s Les Amants magnifiques, a comédie-ballet and divertissement royal. Tirsis, Lycaste and Ménandre sing together while Caliste sleeps.
(Tirsis, Lycaste and Ménandre) Dormez, dormez, beaux yeux, adorables vainqueurs, Et goûtez le repos que vous ôtez aux cœurs, Dormez, dormez, beaux yeux. [Sleep on, sleep on, fair eyes, lovely conquerors; And taste that peace which you wrest from all hearts; Sleep on, sleep on, fair eyes.]
Silence, petits oiseaux, Vents, n’agitez nulle chose, Coulez doucement, ruisseaux, C’est Caliste qui repose. Intermède (III. iv, p. 19)
[Now silence keep, ye little birds;/ Ye winds, stir nought around;/ Ye stream, run sweetly on:/ For Caliste is slumbering.]
I thought I would separate this interlude from a post on Les Amants magnifiques. Musical interludes are best heard and seen. This segment is a Pastoral. So, the characters are shepherds and shepherdesses.
Jean-Baptiste Lully – “Les Amants magnifiques” (LWV 42), comédie en cinq actes de Molière, mêlée de musique et d’entrées de ballet, créée à Saint-Germain-en-Laye devant le roi le 4 février 1670 dans le cadre du “Divertissement Royal”. Troisième intermède, scène 4 (Tircis, Lycaste et Ménandre) (YouTube)
In this post, we read the comedy. However, the comedy has interludes written by Molière. Every stage effect was used to please the King and his Court. Excluding the intermèdes (interludes) seems inappropriate, but I felt we should read the comedy first.
In Les Amants magnifiques, we are in the Vale of Tempe, the location where the events of Mélicerte and La Pastorale comique take place. The location was suggested by Louis XIV and so was the subject: rival lovers. You may remember that these two plays were incomplete. Molière may have looked upon these plays as pièces de circonstances, or plays that would not be needed once the festivities were over. When the obligatory period of mourning for Anne d’Autriche, Louis’ mother, drew to a close, the Court moved to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a royal residence. At the heart of festivities was Isaac de Benserade‘s Ballet des Muses FR. Molière’s contribution was the ballet’s third entrée. Mélicerte was played from 2 December 1666 to 5 January 1667 when La Pastorale comiquewas first performed. A third play, Le Sicilien, ou l’Amour peintre was staged on 13 or 14 February, at Saint-Germain. It was a late entry, the fourteenth. It would not be played for a wider audience until 10 June 1667. Molière had fallen ill.
Les Amants magnifiques, The Magnificent Lovers, is described as a five-act comédie héroïque and a comédie-ballet, in prose. It was part of a grand divertissement commissioned by Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan. It was apièce à machines that incorporated every stage effect. The play was meant to dazzle the audience.
Various members of the Court played roles in The Magnificent Princes‘ intermèdes: singers and dancers. They are named in La Pléiade‘s 1956 edition of Molière’s Œuvres complètes. Louis didn’t dance and would never dance again.
It was first performed on 4 February 1670 at Saint-Germain,
before the King and his Court.
Our dramatis personæ is:
Iphicrates & Timocles, princes in love with Eriphyle.
Sostratus, a general, also in love with Eriphyle.
Anaxarchus, an astrologer.
Cleon, his son.
Chorœbus, in the suit of Aristione.
Clitidas, a court jester, one of the attendants of Eriphyle.
Aristione, a princess, mother to Eriphyle.
Eriphyle, a princess, daughter to Aristione.
Cleonice, confidante to Eriphyle.
La Princesse Ériphile graces the image at the top of this post. Her mother, Princesse Aristione, has asked her to choose her own husband. Two princes are courting her: Iphicrate and Timoclès. They are the “amants magnifiques” (the magnificent lovers). She must choose between the two, which is impossible. Ériphile does not love the princes and would reject both. Her dilemma resembles Psyché’s who is also incapable of choosing between two princes. Choosing one would hurt the other. Moreover, neither Psyché nor Ériphile love their princes.
Sostrate tells Clitidas that he is in love
Rank: an obstacle
Sostrate is asked to find out which prince she has chosen
In Act One, Clitidas notices that Sostrate, a general in the army, is buried in his own thoughts. After much prying, on the part of Clitidas, Sostrate tells him that he loves Ériphile, but that his rank and fortune do not allow him to reveal his feelings and hope to marry her. How can he, a general, compete with two princes. Sostrate will therefore die without revealing his feelings:
Mourir sans déclarer ma passion. Sostrates à Clitidas (I. i, p. 4)
[To die without telling my love.] Sostrates to Clitidas (I. 1)
However, in Scene Two, Sostrate is asked by Aristione, Ériphile’s mother to see which of the two princes Ériphile loves, a source of irony. Sostrate would like to refuse, but must serve Aristione:
Puisque vous le voulez, Madame, il vous faut obéir, mais je vous jure que dans toute votre cour vous ne pouviez choisir personne qui ne fût en état de s’acquitter beaucoup mieux que moi d’une telle commission. Sostrate à Aristione (I. ii, p. 7)
[Since it is your wish, Madam, I must obey; but I assure you that there is not one person in the whole of your court who would be less qualified for such a commission than myself.] Sostrate à Aristione (I. 2)
Ériphile missed a divertissement planned by the one of the rival princes.
Madame, elle s’est écartée, et je lui ai présenté une main qu’elle a refusé d’accepter. Timoclès à Aristione (l. ii, p. 6)
[She is gone away, Madam. I offered her my arm, which she refused to accept. Timoclès to Aristione (I. 2)
Later, Cléonice, Ériphile’s confidante says:
On trouvera étrange, Madame, que vous vous soyez ainsi écartée de tout le monde. Cléonice à Ériphile (I. v, p. 9)
[It will be thought strange, Madam, that you should keep away from everybody] Cléonice to Ériphile (I. 6)
Sostrate also missed the entertainment. Why did Ériphile and Sostrate stay away?
Pour moi, Madame, connaissant son indifférence et le peu de cas qu’elle fait des devoirs qu’on lui rend, je n’ai voulu perdre auprès d’elle, ni plaintes, ni soupirs, ni larmes. Sostrate à Aristione (I. ii, p. 6)
[For my part, Madam, knowing her indifference and the little value she sets upon the homage that is paid to her, I did not mean to waste either sighs or tears upon her.] Sostrate to Aristione (I. 2)
So, from the beginning of the play, Ériphile shows little interest in her suitors. An interméde separate Act One and Act Two. It is a gift from Cléonice, Ériphile’s confidante, and it features three Pantomines.
Sostrate has placed Ériphile above everything.
the confession: no one and nothing is above Ériphile
In Act Two, Scene Two, Clitidas tells Ériphile that Sostrate has placed her above everything else and loves her:
Il m’a demandé si vous aviez témoigné grande joie au magnifique régale que l’on vous a donné; m’a parlé de votre personne avec des transports les plus grands du monde, vous a mise au-dessus du Ciel, et vous a donné toutes les louanges qu’on peut donner à la princesse la plus accomplie de la terre, entremêlant tout cela de plusieurs soupirs qui disaient plus qu’il ne voulait. Enfin, à force de le tourner de tous côtés, et de le presser sur la cause de cette profonde mélancolie, dont toute la cour s’aperçoit, il a été contraint de m’avouer qu’il était amoureux. Clitidas à Eriphile (II. ii, p. 11)
[He asked me if you were very pleased with the royal entertainments that are offered to you. He spoke of your person with the greatest transports of delight, extolled you to the sky, and gave you all the praises that could be given to the most accomplished princess in the world, and with all this uttering many sighs which told me more than he thought. At last, by dint of questioning him in all kinds of ways, and pressing him to tell me the cause of his melancholy, which is noticed by everyone at court, he was forced to acknowledge that he is in love.] Clitidas to Ériphile (II. 3)
Ériphile is miffed. This is marivaudage, a form of galanterie found in the works of Pierre de Marivaux. It governs the action of Marivaux’s Le Jeu de l’amour et du hasard. In fact, Ériphile is not miffed. Clitidas tricks her by changing his statement. Sostrate is in love with Arsinoé, not Ériphile. Clitidas realizes that Ériphile is not pleased. He has, therefore, elicited the truth by provoking jealousy.
