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The Misanthrope

by Molière

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,2681510,889 (3.71)19
This timeless comedy of manners is considered one of Moliere's most probing and mature works. While it's still an exemplar of 16th century farce, Moliere went beyond his usual comic inventiveness to create a world of rich, complex characters, especially in the cynical title character Alceste, played here by the Tony Award-winning actor Brian Bedford. This recording also includes an interview with Larry F. Norman author of ?The Public Mirror: Moliere and the Social Commerce of Depiction?. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Brian Bedford as Alceste; JD Cullum as Clitandre; Sarah Drew as Eliante; Martin Jarvis as Philinte; Darren Richardson as Basque and Du Bois; Susan Sullivan as Arsinoe; Nick Toren as Oronte; Matt Wolf as Acaste and Guard; Bellamy Young as Celimene.… (more)

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» See also 19 mentions

English (14)  French (1)  All languages (15)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Some months ago, I went to see Molière's play Le Misanthrope at the Théâtre du Ranelagh in Paris. I last saw it a few years ago but, with the help of age, I had forgotten some of the details. So, even if the production wasn't that great it was good to hear this masterpiece of social satire once again.

I won't repeat the whole plot of The Misanthrope, but here are some lines from the Wikipedia resume (Alceste is the misanthrope):

"The plot... involves a trial before the Royal Court of France that results from Alceste's refusal to praise Oronte's love poetry. Alceste typically refuses to dole out false compliments, and this is the practice that lands him in court. ...Philinte represents a foil for Alceste's moral extremism, and speaks throughout the first act of the play on the necessity of self-censorship and polite flattery to smooth over the rougher textures of a complex society. Alceste, on the other hand, believes that people should be completely honest and should not put on pretenses just to be considered polite in society. Alceste loses the court case. Eventually, Alceste's inability to cope with society and its inescapable affectations causes him to forsake the woman he loves..."

If Molière had not died long before Amazon.com came into existence I would have suspected him of plagiarizing some recent conversations I have seen in Amazon reader forums in which writers plug their books and solicit reviews. The forum conversations are usually genteel but they can get very catty if one contributor decides to post a negative one-star review of another writer's book to Amazon or post a 'spoiler' that will ruin the surprise ending.

The play thus shows that the dangers involved in reviewing another writer's work, or being reviewed oneself, are not new. Molière came in for an immense amount of both fair and unfair criticism in his time, so he was as well placed as any modern writer to understand the importance of harsh criticism. His skin was thicker than most because the actors and actresses of his time were considered so low on the social scale that they didn't have the right to be buried in hallowed ground. After his death Molière's body was thrown into the paupers' pit outside the Père Lachaise cemetery. ( )
  JohnJGaynard | Dec 31, 2018 |
I listened to this as part of the digital audiobook of "The Moliere Collection" - this was the 6th and final play of the collection, though I listened to it 5th.

The L.A. Theatre Works recording of this Richard Wilbur translation was excellent & the play is one of Molière's best. ( )
  leslie.98 | Dec 31, 2016 |
"... Everywhere I find nothing but base flattery, injustice, self-interest, deceit, roguery. I cannot bear it any longer; I am furious; and my intention is to break with all mankind.” – Alceste, Act 1, Scene 1

I started reading the book before election results; after the elections, these words take on a whole new meaning.

Alceste is the protagonist and the official “misanthrope” of the story. A straight-shooter and brutally candid, he criticizes the love verses of a fellow nobleman, Oronte, who takes him to court over such an insult. Meanwhile, the reader learns Alceste, Oronte, Acaste, and Clitandre all favor one twenty-year-old socialite – Célimène, who is charismatically vocal and a flirt. Meanwhile, Célimène’s jealous older friend, Arsinoé, pines for Alceste and adds salt to every wound she can find. Two characters, Philinte (friend of Alceste) and Éliante (cousin of Célimène) were the only two honest and faithful’s, who were rewarded with each other’s love.

Molière’s 1666 ‘The Misanthrope’ play is more focused on character development than plot progression. Having had two previous plays (‘Tartuffe’ and ‘Dom Juan’) banned by the French government, this one is typically viewed as one of Molière’s more restrained tales even though once again, the nobility is ridiculed (who then complains to the government). Officially a comedy, I must admit that I did not laugh once; I even winced. Reading this, I have visions of Kirsten Dunst in ‘Marie Antoninette’ in the role of Célimène. Surrounded by her admirers, Célimène criticizes various acquaintances as they all laugh at her verbal abuses for entertainment. To their surprise, dun-dun-dun, Célimène has a few choice words about them too, and they all abandon her. Despite Alceste with his misanthropic tendencies being the supposed humor of this comedy, I found some of his words as well as those of Philinte’s to be thought-provoking. When the world is going haywire, does it make sense to retreat and do a ‘Captain Fantastic’? As for Célimène, not an angel herself, she took the blunt of the hate, even though everyone had encouraged and endorsed her behavior. All in all, except for the last scene, this play had saddened me.

Some quotes:

On love:
Éliante: “…in the beloved all things become lovable. They think their faults perfections, and invent sweet terms to call them by. The pale one vies with the jessamine in fairness; another, dark enough to frighten people, become an adorable brunette; the lean one has a good shape and is lithe; the stout one has a portly and majestic bearing; the slattern, who has few charms, passes under the name of a careless beauty; the giantess seems a very goddess in their sight; the dwarf is an epitome of all the wonders of Heaven; the proud one has a soul worthy of a diadem; the artful brims with wit; the silly one is very good-natured; the chatterbox is good-tempered; and the silent one modest and reticent. Thus a passionate swain loves even the very faults of those of whom he is enamored.”

On virtue:
Philinte: “All human failings give us, in life, the means of exercising our philosophy. It is the best employment for virtue; and if probity reigned everywhere, if all hearts were candid, just, and tractable, most of our virtues would be useless to us, inasmuch as their functions are to bear, without annoyance, the injustice of others in our good cause; and just in the same way as a heart full of virtue.” ( )
  varwenea | Nov 13, 2016 |
A rather dark comedy, which reinforced my dislike of the main female character, which I acquired after seeing this play performed at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Though I adored the iambic pentameter. ( )
  ThothJ | Dec 3, 2015 |
A rather dark comedy, which reinforced my dislike of the main female character, which I acquired after seeing this play performed at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Though I adored the iambic pentameter. ( )
  ThothJ | Dec 3, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (58 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
MolièreAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Angué, FernandEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bishop, MorrisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bouton, Charles P.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Enzensberger, Hans MagnusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grebanier, Bernard D.N.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jasinski, RenéForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jourdain, Eleanor F.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manninen, OttoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mulrine, StephenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
van Laun, HenriTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wendel, W.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilbur, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wood, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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This timeless comedy of manners is considered one of Moliere's most probing and mature works. While it's still an exemplar of 16th century farce, Moliere went beyond his usual comic inventiveness to create a world of rich, complex characters, especially in the cynical title character Alceste, played here by the Tony Award-winning actor Brian Bedford. This recording also includes an interview with Larry F. Norman author of ?The Public Mirror: Moliere and the Social Commerce of Depiction?. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Brian Bedford as Alceste; JD Cullum as Clitandre; Sarah Drew as Eliante; Martin Jarvis as Philinte; Darren Richardson as Basque and Du Bois; Susan Sullivan as Arsinoe; Nick Toren as Oronte; Matt Wolf as Acaste and Guard; Bellamy Young as Celimene.

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