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Misanthrope


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AT: The Man-Hater A: Molière Pf: 1666, Paris Pb: 1667 Tr: 1762 G: Com. in 5 acts; French alexandrines S: Célimène's home, Paris, 17th c. C: 8m, 3fAlceste is totally committed to honesty and despises the hypocritical manners of his contemporaries. For example, he tells the poet Oronte precisely what he thinks of his poor verse, which determines Oronte to try to win Alceste's beloved Célimène from him. When Oronte and Alceste discover that Célimène has been dishonestly playing off one suitor against another, Oronte abandons her, while Alceste perversely continues steadfast in his devotion to her. News comes that, despite the justice of his cause, Alceste has lost a lawsuit. Characteristically, he refuses to appeal against the judgement, in order to prove yet again how corrupt the world is. Since he is obliged to leave Paris, he asks Célimène to come with him as his wife. She is willing to marry him, but only if they can remain in Paris society. Refused too by Célimène's cousin, Alceste prepares to depart angrily for the country, while his reasonable friend hopes to persuade him to stay.

AT: The Man-Hater A: Molière Pf: 1666, Paris Pb: 1667 Tr: 1762 G: Com. in 5 acts; French alexandrines S: Célimène's home, Paris, 17th c. C: 8m, 3f

The Misanthrope is the most complex of Molière's comedies, because here, although the main character behaves in an extreme fashion, his behaviour is not as reprehensible as that seen in The Hypochondriac or The Miser. Indeed, to a modern audience, as to Rousseau, Alceste seems a sympathetic figure when compared with the flatterers and hypocrites of contemporary Parisian society. However, the audience of Molière's day would have recognized that, while Alceste's devotion to the truth may be praiseworthy, his obsession with being outspoken and his willingness to adopt the role of victim is every bit as extreme as Argan's obsession with his health or Harpagon's with money. Thus, while Molière, who had just endured the banning of his Tartuffe and Don Juan, joyfully satirized the superficiality of Parisian society, Alceste is no hero. Indeed, he is more than likely to return to Célimène's salon, since part of the joke is that this hater of humankind needs people around him to provide an audience for his embittered diatribes.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Molière (1622—1673) French dramatist


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