Non, non, Madame, je vois que la chose ne vous plaît pas. Votre colère m’a obligé à prendre ce détour, et pour vous dire la vérité, c’est vous qu’il aime éperdument. Licidas à Ériphile (II. ii, p. 11)
[No, no, Madam; I see that this offends you. Your anger forced me to make use of this subterfuge; and, to tell you the truth, it is you he loves to distraction.] Licidas to Ériphile (II. 3)
In Act Two, Scene Three, Sostrate does as he has been told. He asks Ériphile which of the two princes she prefers.
Whom would Sostrate chose between her rival princes? Sostrate so loves Ériphile that only a god would qualify to marry Ériphile.
Si l’on s’en rapporte à mes yeux, il n’y aura personne qui soit digne de cet honneur. Tous les princes du monde seront trop peu de chose pour aspirer à vous; les Dieux seuls y pourront prétendre, et vous ne souffrirez des hommes que l’encens, et les sacrifices. Sostrate à Ériphile (II. iii, p. 13)
[If I were to be judge, I should find no one worthy of that honour. All the princes of the world would be too mean to aspire to you; the gods alone can pretend to you, and you would have from men but incense and sacrifice.] Sostrate to Ériphile (II. 4)
In short, it is for Ériphile to choose between the rival princes. As for Sostrate, although he loves Ériphile, he remains a mere general.
Acts Two and Three are separated by a rather long intermède that includes a lovely scene of dépit amoureux, spite between lovers, a pastoral shepherds and shepherdesses. The interludes also feature satyrs, dryads, fauns, nymphs, etc. It will be discussed separately.
Aristione chooses Sostrate to know which of the two princes she prefers.
J’estime tant Sostrate, que soit que vous vouliez vous servir de lui pour expliquer vos sentiments, ou soit que vous vous en remettiez absolument à sa conduite, je fais, dis-je, tant d’estime de sa vertu et de son jugement, que je consens de tout mon cœur à la proposition que vous me faites. Aristione à tous(III. i, p. 24)
[I have such a high regard for Sostratus that, whether you mean to employ him to explain your feelings or to leave him entirely to decide for you, I consent heartily to this proposition.] Aristione to all (III. 1)
Sostrate wishes to refuse, but he can’t. This request comes from a princess:
Par quelle raison donc, refusez-vous d’accepter le pouvoir qu’on vous donne, et de vous acquérir l’amitié d’un prince qui vous devrait tout son bonheur? Timoclès à Sostrate (III. i, p. 24)
[For what reason could you have had, Sostratus, for refusing it?] Timoclès to Sostrate (III. 4) Par la raison que je ne suis pas en état d’accorder à ce prince ce qu’il souhaiterait de moi. Sostrate à Timoclès (III. i, p. 24)
[The fear of not acquitting myself well.] Sostrate to Timoclès (III. 4)
At this point, Anaxarque propose that Heaven, le Ciel, choose between the two suitors.
En est-il un meilleur, Madame, pour terminer les choses au contentement de tout le monde, que les lumières que le Ciel peut donner sur ce mariage? J’ai commencé comme je vous ai dit, à jeter pour cela les figures mystérieuses que notre art nous enseigne, et j’espère vous faire voir tantôt ce que l’avenir garde à cette union souhaitée. Après cela pourra-ton balancer encore? La gloire et les prospérités que le Ciel promettra, ou à l’un, ou à l’autre choix, ne seront-elles pas suffisantes pour le déterminer, et celui qui sera exclus, pourra-t-il s’offenser quand ce sera le Ciel qui décidera cette préférence? Anaxarque à tous (III. i, p. 25)
Both princes agree with Anaxarque, but Ériphile is suspicious. If le Ciel chooses her future husband, she will not be able to refuse. How can one oppose le Ciel? She will no longer be free to choose her husband, which was her mother’s wish and sensible.
Mais, Seigneur Anaxarque, voyez-vous si clair dans les destinées, que vous ne vous trompiez jamais, et ces prospérités, et cette gloire que vous dites que le Ciel nous promet, qui en sera caution, je vous prie? Ériphile to Anaxarque (III. i, p. 25)
As for Sostrate, he disagrees with the proposed solution and Aristione, Ériphile’s mother is perplexed.
In Act Four, Scene One, Aristione would like her daughter to tell all. Ériphile cannot. The man she loves is of a rank her mother would deem acceptable. Ériphile knows that Sostrate is a man of merit, but a general, would not be considered a judicious choice by her mother. If le Ciel is to intervene, Ériphile requires a deus ex machina
Parlez à cœur ouvert, ma fille, ce que j’ai fait pour vous mérite bien que vous usiez avec moi de franchise. Tourner vers vous toutes mes pensées, vous préférer à toutes choses, et fermer l’oreille en l’état où je suis, à toutes les propositions que cent princesses en ma place écouteraient avec bienséance, tout cela vous doit assez persuader que je suis une bonne mère, et que je ne suis pas pour recevoir avec sévérité les ouvertures que vous pourriez me faire de votre cœur. Aristione to Ériphile (IV. i, p. 28)
[Speak openly, daughter; what I have done for you well deserves that you should be frank and open with me. To make you the sole object of all my thoughts, to prefer you above all things, to shut my ears, in the position I am in, to all the propositions that a hundred princesses might decently listen to in my place—all that ought to tell you that I am a kind mother, and that I am not likely to receive with severity the confidences your heart may have to make.] Aristione to Ériphile (IV. 1) Si j’avais si mal suivi votre exemple, que de m’être laissée aller à quelques sentiments d’inclination que j’eusse raison de cacher, j’aurais, Madame, assez de pouvoir sur moi-même pour imposer silence à cette passion, et me mettre en état de ne rien faire voir qui fût indigne de votre sang. Ériphile to Aristione (IV. i, p. 28)
[If I had so badly followed your example as to have allowed an inclination I had reason to conceal to enter my soul, I should have power enough over myself to impose silence on such a love, and to do nothing unworthy of your name.] Ériphile to Aristione (IV. 1)
In Act Four, Scene Two, a false Venus arrives in her chariot and decrees that Aristione should consider giving her daughter to the person who saves her life.
Princesse, dans tes soins brille un zèle exemplaire,/ Qui par les Immortels doit être couronné,/ Et pour te voir un gendre, illustre et fortuné,/ Leur main te veut marquer le choix que tu dois faire;/ Ils t’annoncent tous par ma voix,/ La gloire et les grandeurs, que, par ce digne choix,/ Ils feront pour jamais entrer dans ta famille,/ De tes difficultés termine donc le cours;/ Et pense à donner ta fille/ À qui sauvera tes jours./ Vénus à Aristione (IV. ii, p. 28-29)
[Princess, in you shines a glorious example, which the immortals mean to recompense; and that you may have a son-in-law both great and happy, they will guide you in the choice you should make. They announce by my voice the great and glorious fame which will come to your house by this choice. Therefore, put an end to your perplexities, and give your daughter to him who shall save your life.] Vénus to Aristione (IV. 2)
In Act Four, Scene Three, we learn that Venus is a false Venus. Cléon and his father Anaxarque are arranging for men to capture Aristione. Iphicrate will save her.
Va-t’en tenir la main au reste de l’ouvrage, préparer nos six hommes à se bien cacher dans leur barque derrière le rocher; à posément attendre le temps que la princesse Aristione vient tous les soirs se promener seule sur le rivage, à se jeter bien à propos sur elle, ainsi que des corsaires, et donner lieu au prince Iphicrate de lui apporter ce secours, qui sur les paroles du Ciel doit mettre entre ses mains la princesse Ériphile. Anaxarque à Cléon (IV. iii, p. 29)
[Be it your part to go and get our six men to hide themselves carefully in their boat behind the rock, and make them wait quietly for the time when the princess comes alone in the evening for her usual walk. Then they must suddenly attack her like pirates, in order to give the opportunity to Prince Iphicrates to rush to her rescue, and lend her the help which is to put Eriphyle in his hands according to the words of Venus.] Anaxarque to Cléon (IV. iv)
In Act Four, Scene Four a dejected Ériphile fears destiny. What has she done to deserve attention from the Gods? She does not love the princes who are the only candidates.
