The Misanthrope by Moliere, 1622

The Misanthrope
by Moliere, 1622

Main characters

Alceste - He is in love with Celimene and
very cynical about people and the way they act.

Celimene - She is conceited and shallow
being everything that Alceste dislikes in a person.

Philinte - He is a good friend of Alceste
but just the opposite in character since he is less frank and more sincere
towards others.

Arsinoe - She serves as a foil to Celimene
being just as clever but less shallow.

Minor Characters

Eliante - She is Celimene’s good and reasonable
cousin.

Oronte - He is in love with Celimene and
a writer of poetry.

Clitandre - He is another suitor trying
to gain the hand of Celimene.

Setting

Celimene’s apartment - There is very little
action and very much dialogue in this play which takes place in this apartment.

Plot

The play opens with a conversation between

Alceste and Philinte. Alceste shows himself to be very cynical about
the motives of people and Philinte shows himself to be very sincere believing
that people should be kind to each other even if it meant putting on a
false face. We learn this through Alceste’s and Philinte’s comments
on a poem written by their friend Oronte. Alceste thinks it is horrible
while Philinte thinks it is wonderful. Philinte also says that Alceste
was too blunt and could have softened his criticism. Later, Alceste
decides to go see Celimene and talk about their relationship. He
tells her that she should get rid of the rest of her suitors and she insists
that he is her only true lover. The rest of the suitors at Celimene’s
apartment believe the same as Alceste. As they are talking, Oronte
enters with the marshal who tells Alceste to apologize to Oronte about
the comments he made on his poem. Then Acaste and Clitandre argue
over who is the better lover for Celimene. After that situation,

Arsinoe comes in to confront Celimene about her personality. They
discuss the matter very heatedly and Arsinoe does not succeed in putting
down Celimene. Finally after these conversations, Alceste brings
a letter to the attention of everyone. It is a letter from Celimene
to Oronte. He tries to confront Celimene about it, but she denies
any such letter. Alceste wants to leave all these problems he is
having, but Philinte convinces him to stay and think everything through.

Then Oronte goes to Celimene to find out whom she truly loves and then
all of the others come in shortly after. While all of the characters
are together Acaste reads his letter from Celimene that discloses her feeling
about everyone. Once this was revealed, Clitandre and Acaste decide
that she is not worth their time so they leave. Oronte leaves her
with a few words and then Arsinoe tells her a thing or two. Alceste
forgives her and still wants to be with her. She really does not
want to be with him and then Alceste decides that she is really not worth
his time and he really does not like her. Philinte and Eliante decide
to get married and make it their duty to make Alceste happy.

Symbols

Alceste - He symbolizes the cynicism and
hypocrisy of the manners of the time.

Philinte - He symbolizes the sometimes
false goodness and friendship of people.
lawsuits - This represents irony and the
effects of telling the truth since Alceste is punished by Oronte with a
lawsuit for telling the truth.

Style

This is a French tragic comedy written
in Alexandrines which are couplets of 6 beats. It was translated
into English iambic pentameter with rhymed couplets. The strong beat
and rhyming of the dialogue flow well and enhance the supposed wit of the
characters.

Philosophy

This is a comedy of manners showing the
hypocrisy that the author saw in the court during his time. He shows
through the play that one should not be painfully frank all the time and
not always be insincere, either. One must find a balance between
the two where the truth can be conveyed with tact.

Quotes

Alceste, "Friends? Friends, you say?

Well, cross me off your list

I’ve been your friend till now as you
well know;

But after what I saw a moment ago

I tell you flatly that our ways must part.

I wish no place in a dishonest heart."

Alceste expresses his disapproval of the
way Philinte hugs everyone. Act 1, sc 1, ln 9-13.

Celimene, "She shows her zeal in every
holy place,

But still she’s vain enough to paint her
face."

Celimene talks about how Arsinoe fakes
religious piety while still being very vain.

Arsinoe, "I’ve ocular evidence which will
persuade you

Beyond a doubt; that Celimene’s betrayed
you."

Arsinoe tells Alceste that Celimene in
fact does not love him. Act