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