Hélas! quelle est ma destinée, et qu’ai-je fait aux Dieux pour mériter les soins qu’ils veulent prendre de moi? Ériphile à Cléonice et Sostrate (IV. iv, p. 30)
[Alas! how hard is my destiny! What have I done to the gods that they should interest themselves in what happens to me?] Ériphile to Cléonice and Sostrate (IV. 5)
In Act Five, Scene One, we are told that Aristione was attacked by a boar, but was saved by Sostrate. Sostrate being a hero, he may marry Ériphile. Men were to attack Aristione, not a boar.
Anaxarque misused both princes. But Sostrate saved Aristione. So, ironically, he daughter will marry the man who saved her mother life. As false as Venus is, Heaven has decided that Ériphile must marry her mother’s saviour, who is Socrates. Aristione forgives the princes and all, or most, go to the Jeux Pythiens.
Je pardonne toutes ces menaces, aux chagrins d’un amour qui se croit offensé, et nous n’en verrons pas avec moins de tranquillité la fête des jeux Pythiens. Allons-y de ce pas, et couronnons par ce pompeux spectacle cette merveilleuse journée. Aristione aux princes (V. iv, p. 34)
[I forgive all these threats for the sake of the sorrow of a love which thinks itself insulted; and we will none the less go and see the Pythian Games in all peace. Let us go at once, and let us crown by the glorious spectacle this wonderful day.] Aristione to the princes (V. 4)
The above is incomplete. In Les Amants magnifiques, the plot is embedded in mostly pastoral and mythological interludes. Louis XIV is Apollon. We are in the Vale of Tempe, an idyllic location, but a princess who seems “free” to choose her husband is not “free.” Rank and fortune preclude a marriage between Sostrate and Ériphile.
However, Aristione is attacked by a boar and Venus, albeit a false Venus, has decreed that Ériphile is to wed her mother’s saviour is Sostrate, The gods have spoken. and Ériphile must marry Sostrate.
So, once again, comedy, or destiny, is complicit with Ériphile and Sostrate, the young lovers of comedy. It’s an all’s well that ends well, but a complex tout est bien qui finit bien.
Obedience to parents is a matter Molière raises in his plays. In Mélicerte. Myrtil will not let a father prevent his marrying a woman other than Mélicerte. But Venus has decreed that Ériphile would marry her mother’s saviour. Sostrate.
So, once again, comedy, or destiny, is complicit with Ériphile and Sostrate, the young lovers of comedy. It’s an all’s well that ends well, but an ambiguous tout est bien qui finit bien. After its Saint-Germain-en-Laye performances, Les Amants magnifiques was not performed, at least, not in Molière’s lifetime.
Molière and Lully’s Le Mariage forcé(The Forced Marriage), is a farce and a comédie-ballet, in prose. It was first performed on 29 January 1664 in the Queen Mother’s apartments, at the Louvre. On 15 February 1664, it was performed at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, where it proved less popular. It closed after 12 performances. It was performed again on 12 May 1664 during festivities known as Les Plaisirs de l’Île enchantée, The Pleasures of the Enchanted Island. Louis XIV wanted to show Versailles at an early date. He had hired architect Louis Le Vau, landscape architectAndré le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun. These gentlemen had built Nicolas Fouquet‘s castle at Vaux-le-Vicomte. Molière’s La Princesse d’Élide and Tartuffe also premièred during Les Plaisirs de l’Île enchantée, on 8 May 1664. In its original form, The Forced Marriage was a three-act comédie-ballet, by Molière and Lully It did not use figures from a mythology in which it differed from earlier comédies-ballets. At Versailles, King Louis XIV and other aristocrats performed in the comedy. In 1664, Louis was very much in love with Louise de La Vallière who lived at Versailles, in the small castle used as a hunting-lodge by the very private Louis XIII.
Molière transformed Le Mariage forcé into a one-act play in 1668, which is Le Mariage forcé as we know it. However, it was reborn as a comédie-ballet in 1672. Lully having broken with Molière, the music was composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.
In his Preface to the Forced Marriage,Henri van Laun provides information concerning the posterity of the play. Sganarelle is Sir Toby Doubtful in Love’s Contrivance, a play by Mrs. Carroll, born Susanna Centlivre (c. 1667–1670 – 1 December 1723).
pedants & philosophy: Aristotle and Pyrrho (doubt)
Although Molière drew some of his material from Spanish author Lope de Vega’s Intermède du sacristain [sacristan] Soguizo, and Giordano Bruno’sCandelaio, or The Candle Bearer, entitled Boniface et le Pédant in French, Le Mariage forcé belongs mainly to a French tradition.
How Panurge asketh counsel of Pantagruel whether he should marry, yea, or no.
Affinities between Molière and Rabelais leap off the page, and so does Pantagruel’s advice to Panurge. Pantagruel urges Panurge not to marry, which is Géronimo’s initial response, until he learns that Sganarelle has obtained permission to marry Dorimène from Alcantor, her father. In the Third Book, Panurge has decided to marry, but revisits his decision. In Rabelais’ Third Book, Panurge also seeks the advice of Trouillogan, the model for Molière’s Marphurius, a Pyrrhonian philosopher, and a pedant. He prefigures The Learned Ladies, or Femmes savantes‘ Trissotin and Vadius. The mouton de Panurge is featured in the fourth of five books constituting Pantagruel and Gargantua. A mouton de Panurge,“describes an individual that will blindly follow others regardless of the consequences.” (See Panurge, Wiki2.org.) We cannot exclude Sganarelle.
ALCANTOR, father to Dorimène.
ALCIDAS, brother to Dorimène.
LYCASTE, in love with Dorimène.
PANCRACE, an Aristotelian Philosopher.
MARPHURIUS, a Pyrrhonian Philosopher.
DORIMÈNE, a young coquette betrothed to Sganarelle.
The Scene is in a Public Place.
Dorimène surprises us
la race des Sganarelles
Scene One of Le Mariage Forcé, Sganarelle, Molière’s mask, wants to know from his friend Géronimo whether he should marry. Sganarelle has already sought and obtained from Dorimène’s father, Alcantor, permission to marry Dorimène. Alcantor has agreed. In his mind, the mind of a pater familias, le Seigneur Sganarelle, a well-to-do 53-year-old gentleman, is a perfect match for his daughter.
However, Dorimène surprises us. One would expect her to oppose her tyrannical father, but she differs from other ingénues, forced to marry or be thrown in a convent. Young Dorimène is une mondaine who thinks a marriage to Sganarelle will allow her to escape her father. When she and Sganarelle meet in Scene II, she makes it clear that she wishes to be free. In fact, as we will see later, she has a lover, Lycaste, who cannot understand why she is marrying Sganarelle. She reassures Lycaste. Sganarelle is an older gentleman who has no more than six months “in his belly.” She wants to be a widow, the privileged women of 17th-century France. Widows were free to marry whom they pleased, or not to marry. Le Misanthrope‘s Célimène is a widow.
