The Misanthrope

Definition

Theater

  • Molière's comedy about the hypocrisy of politesociety, first produced in 1666 in Paris. The bitterness of the playis thought to reflect the unhappiness of Molière's marriageto the actress, Armande Béjart (1641 - 1700), who was 20years his junior; the role of the insincere Célimènewas created for her.

    The misanthrope of the title is Alceste, a man blind to hisown frailties but so disgusted with the hypocrisy of his contemporariesthat he determines to reject society altogether. Unfortunately, he falls in love with Célimène, one of the most artificial and insincerewomen in Paris, who enjoys playing off Alceste and a rival. When Alceste decides to renounce polite society and go into solitary exile in the countryside, Célimène says that she will marry him as long as they can live in Paris. Alceste rejects this and, at the play's end, leaves for the country followed by friends who hope to change his mind.

    Modern English-language adaptations include those by Martin Crimp(1999) and Ranjit Bolt (2008).

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