Leslie's Reviews > The Misanthrope

The Misanthrope by Molière
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Aug 30, 2011

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bookshelves: university-scholars, plays, college-books

The Misanthrope. A man who stands in total and painful contrast to the rest of society with its manners and customs. The play opens with Alceste rebuking his friend Philinte for the hypocrisy of effusive friendship when he really cares nothing for the person he was praising. Philinte tells him that decorum calls for us to not always speak what we really think of people. Alceste thinks the opposite. We should always say what we think of people, no matter the consequences. In fact, at the first opportunity, Alceste insults a man's sonnets and later gets into trouble for it but will not recant his opinion.
Alceste's frustration is always portrayed in his futile love for the coquettish Celimene, who is always home for any guest and who will always favor any suitor. However, she has plenty of negative things to say about those who are not present, and her suitors praise her for her judgmental criticisms--to Alceste's severe irritation. As certain as he is that his undying love for her will cause her to change her ways, he soon reaches the end of his rope in regards to her. First he finds a revealing letter and comes into a brawl with her, and then a more revealing letter is brought to light, resulting in the leave-taking of all of Celimene's suitors. Alceste hangs on, but even he realizes that her love for him does not come close to what he feels for her.
Although this play doesn't exactly have a happy ending (especially with the main character leaving his beloved and deciding to abandon all mankind because of its depravity and hypocrisy), there is a plentitude of hilarious and sarcastic dialogue. Among the jokes and ironies, there are also good lessons to be learned regarding honesty, friendship, love, vice, and virtue. Alceste's friend Philinte, though seemingly shallow at times, does appear to have a more moderate view on life. He accepts the fact that man has a fallen nature, but he believes that virtue is able to shine ever more because of that fact. In the end, he is the only one to get the girl--Eliante, who also happens to have a good head on her shoulders.
This is a short, easy, and enjoyable read. I definitely recommend.
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Reading Progress

03/09/2012 page 3
5.0% ""I find mankind so odious that I should hate to have it approve of me." --Alceste Philinte would be decorous and follow the customs of the age by telling everyone what they want to hear, but such propriety incenses his friend Alceste, who wishes people to just say what they think, no matter how insulting it is."
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