Yet, although arrangements are being made for Dorimène to marry Sganarelle that very day, Sganarelle would like to discuss marriage with his friend Géronimo, which should have happened earlier. When Géronimo learns that the bride-to-be is the lovely Dorimène and that she is not opposing Alcantor, her father, Géronimo has little left to do than exclaim:
The most amusing lines of Scene One are Sganarelle’s:
Outre la joie que j’aurai de posséder une belle femme, qui me fera mille caresses; qui me dorlotera, et me viendra frotter, lorsque je serai las; outre cette joie, dis-je, je considère, qu’en demeurant comme je suis, je laisse périr dans le monde la race des Sganarelles; et qu’en me mariant, je pourrai me voir revivre en d’autres moi-mêmes…  Sganarelle à Géronimo (Scene I, p. 8) [Besides the pleasures I shall have in possessing a wife to fondle me when I am tired; besides this pleasure, I consider that, by remaining as I am, I suffer the race of the Sganarelles to become extinct ; whilst, by marrying, I may see myself reproduced, and shall have the joy of seeing children sprung from me… Sganarelle to Géronimo (Scene Two, p. 226)
Marriage and Marriage
Matters change. Sganarelle believed he would own Dorimène:
Hé bien, ma belle, c’est maintenant que nous allons être heureux l’un et l’autre. Vous ne serez plus en droit de me rien refuser; … Sganarelle à Dorimène (Scène II, pp. 9-10)
[Well, my dear, both of us are going to be happy now. You will no longer have a right to refuse me anything; and I can do with you just as I please, without any one being shocked. You will be mine from head to foot, and I shall be master of everything, of your little sparkling eyes, your little roguish nose, your tempting lips, your lovely ears, your pretty little chin, your little round breasts, your … ] Sganarelle to Dorimène (Scene Four, pp. 227-228)
Dorimène, however, wants to escape her father’s tyranny and would not accept to marry a tyrannical Sganarelle. Two contrary discourses are juxtaposed. The second all be erases the first. Sganarelle realizes that he has made a mistake.
Tout à fait aise, je vous jure: car enfin la sévérité de mon père m’a tenue jusques ici dans une sujétion la plus fâcheuse du monde. Il y a je ne sais combien que j’enrage du peu de liberté, qu’il me donne; et j’ai cent fois souhaité qu’il me mariât, pour sortir promptement de la contrainte, où j’étais avec lui, et me voir en état de faire ce que je voudrai. Dorimène à Sganarelle (Scene II, p. 10)
[Immensely glad, I assure you. For, indeed, my father’s severity has kept me hitherto in the most grievous subjection. I have been raging, I do not know how long, at the scanty liberty he allows me ; I have wished a hundred times that he would get me a husband, so that I might quickly escape from the durance in which I have been kept by him, and be able to do as I pleased. Dorimène to Sganarelle (Scene Four, pp. 228-229)
In Scene Three (FR), Géronimo returns. He has found a jeweler who has a beautiful diamond for sale. Sganarelle is no longer so eager to marry. He would like to confide that he has had a dream:
Avant que de passer plus avant, je voudrais bien agiter à fond cette matière; et que l’on m’expliquât un songe que j’ai fait cette nuit, et qui vient tout à l’heure de me revenir dans l’esprit. Sganarelle à Géronimo (Scene III, p. 11)
[Before going farther I wish to sift this matter to the bottom, and to have interpreted to me a dream which I had last night, and which just recurred to me.] Sganarelle to Géronimo (Scene Five, p. 229)
In Scene Three (FR), Géronimo returns. He has found a jeweller who has a beautiful diamond for sale. Sganarelle is no longer so eager to marry. He would like to confide that he has had a dream:
Avant que de passer plus avant, je voudrais bien agiter à fond cette matière; et que l’on m’expliquât un songe que j’ai fait cette nuit, et qui vient tout à l’heure de me revenir dans l’esprit. Sganarelle à Géronimo (Scene Three, p. 11)
[Before going farther I wish to sift this matter to the bottom, and to have interpreted to me a dream which I had last night, and which just recurred to me.] Sganarelle to Géronimo (Scene Five, p. 229)
Pancrace & Marphurius
Géronimo is too busy, so he asks Sganarelle to speak to his neighbours: Pancrace, an Aristotelian philosopher and Marphurius, a Pyrrhonean philosoper. Sganarelle fears cuckolding. It so happens that Pancrace is also busy. He is wondering whether one should use the word “form” or “figure” concerning the shape of a hat. Moreover, Sganarelle pressures Pancrace a little. Pancrace nevertheless delays the process by asking Sganarelle which tongue he will use. Sganarelle says that he will use the tongue (la langue) in his mouth, but Pancrace means “language” (la langue). Matters deteriorate, so Sganarelle leaves.
Parbleu, de la langue que j’ai dans la bouche; je crois que je n’irai pas emprunter celle de mon voisin. Sganarelle à Pancrace (Scene IV, p. 15)
[Zounds! The tongue I have in my mouth.] Sganarelle to Pancrace (Scene Six, p. 232)
So, as of “Zounds,” matters truly deteriorate. Sganarelle leaves. (I am not discussing the quotations in Latin.)
Sganarelle then visits another neighbour, a Pyrrhonian skeptic. This character reflects Sganarelle’s uncertainty and adds to his distress. Doubt has entered Sganarelle’s mind and matters will not improve. When Sganarelle says: “[I]t seems to me,” (il me semble que), Marphurius corrects him. “Me” expresses certainty, which is wrong. “Nous devons douter de tout” (we must doubt everything), says Marphurius. Sganarelle is so frustrated that he ends up hitting Marphurius with a stick and speaks Marphurius’ language:
Corrigez, s’il vous plaît, cette manière de parler. Il faut douter de toutes choses; et vous ne devez pas dire que je vous ai battu; mais qu’il vous semble que je vous ai battu. Sganarelle à Marphurius (Scène V, p. 22)
[Pray, correct this manner of speaking. We are to doubt everything; and you ought not to say that I have beaten you, but that it seems I have beaten you.] Sganarelle to Marphurius (Scene Ten, p. 238)
Marphurius is Rabelais’ Trouillogan. He doubts everything (Chapter 3.XXXV)
How the philosopher Trouillogan handleth the difficulty of marriage.
Sganarelle has entered a cul-de-sac.
Cuckoldry and Widowhood
Le Mariage Forcé was a comédie-ballet, with music by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Unlike other comédies-ballets, Le Mariage forcé did not use characters inhabiting mythologies. In Scene Twelve, Sganarelle asks three Égyptiennes (Gypsies) whether he will be cuckolded.
In Scene Twelve, Lycaste, who loves Dorimène, wonders why she is marrying Sganarelle. She reassures him. Not only will she be free, but she expects Sganarelle to die within a few months. She looks forward to widowhood. In 17th-century France, widowhood freed women who have married against their will.
Je vous le garantis défunt dans le temps que je dis; et je n’aurai pas longuement à demander pour moi au Ciel, l’heureux état de veuve.
Dorimène à Lycaste (Scene XII, p. 25)
[I guarantee that he is dead in the time I say. I shall not long have to pray Heaven for the happy state of widowhood.]
Dorimène to Lycaste (Scene Twelve, p. 240)
Sganarelle has heard everything. Lycaste gets away as does Dom Juan. Dom Juan’s father, Dom Louis tell his son that “la naissance n’est rien où la vertu n’est pas,” IV. iv (Birth is nothing without virtue, IV. 4). Dom Juan’s response is appalling. He invites his father to sit down so he will be more comfortable. Dom Louis is speechless. Lycaste’s obsequious response to Sganarelle, also leaves Sganarelle speechless. It is formulaic.
Agréez, Monsieur, que je vous félicite de votre mariage, et vous présente en même temps mes très humbles services. Je vous assure que vous épousez là une très honnête personne. Lycaste à Sganarelle (Scene VII, p. 25)
[Allow me, sir, to congratulate you on your marriage, and at the same time to offer you my most humble services. Let me tell you that the lady, whom you are marrying, possesses great merits…] Lycaste to Sganarelle (Scene Twelve, p. 240)
Lycaste then goes away, having silenced Sganarelle.
A Forced Marriage
The remaining scenes feature Dorimène’s family. Alcantor will not allow Sganarelle to roll back his promise to marry Dorimène.
