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The Misanthrope: An Analysis of the Play Featured

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The Misanthrope: An Analysis of the Play


Introduction

The Misanthrope is a 17 century play authored by a popular French play writer Moliere. This play is just one among many forms of literatures created by Moliere.The original publication was in French but was later translated into other languages. The book revolves around the life of young man, Alceste, who have his faith and trust in humanity destroyed after witnessing corruption, injustices and hypocrisy that characterized the human society. Eventually, Alceste decides to disassociate himself with the human kind and live in solitude. The story in the play is fictitious and has a setting of Paris in the 17th century. The main objective of this peace of work was to portray as well as to condemn the injustices and hypocrisy that exist in society. Moliere is able to effectively achieve this objective through his design of characters within the play.


Summary of the Play

“The Misanthrope” is play that revolves around the story of the character, Alceste. Alceste is straight forward young man who has a very strict view point of the world and the society. He believes on being virtuous and makes no exception for any wrong doing or mistakes. The play begins with an argument between him and his friend Philinte. Philinte is more realistic and has a more flexible view of the world and other human beings. Philinte argues that sometime it is better to reserve some honesty in order to safe guard friendship and protect the feelings of other people. Alceste disagrees with Philinte views in favor of his own stand point. Alceste tells to Philinte how he had lost faith in mankind after witnessing the hypocrisy and corruption that characterizes the human society. He narrates how he had lost in a law suite though his case was just because the other party was corrupt and justice system compromised. This is what Alceste narrates to Philinte; “I have got justice on my side, and I lose my case! A wretch, whose scandalous history is well known, comes off triumphant by the blackest falsehood” (Act V Sc 1). Alceste unbending honesty is demonstrated when he criticized Oronte’s poems. He says this to Oronte concerning the poem; “Candidly, you had better put it in your closet. You have been following bad models, and your expressions are not at all natural” (Act 1, Sc 2). Philinte warns Alceste that such traits will land him more enemies than friends.


Alceste gets romantically involved with a young woman known as Calimene. Calimene is quite the opposite of Alceste. She is dishonest, flirtatious and hypocritical young woman who would do anything to gain the desired privileges. Besides Alceste, Calimene flirts with a host of other men including; Oronte, Acaste and Clitandre. Alceste eventually discovers of Calimene involvement of with these men which cause him to lose the little faith that had remain in him on humanity. Alceste resolved to cut all links with humanity and to live in solitude. Alceste says this to his friend “The age we live in is too perverse, and I am determined to withdraw altogether from intercourse with the world” (Act V Sc 1). He feels that he can no longer stay in a society where everybody around him is corrupt and hypocritical.


Analysis of the Play

As stated earlier the major themes that Moliere sort to address through the play was injustice, corruption and hypocrisy in the human society.  The objective of Moliere was to demonstrate and condemn how these vices have taken over the human society. Moliere is able to effectively communicate his themes across through a number of ways. One of them is through the play’s characters. Moliere choice and design of character effectively capture the themes he intended to communicate. All characters within the play were assigned traits that were a true representation of the society and which worked into demonstrating how things work in the society. Alceste is the misanthrope referred to by the title of the play. He is more direct, a plain speaker and intolerant to vices and hold firm opinion concerning all issues in the society. He is stricter with virtues such as honor, honesty and justice. In the play he says this to Philinte; “I like a man to be a man, and to show on all occasions the bottom of his heart in his discourse. Let that be the thing to speak, and never let our feelings be hidden beneath vain compliments” (Act 1, Sc 1). Alceste is a satirical character who represents a very small portion of the society who interpret things as either right or wrong and nothing in between.


Philinte is another main character in the play. He is a good friend to Alceste but unlike the later, Philinte is more realistic and take a reasonable view towards life’s issues. He is more tolerant to vices and societies short comings.  Close to Philinte was Eliante who was Philinte’s lover. She was also realistic and reasonable like her lover and their relationship is contrasted with that of Alceste and Calimene.  Moliere uses the two characters, Philinte and Eliante, to represent the larger part of the society which is made up of people who rationalize issues according to the prevailing circumstances. In the play, Philinte advices Alceste; “There are many cases in which plain speaking would become ridiculous, and could hardly be tolerated. And, with all due allowance for your unbending honesty, it is as well to conceal your feelings sometimes” (Act 1 Sc 1).  Philinte and Eliante represent the voice of reason within the society.


Alceste as character is contrasted with Celimene. Celimene is 20 years old woman who is also Alceste’s lovers. Celimene is described as a person who is vivacious, treacherous, hypocritical and very flirtatious. She would use every trick in order to get her way in life and did not mind to mingle with the bad and corrupt as long as it provided her with the mileage she was after. She has all the traits that Alceste despises but still Alceste becomes madly in love with her. Other characters include; Oronte, Acaste and Clitandre who are also interested in Celimene; Arsinoe who is interested in Alceste and Busque and Du Bois who are Celimene men servants.


Moliere uses these characters to represent different values within the society and the outcome of the interaction of these values. Alceste states that despite the truth being visible, he still lost in court due to corruption and lack of justice within the society. With this Moliere portrays how certain vices changes value systems of the society when allowed to take over. Moliere also communicates the message of the need for tolerance and reason in human relationships. The relationship between Philinte and Eliante was successful because they were both reasonable individuals. On the other hand, the love affair between Alceste and Calimene could not work because the former was least tolerant with human short comings. These characters are multidimensional and therefore project a more realist picture of the society.


Conclusion

The Misanthrope is a seventeenth century play written by French play writer Moliere. This play is centered on the life of Alceste who is referred to as the misanthrope. In this story, Alceste losses trust in mankind and decide to disassociate himself with man and live in solitude after witness the evil that men are capable of. Moliere uses this play to demonstrate and condemn the vices that exist in the society and within human relationships. Moliere effectively achieves this goal through his appropriate selection and design of characters within the play.


Reference

Moliere (2005). The Misanthrope. USA. Digireads.com Publishing


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