AT: Doctor Last in His Chariot; The Imaginary Invalid; The Would-Be Invalid A: Molière Pf: 1673, Paris Pb: 1674 Tr: 1769 G: Com. in 3 acts in French alexandrines; with prologue, entr'actes, and finale of song and dance S: Argan's home, Paris, 17th c. C: 8 m, 4 f, dancers and singersArgan is a hypochondriac, whose obsession with his health is willingly exploited by his doctor and his apothecary. His second wife, Béline, while pretending to be sympathetic about his ‘illnesses’, is only after his money, and wants to see her two stepdaughters confined in a convent. Argan would like his elder daughter Angélique conveniently to marry a doctor, but she is already in love with Cléante, who comes to the house disguised as a music teacher. Béralde, Argan's sensible brother, having failed to persuade Argan to let his daughter marry the man of her choice, plays a trick on Argan. He gets the feisty maid Toinette to disguise herself as a doctor, who recommends to Argan the amputation of an arm and the removal of an eye. Returning as herself, Toinette then convinces Argan to pretend that he is dead. Learning of her husband's ‘demise’, Béline is overjoyed, while Angélique is grief-stricken, so Argan throws out his wife and agrees that Angélique may marry Cléante, provided he becomes a doctor. Béralde, however, persuades Argan to take up medicine himself.
AT: Doctor Last in His Chariot; The Imaginary Invalid; The Would-Be Invalid A: Molière Pf: 1673, Paris Pb: 1674 Tr: 1769 G: Com. in 3 acts in French alexandrines; with prologue, entr'actes, and finale of song and dance S: Argan's home, Paris, 17th c. C: 8 m, 4 f, dancers and singers
In Molière's last play he explores one of his favourite themes, the person who makes himself ridiculous by taking what might be a sensible concern to absurd extremes. At the same time, Molière can make a barbed attack on the lack of scruples of the medical profession. It is the typically moderate and shrewd figure of the raisonneur in the form of Argan's brother, who helps to restore Argan to health and so permits the coming together of the lovers and the happy end required by comedy. That Béralde is helped in his plan by the lower-class figure of the maid Toinette draws on the Roman comedic tradition of servants who are wiser than their masters, and looks forward to a pre-Revolutionary figure like Figaro in Beaumarchais's plays. In one of theatre history's greatest moments of irony, Molière collapsed while playing the role of Argan during the fourth performance of the play and died the following evening.