Seigneur Alcantor, j’ai demandé votre fille en mariage, il est vrai; et vous me l’avez accordée: mais je me trouve un peu avancé en âge pour elle; et je considère que je ne suis point du tout son fait. Sganarelle à Alcantor (Scene VIII, p. 27) [Mr. Alcantor, it is true I asked your daughter in marriage, and you granted my request; but I find that I am rather old ; I think that I am by no means a proper match for her.] Sganarelle to Alcantor (Scene Fourteen, p. 241)
Vous vous êtes engagé avec moi, pour épouser ma fille; et tout est préparé pour cela. Mais puisque vous voulez retirer votre parole, je vais voir ce qu’il y a à faire; et vous aurez bientôt de mes nouvelles. Alcantor à Sganarelle (Scene VIII, p. 28)
[You gave me your word that you would marry my daughter, and everything is prepared for the wedding; but since you wish to withdraw, I shall go and see what can be done in the matter; you shall hear from me presently.] Alcantor to Sganarelle (Scene Fourteen, p. 242)
During Scene IX, Sganarelle refuses to fight Alcidas, Dorimène’s brother, who has brought swords. In the end, Sganarelle is compelled to marry.
Sganarelle makes wedding arrangements before seeking advice from Géronimo, or taking matters into consideration.
An older gentleman is forced to marry.
Dorimène is pleased to marry a senex iratus. She will be a widow.
Sganarelle is a cocu (cuckolded) before he marries.
Our philosophers have long left reality. Molière has created Les Femmes savantes‘ Trissotin and Vadius.
We are therefore reminded of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World: carnival and grotesque. We are also reminded of the comic genre’s plasticity. It isn’t always an “all’s well that ends well,” a tout est bien qui finit bien. And we are not dealing with Rabelais’ giants.
Floating just below the surface of this play is the farcical trompeur trompé, the deceiver deceived. How can Lycaste ever trust Dorimène? The extremely polite manner he uses to greet Sganarelle could be read as a criticism of Dorimène’s ploy. It is “affected.” As for Dorimène, she is her own senex iratus and will not change. Besides, destiny rules. She should be prepared to love the husband she has married and to give birth to a petit Sganarelle.
The play also features pedants. Pancrace’s pursuit of a correct term, forme or figure, for the shape of hats is trivial. As for Marphurius, he is Rabelais Trouillogan (See Chapter 3, XXXVI) in Gutenberg’s [EBook #1200])
I am leaving behind the comédie-ballet, as written and composed in 1664. This post is already too long. But it is interesting to know that at Versailles, the King and aristocrats played roles in the comédie-ballet.
 Giordano Bruno was tortured and burned at the stake by the Inquisition. Among other notions, Bruno perceived the plurality of worlds, as would French philosopheFontenelle, a century later. Maurice Rat, ed., Œuvres complètes de Molière (Paris: Gallimard, collection La Pléiade, 1956), pp. 878-884. In the French language race means race, breed, and, occasionally, line. Cf. Rabelais.
Love to everyone 💕
This post did not reach all of my readers. Hence, the second edition and revisions.
Baroque Music – Bourrée du Mariage Forcé (Jean-Baptiste Lully)
MYRTIL, in love with Melicerte. ACANTHE, in love with Daphne.
TYRONE, in love with Eroxene.
LYCARSIS, herdsman, supposed father to Myrtil?
MOPSE, shepherd, supposed uncle to Melicerte. MELICERTE, shepherdess.
CORINNE, confidante of Melicerte.
Scene. THESSALY, IN THE VALLEY OF TEMPE, the Vale of Tempe
As noted above, Mélicerte is a pastorale comique héroïque, a heroic pastoral comedy. It is the third of thirteen entrées in Isaac de Benserade‘s Ballet des Muses. Mélicerte was well-received by the King, which suggests that it was performed in its entirety.
Molière wrote the first two acts of Mélicerte. No copy of a third act, written by Molière, was ever found. However, the events of the first two acts allow us to expect an anagnorisis, a scene during which a character’s real identity is revealed. In comedy, such revelations often allow the marriage of the young lovers. I am using the word anagnorisis in its broadest acceptation: recognition or a character’s real identity.
In Scene One, the shepherdesses and Nymphs, Daphné and Éroxène, are running away from Acante and Tyrène, two young men who seek the Nymphs’ love. In Scene Two, Daphné and Éroxène learn from one another, showing matching portraits, that they both love Myrtil. However, in Scene Three, the news is that the King has come to Tempe:
Le Roi vient d’honorer Tempé de sa présence[.] Lycarsis à Nicandre (I. iii, p. 10)
[You shall not know, then, that the King has come
to honour Tempe with his presence…] Lycarsis to Nicandre (I. 3, p. 26)
Tension is building. Why is the King in Tempe?
Daphné and Éroxène do not know that the King has travelled to Tempe. So they ask Lycarsis, Myrtil’s supposed father, to reveal to Myrtil that both are in love with him and that they would like Myrtil to choose which of the two Nymphs he will marry. Only in pastorals and “a long time ago,” would a woman accept to be rejected by Myrtil, who also happens to be of lower birth.
At first, Lycarsis believes the nymphs are revealing their love for him. This figure is a quiproquo, a misunderstanding, a device Molière uses frequently. When Lycarsis realises that the Nymphs love Myrtil, he says he is of the opinion that his son is too young for matrimony. However, Daphné has seen him following Mélicerte. Myrtil, she claims, is not a child:
Il [Myrtil] n’est point tant enfant, qu’à le voir chaque jour, Je ne le croie atteint déjà d’un peu d’amour, Et plus d’une aventure à mes yeux s’est offerte, Où j’ai connu qu’il suit la jeune Mélicerte. Daphné à Éroxène et Lycarsis (I. iv, p. 15)
[He is not such a child but that I, who see him every day, believe him somewhat love-sick already ; and I have noticed many a thing that shows that he is after young Melicerte.] Daphné to Éroxène and Lycarsis (I. 4, p. 29)
Lycarsis accepts to serve the two Nymphs and says the rejected one may marry him, if she wishes to:
Je consens que son choix règle votre dispute, Et celle qu’à l’écart laissera cet arrêt, Pourra pour son recours m’épouser, s’il lui plaît. Lycarsis aux deux nymphes (I. iv, p. 16)
[I consent that his choice shall adjust your dispute ; and she, whom his decree shall set aside, may marry me in compensation, if she likes.] Lycarsis to the two nymphs (I. 5, p. 29)
At the beginning of Scene Five, Myrtil is putting a sparrow in a cage intending to give it to Mélicerte. Scene Five is a lovely pastoral scene, but it is interrupted by Lycarsis, Daphné, and Éroxène. The Nymphs themselves ask Myrtle to wed one of them. He feels honoured because he is of lower birth, but he is in love. He wishes to marry Mélicerte.
Lycarsis is slighty miffed. It is for a father to decide whom a son marries:
Quoi? les pères n’ont pas des droits supérieurs? (I. vi, p. 20) What ! has not a father superior rights? (I. 5, p 32) Lycarsis
For her part, Daphné suggests inequality between the Nymphs and Mélicerte.
Le choix d’elle et de nous est assez inégal. (I. v, p. 21)
The choice between her and us is unequal enough. (I. 5, p. 32) Daphné
Nymphes, au nom des Dieux, n’en dites point de mal, Daignez considérer, de grâce, que je l’aime, …
[Nymphs, in Heaven’s name, do not say any ill of her. Pray consider that I love her, and do not upset my mind. If, by loving her, I outrage your heavenly charms, she has no part in that crime ; all the offence comes from me, if you please. It is true that I know the difference between you and her ; but we cannot escape our fate.] Myrtil to Daphné and Éroxène(I. v. p. 32)
Mélicerte is worried. She tells Corinne, her confidante, that her lower rank puts her at a disadvantage. Corinne, is of litte help. In a soliloquy, Mélicerte remembers her mother’s (Bélise) words:
“Ma fille, songe à toi: l’amour aux jeunes cœurs Se présente toujours entouré de douceurs. D’abord il n’offre aux yeux que choses agréables; Mais il traîne après lui des troubles effroyables. Et si tu veux passer tes jours dans quelque paix, Toujours comme d’un mal défends-toi de ses traits.” Mélicerte seule (II. ii, p. 25)
[“Beware, daughter ; Love always comes to young hearts surrounded by sweet guiles. At first it offers nought but what is agreeable ; but it drags horrible troubles after it ; and if you wish to pass your days in peace, ever defend yourself from its darts, as from an evil.”] Mélicerte alone (II. 2, p. 34)
Myrtil arrives carrying the sparrow, but Mélicerte is sad. She has learned that Daphné and Éroxène want to marry Myrtil. They belong to a higher class. Myrtle swears his love for Mélicerte:
Non, chère Mélicerte, il n’est père ni Dieux Qui me puissent forcer à quitter vos beaux yeux, Et toujours de mes vœux, reine comme vous êtes… Myrtil à Mélicerte (II. iii, p. 28)
[No, dear Melicerte, neither father nor gods shall force me to discard your lovely eyes ; for ever, queen of my heart, as you are . . .] Myrtil to Mélicerte (II. 3. p. 36)
Mélicerte is all too aware that sons and daughters are at the mercy of their parents. They have no liberty. At this point, Lycarsis enters finding Myrtil and Mélicerte speaking as lovers do. He condemns this outrage and wishes to speak to Mélicerte. Myrtil will not let him hurt her. He has sought her love. So, she is innocent.
Je ne souffrirai point que vous la maltraitiez.
[I will not allow her to be abused.] Myrtil à Lycarsis (II. 4, p. 36)
Myrtil does not believe one can give life to only to take it. Myrtil cannot envisage life without Mélicerte.
Le jour est un présent que j’ai reçu de vous; Mais de quoi vous serai-je aujourd’hui redevable, Si vous me l’allez rendre, hélas! insupportable? Il est sans Mélicerte un supplice à mes yeux: Sans ses divins appas, rien ne m’est précieux, Ils font tout mon bonheur, et toute mon envie, Et si vous me l’ôtez, vous m’arrachez la vie. Myrtil à Lycarsis (II. v, p. 31)
[I owe my being to you ; but shall I be indebted to you this day if you render life unbearable to me ? Without Mélicerte, it becomes a torment ; nothing is of value to me without her divine charms. They contain all my happiness and all my desires, and if you take them away, you take life itself.] Myrtil to Lycarsis (II. 5, p. 37)
Myrtil’s supposed father did allow his son to marry Mélicerte earlier in the play. He does again. But will his father keep his promise?
Ah! que pour ses enfants un père a de faiblesse! Peut-on rien refuser à leurs mots de tendresse? Et ne se sent-on pas certains mouvements doux, Quand on vient à songer que cela sort de vous? Lycarsis, seul (II. v, p. 32)
[Ah ! how weak a father is for his children ! Can we refuse aught to their tender words ? Do we not feel some sweet emotions within us, when we reflect that they are part of ourselves?] Lycarsis, alone (ii. 5, p. 38)
Me tiendrez-vous au moins la parole avancée?
Ne changerez-vous point, dites-moi, de pensée? Myril à Lycarsis (II. v, p. 32) [But will you keep your given promise ? Tell me
that you will not change your mind.] Myrtil to Lycarsis (II. 5, p. 38)
Acante and Tyrène can breathe again. Myrtil has chosen Mélicerte. The shepherds are free to court Daphné and Éroxène (Scene 6).
However, Mélicerte has disappeared. Nicandre is looking for her.
Ce sont des incidents grands et mystérieux:
Oui, le Roi vient chercher Mélicerte en ces lieux;
Et l’on dit qu’autrefois feu Bélise, sa mère,
Dont tout Tempé croyait que Mopse était le frère…
Mais je me suis chargé de la chercher partout,
Vous saurez tout cela tantôt, de bout en bout. Nicandre à Myrtil (II. vii, p. 36)
[They are important and mysterious events. Yes, the King has come to seek Melicerte in these spots, and they say that formerly her mother Belise, of whom all Tempe believed Mopse to be the brother . . . But I have undertaken to look for her everywhere. You shall know all about it by and bye.] Nicandre to Myrtil (II. 7, p. 39)
According to the Molière21 research team, the toutmoliere.net Mélicerte will find out that she is a princess and Myrtil will learn that he is the son of a great Lord. Mélicerte contains elements of fairy tales, which is not uncommon in comedies of intrigue. Henri van Laun, whose translation I have used (in PDF), was a Molière scholar. In his Prefatory Notice, Mr. van Laun writes that he wishes Molière had left us a written copy of the third act. Mélicerte is a lovely play, albeit incomplete.
“But the charm of his writing, the exquisite delicacy of the sentiment, and the freshness of the pastoral scenes, cause us to regret that Moliere wrote only the two first acts of this play, and never finished it.” (p. 17)
Mélicerte was published in the 1682 edition of Molière’s works. A third act, written by Molière, was never found.
I will conclude by mentioning that Mélicerte has inspired artists. The play is rather well known, incomplete as it is. More importantly, in Molière’s comedies, few young lovers so oppose parents choosing a spouse for their children as does Myrtil. We are in a distant land and “a long time ago” and the King is in Tempe looking for Mélicerte. The matter of rank plays an unusually important role in Mélicerte. It is as though one were reading a fairy tale. Cinderella has two sisters.
I agree with Mr. van Laun. Would that Molière had completed the play!
Love to everyone 💕
Ballet des Muses : “Trop indiscret Amour” [Euridice]
Monsieur Jourdain, bourgeois.
Madame Jourdain, his wife. Lucile, their daughter.
Nicole, maid. Cléonte, suitor of Lucile.
Covielle, Cléonte’s valet.
Dorante, Count, suitor of Dorimène.
Pupil of the Music Master.
Master of Philosophy.
Many male and female musicians, instrumentalists, dancers, cooks,
tailor’s apprentices, and others necessary for the interludes.
l’ingénue (the young woman)
le jeune premier (the young man)
valets, maids, etc. (helpers)
We know the plot of the Would-be Gentleman. Monsieur Jourdain, who is attempting to elevate himself from bourgeoisie to gentilhommerie, wants his daughter to marry an aristocrat. Therefore, Monsieur Jourdain is a threat to Lucile and Cléonte, his daughter and the young man she wishes to marry, a bourgeois.
Helping Lucile, l’ingénue, is Nicole, a saucy servant. Helping Cléonte, the jeune premier, is Covielle, a valet. In some comedies, the young lovers are helpless and would never marry, were it not for the stratagems or their valets and servants. In the commedia dell’arte, zanni are very clever. They are tricksters. Covielle may not be a Brighella, but he devises the turquerie that fools our would-be gentleman, Monsieur Jourdain. Cléonte plays along.
Monsieur Jourdain believes one can learn gentilhommerie and hires a group of maîtres. The music and dance masters are the first to arrive at the bourgeois‘ house and mention that Monsieur Jourdain’ wish to be an aristocrat, provides them with a good income. The music master says:
This is a nice source of income for us — this Monsieur Jourdain, with the visions of nobility and gallantry that he has gotten into his head. You and I should hope that everyone resembled him. (I. 1) [Il est vrai. Nous avons trouvé ici un homme comme il nous le faut à tous deux. Ce nous est une douce rente que ce Monsieur Jourdain, avec les visions de noblesse et de galanterie qu’il est allé se mettre en tête. Et votre danse, et ma musique, auraient à souhaiter que tout le monde lui ressemblât.] (I. i, p. 2)
However, the music master says that applause and praise do not necessarily bring money and that Monsieur Jourdain is in fact quite clever.
J’en demeure d’accord, et je les goûte comme vous. Il n’y a rien assurément qui chatouille [tickles] davantage que les applaudissements que vous dites; mais cet encensne fait pas vivre. (I. i, p. 2)
[ I agree, and I enjoy them as you do. There is surely nothing more agreeable than the applause you speak of; but that incense does not provide a living.] (I. 1) Il a du discernement dans sa bourse. (I. i, p. 2)
[He has discernment in his purse. His praises are in cash, and this ignorant bourgeois is worth more to us, as you see, than the educated nobleman who introduced us here.] (I. 1)
In scene two, a musician sings a new song:
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? (I. 2)
Monsieur Jourdain finds the song a “little mournful” (lugubre) He proposes a song that has a sheep in it: “Il y a du mouton dedans.”
I thought my Jeanneton As beautiful as sweet; I thought my Janneton Far sweeter than a sheep. Alas! Alas! She is a hundred times, A thousand times, more cruel Than tigers in the woods! (Monsieur Jourdain sings, I. 2) (I. ii, p. 4 FR)
His masters praise him, so he says that he knew “sans avoir appris la musique” (I. ii, p. 4) (“It’s without having learned music.” I. 2). It is always without his having learned, or because he does not want the lesson.
The next master is the fencing master (le maître d’armes). The fencing master is delighted with Monsieur Jourdain’s progress: You did marvelously! (II. 2); Vous faites des merveilles! (II. ii, p. 10).
As I have told you, the entire secret of fencing lies in two things: to give and not to receive; and as I demonstrated to you the other day, it is impossible for you to receive, if you know how to turn your opponent’s sword from the line of your body. This depends solely on a slight movement of the wrist, either inward or outward.
(Fencing Master to Monsieur Jourdain, II. 2)
In this way then, a man, without courage, is sure to kill his man and not be killed himself?
(Monsieur Jourdain to Fencing Master, II. 2)
I believe the image featured above shows a degree incompetence on the part of Monsieur Jourdain. One of his legs should be behind him, so he can pull himself away, and one ahead, so he can attack. That is how he will “kill his man and not be killed.”
the marchioness: “Marquise, vos beaux yeux… ”
His philosophy master wants to know whether Monsieur Jourdain wishes to learn morale, among other subjects. Monsieur Jourdain enquires: “Qu’est-ce qu’elle dit cette morale?” (What does this morale say?) When the philosophy master tells him that it “teaches men to moderate their passions,” he stops the master: “No, let’s leave that. I’m as choleric as all the devils and there’s no morality that sticks, I want to be as full of anger as I want whenever I like.” (“Non, laissons cela. Je suis bilieux comme tous les diables; et il n’y a morale qui tienne, je me veux mettre en colère tout mon soûl, quand il m’en prend envie.” (II. iv, p. 14 FR ; II. 4 EN)
First, Monsieur Jourdain’s philosophy master teaches Monsieur Jourdain the difference between prose and verse. He learns that he has spoken prose his entire life and was never told. But he knew prose. He knew it without instruction.
Par ma foi, il y a plus de quarante ans que je dis de la prose, sans que j’en susse rien; et je vous suis le plus obligé du monde, de m’avoir appris cela. (Monsieur Jourdain au maître de philosophie, II. iv, p. 16)
[By my faith! For more than forty years I have been speaking prose without knowing anything about it, and I am much obliged to you for having taught me that.]
(Monsieur Jourdain to his philosopher master, II. 4)
Monsieur Jourdain has been mentioning a Marchioness. So he asks his maître de philosophie to teach him how to phrase: “Beautiful marchioness, your lovely eyes make me die of love.” (“Marquise, vos beaux yeux me font mourir d’amour.”) Monsieur Jourdain’s philosophy master moves the words around:
“Of love to die make me, beautiful marchioness, your beautiful eyes.” “Your lovely eyes, of love make me, beautiful marchioness, die.” “Die, your lovely eyes, beautiful marchioness, of love make me.”
Or else: “Me make your lovely eyes die, beautiful marchioness, of love.”
(The philosophy master, II. 4 EN; II. iv, p. 16 FR)
When asked by Monsieur Jourdain which of the above is the best tournure, phrase, the maître de philosophie replies that it would be: “Beautiful marchioness, your lovely eyes make me die of love.” (“Marquise, vos beaux yeux me font mourir d’amour.”) Monsieur Jourdain is delighted to learn that he had said it correctly without instruction. In fact, he does things without instruction and refuses instruction if the topic does not suit him: morale. However, he has learned that he phrase a compliment, without instruction.
Madame Jourdain, Lucile, Nicole (maid), and Covielle (valet)
Before the arrival of the fencing master, the maîtres quarrel. All believe that their skill is the superior skill. A tailor has also visited. Monsieur Jourdain is “decked out.” He says, however, that his shoes hurt him but he is told, peremptorily, that they don’t.
As of Act Three, the maîtres have left. The rest of the play is devoted to the loversand a possible second couple. Madame Jourdain has heard that her husband might be planning to court a marchioness: Dorimène. In fact, Dorante is courting Dorimène at Monsieur Jourdain’s expense. Dorimène has a beautiful diamond ring. He has borrowed money from Monsieur Jourdain, promising to pay his debts. Dorante takes Dorimène to Monsieur Jourdain’s house where they dine sumptuously: music and all… (at Monsieur Jourdain’s expense).
Nicole, the maid, and Madame Jourdain, our bourgeois’ “sensible” wife, make fun of Monsieur Jourdain’s craze for aristocracy… Madame Jourdain wants a faithful husband, Nicole will not have these people mess up the house. Finally, Cléonte is angry at Lucile because she ignored him when he bumped into her. Cléonte is resentful, and will not let Covielle talk him out ofdépit amoureux (III. ix, p. 31 ; III. 9), until Covielle starts mentioning imperfections in Lucile. Cléonte disagrees. He loves Lucile and would die for her. A lover is as The Misanthrope‘s Éliante says in her tirade. He loves “even the faults of her whom he admires.” (II. iv, 711-730, pp. 30-31; II. 5)
Madame Jourdain wants Lucile to marry a bourgeois, Cléonte, not Dorante. Bourgeois have money, but Dorante is borrowing money… Under Louis XIV, aristocrats had to be seen. So they maintained homes, carriages, etc. in Paris. They sought the privilege of seeing Louis rise and Louis go to bed: le grand lever,le petit lever, le grand coucher, le petit coucher. (See Levée [ceremony], Wiki2. org.) Few could sit on a bench, usually an ottoman, the only seats available. Moreover, Madame Jourdain will not be humiliated. George Dandin is humiliated. When she learns Lucile is marrying the Grand Turc‘s son, Madame Jourdain is alarmed, but Covielle reassures her.
All’s well that ends well. Lucile and Cléonte marry and so do Dorimène and Dorante. Monsieur Jourdain is perfectly happy as a mamamouchi. I doubt that Dorante will pay his debt. He needed money to court the Marchioness, and Monsieur Jourdain loaned him the money he required. Dorante did not intend to marry Lucile.
No one can change Monsieur Jourdain, so a mere disguise allows the young lovers, Lucile and Cléonte to marry, with Madame Jourdain’s blessing. Besides, although his masters are at times ridiculous, the questions are asked by Monsieur Jourdain and Monsieur Jourdain is the person who answers. The philosophy master is not ridiculed. In fact, Monsieur Jourdain has been generous with his masters and it appears that as a veuve, a widow, Dorimène is quite capable of looking after Dorante, who seems an impoverished gentleman.
Attending a good performance of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme will delight an audience, but one can also read Molière. There is a sense in which Molière is in the words and in the dialogues. For instance, the masters quarrel, but it is among themselves, which is revealing. Monsieur Jourdain does not participate in the quarrel. He says little more than: Doucement (softly), Tout beau (all’s well), De grâce (for pity’s sake) and Je vous en prie (I beg you), but the maître de philosophie arrives “just in time” to relieve Monsieur Jourdain :
Holà, Monsieur le philosophe, vous arrivez tout à propos avec votre philosophie. Venez un peu mettre la paix entre ces personnes-ci.
[Aha! Monsieur Philosopher, you come just in time with your philosophy. Come, make a little peace among these people.]
(Monsieur Jourdain, II. iii, p. 11; II. 3)
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme is a five-act comédie-ballet written in prose rather than the twelve-syllable or piedsl’alexandrin, the ‘vers noble.’’ As we have seen, Dom Juan (1665) is also a comedy in five acts, a criterion for grandes comédies, but it is written in prose. So doubt lingers as to Dom Juan‘s status as a comedy. Is it or is it not a grande comédie? Doubt also lingers about L’Avare, The Miser. It could be argued that the use of prose in a five-act play is a dramatic device. Dom Juan is a serious play in need of comic relief. Incongruity and ambiquity are hallmarks of Molière’s comedies.
The Bourgeois Gentilhomme‘s plot is the usual blondin-berne-barbon (the young lover fools the old man), which is the Shakespearean “all’s well that ends well.” The young lovers are Cléonte and Lucile, Monsieur Jourdain’s daughter. Monsieur Jourdain is a blocking-character in that he is attempting to elevate himself from bourgeoisie to aristocratie and wants his daughter to marry an aristocrat. He is a domestic tyrant.
As you may recall, in 17th-century France, offices could be bought. In 1631, under Louis XIII, Molière’s father, Jean Poquelin, bought an office, “valet de chambre ordinaire et tapissier du roi” (valet of the King’s chamber and keeper of carpets and upholstery). It could have provided Molière with a comfortable living, had he not wanted to be a playwright and an actor. In other words, the sale of offices allowed members of the Third Estate to rise to prominence. Bourgeois, rich and powerful, were at court.
Monsieur Jourdain, our barbon, is not a gentilhomme; he is an enriched bourgeois attempting to become a gentilhomme. The title of Molière’s play is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, which differs little from grand seigneur méchanthomme, in Dom Juan and, in The Misanthrope, the atrabilaire amoureux, Alceste’s contrariness. Monsieur Jourdain could be described as a senexiratus, an alazṓn. The alazṓn, whether a miles gloriosus or a senex iratus is defined as “an impostor that sees himself as greater than he actually is.” Monsieur Jourdain is not a faux dévôt. He is a social climber.
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme opposes the young lovers, Lucile and Cléonte, and Monsieur Jourdain, the alazṓn. Monsieur Jourdain wants his daughter to marry an aristocrat, but Covielle, Cléonte’s laquais, and Cléonte devise une comédie, a play within a play,featuring fashionable Turks, une turquerie,during which Lucile accepts to marry Cléonte, disguised as the son of the Grand Turc. Lucile realizes that the son of the Grand Turc is Cléonte in disguise, but mere appearances easily fool Monsieur Jourdain who has been made a Mamamouchi.
Monsieur Jourdain, bourgeois.
Madame Jourdain, his wife. Lucile, their daughter.
Nicole, maid. Cléonte, suitor of Lucile.
Covielle, Cléonte’s valet.
Dorante, Count, suitor of Dorimène.
Pupil of the Music Master.
Master of Philosophy.
Many male and female musicians, instrumentalists, dancers, cooks,
tailor’s apprentices, and others necessary for the interludes.
Le Ballet comique de la Reine(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Molière (15 January 1622 – 17 February 1673), born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, spent several years performing outside Paris. His first troupe, l’Illustre Théâtre, established in 1643, went bankrupt and, in 1645, Molière was imprisoned. He had to leave for the provinces.
Les Précieuses ridicules, a one-act play which premièred on 18 November 1659, was Molière’s first Parisian success and he would produce several other plays, about thirty-four, eleven of which were comédies-ballets, ten with music by Jean-Baptiste Lully and one, with music by Charpentier. However, preceding the comédie-ballet, was the ballet de cour.
Louise was married to Henri III of France, a son a Henri II and Catherine de’ Medici, who was assassinated by Jacques Clément, a Catholic fanatic. As for Anne de Joyeuse (1561 – 1687), he perished at the hands of French Calvinist Protestants, called Huguenots, 800 of whom he had slaughtered. In fact, the French wars of religion are the backdrop to the creation of the ballet de cour.
Daniel Rabel: the “grotesque” in the ballet de cour
Daniel Rabel (1578 – 3 January 1637) was a man of many talents. Wikipedia describes Rabel as “a Renaissance French painter, engraver, miniaturist, botanist and natural history illustrator.” As a painter, Rabel produced grotesque depictions of ballet, but beginning in 1617 until his death in 1637, Rabel was a set designer for theatres and for ballets de cour.
In our context the term grotesque (from grotto) is not pejorative. The ‘grotesque’ is an aesthetics as is the ‘baroque.’ Medieval gargoyles and misericords are acceptably ‘grotesques.’ Beverly Minster, a 12th-century cathedral, has a fine collection of grotesque misericords. In the 19th century, Hugo would revive the grotesque. His 1831 novel, Notre-Dame de Paris features Quasimodo, a hunchback. The “grotesque” is associated with the Middle Ages and the 19th century.
Le Roi danse
“Les Fées de la forêt de Saint-Germain” was danced at the Louvre in February 1625, with Louis XIII himself in the role of a “valiant fighter.” (See Daniel Rabel, Wikipedia.) Louis XIII also danced in the ballet he composed, the Ballet de la Merlaison.
You may remember that Louis XIII, the Sun-King’s father, wrote the Ballet de la Merlaison. Louis XIII was a composer and he composed a ballet. Consequently, the creation of ballet is associated with both Louis XIII and his son, Louis XIV. However, Louis XIII’s Ballet de la Merlaison is a ballet de cour as had been Circé ou le Balet Comique de la Royne. As noted above, Louis XIII performed in the ballet he composed.
Other ballets de cour were performed before 1661, when Molière created Les Fâcheux, (the Bores), to music byLully. King Louis XIII, the Sun-King’s father (Louis XIV), was a composer and, as noted above, he played a role in “Les Fées de la forêt de Saint-Germain.” Louis XIII composed the Ballet delaMerlaison, a ballet de cour.
Le Ballet de la Merlaison by Maurice Leloir, in Dumas père’s The Three Musketeers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme: comédie ballet and “play-within-a-play”
For a long time, little attention was given Molière’s contribution to ballet, and my book, if ever it is published, will not improve matters as I will discuss only one comédie-ballet: George Dandin (1668). However, one cannot ignore Le Bourgeois gentihomme (14 November 1670), where the ballet is both entertainment and a play-within-a play. Monsieur Jourdain is deceived into marrying his daughter Lucile to Cléonte who has disguised himself into the son of the Mufti, le grand Turc. This is a case of comedy rescuing comedy.
Molière wrote the text of his comédies-ballets, and the text may be read independently of the divertissements, for which he also wrote the text. However, these ballets inject laughter into Molière’s comedies several of which are somber works. The ballets are, to a large extent, part of the comic text.
Except for The Imaginary Invalid (1673), the music of Molière’s comédies-ballets was composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully, born Giovanni Battista Lulli. Pierre Beauchamp (30 October 1631 – February 1705) was Molière’s choreographer.
All three, Molière (playwright), Lully (composer and dancer) and Pierre Beauchamp (choreographer), are major figures in their respective profession and Molière’s comédie-ballet a significant step in the creation of ballet. Lully was named director of AcadémieRoyale deMusique in 1669 and worked with Philippe Quinault, his librettist. The AcadémieRoyale de Musique developed into the Paris Opéra and the smaller Opéra Garnier. Since 1989, performances have been held at the 2700-seat theatre Opéra Bastille.
Several ballets de cour and the related comédies-ballets were staged. It would seem that VoltaireLa Princesse de Navarre (1745) is that last comédie-ballet. It was performed to music by Jean-Philippe Rameau (25 September 1683 – 12 September 1764). (See Comédie-ballet, Wikipedia.)
We close with Rameau’s Les Indes galantes, which was not an opera but a turning-point in the history of ballet in the galant style. Specialists were now developing ballet.
Les Fâcheux (The Bores) the first comédie-ballet (1661)
Molière wrote eleven comédies-ballets, the first of which was Les Fâcheux (The Bores), created by Molière and Lully and performed at Vaux-le-Vicomte, Nicolas Fouquet’s magnificent castle. Fouquet invited a newly-crowned king Louis XIV to a lavish feast at Vaux, which took place on 17 August 1661, but Louis grew jealous. We have read that story. Louis XIV used ballets to cultivate the image of the Sun-King. Therefore, to a certain extent, ballet was put into the service of absolutism.