Theatre / The Miser
aka: L Avare

The Miser (L'Avare), written in 1668, is one of the more famous plays by Molière.

The eponymous greedy miser is Harpagon, ruling his house with an iron hand, whose children are caught up in a number of complex love problems; son Cléante wishes to marry Marianne, whom Harpagon himself intends to marry, while daughter Élise loves Valère, who works in Harpagon's house in order to be closer to his beloved. Harpagon, however, intends to marry Élise off to old Mr. Anselme. As usually in comedies the children, with some help, try and find out a way out of the mess.

The play (translated by Charles Heron Wall) can be found on Project Gutenberg.

For the character archetype, see The Scrooge.

The play provides examples of:

  • A MacGuffin Full of Money: Harpagon's cash-box with ten thousand crowns.
  • Arranged Marriage: Harpagon arranges his daughter to marry a much older man, because he'd take her without dowry.
  • Aside Comment: Subverted—Snarky servant Flèche says a couple of such comments, only for Harpagon to actually hear them and ask who is Flèche talking to.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: As Harpagon is freaking out over the theft of his cash-box, he notices a "crowd of people", all of whom "look at [him] and laugh". Of course, Harpagon is on the edge of going insane with grief at this point.
  • Cargo Ship: Harpagon demands that Valere explain his odious crimes, obviously referring to the theft of his money. Valere, however, thinks Harpagon is talking about his wooing of Elise. Harpagon is so fixated on the stolen money that he takes unusually long to realize what's up, even when Valere begins talking of Elise's "fair eyes", "modesty," and "purity".
    Valere: All my desires were limited to the pleasures of sight, and nothing criminal has profaned the passion those fair eyes have inspired me with.
    Harpagon: (aside) The fair eyes of my cash-box! He speaks of it as a lover does of his mistress.
  • Cultural Translation: There is a scene where numerous worthless kitschy objects are listed, including "tapestry hangings representing the loves of Gombaud and Macée"; these were apparently characters from "an old comic pastoral" sometimes depicted on tapestries at that time. The Polish translation of the play (by Tadeusz Boy-Zelenski) replaces this with "...the courtings of Jupiter", which is much less hopelessly obscure to modern audiences.
  • Dowry Dilemma: Harpagon, the titular miser, is willing to marry his daughter off to a nobleman instead of the man she wants because he has accepted to marry her without a dowry, and his son to a rich widow.
  • Hypocritical Humour:
    Harpagon: Always money! I think they have nothing else to say except money, money, money! Always that same word in their mouth, money! They always speak of money! It's their pillow companion, money!
  • Insane Troll Logic: Frosine uses it in act II, scene VI in hopes of convincing Harpagon that marrying Marianne will give him "a clear twelve thousand francs a year", by listing all the expensive things that Marianne does not indulge in.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Pops up out of nowhere at the end, where Anselme turns out to be Valere's father, and Marianne his sister.
  • The Matchmaker: Frosine.
  • Mistaken Confession: On Valere's part, as noted in One Dialogue, Two Conversations, below.
  • Money Fetish: Harpagon.
  • Nervous Wreck: Harpagon throughout the entire play.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Harpagon and Valere's conversation about Valere's roguish thievery—Harpagon is convinced that Valere has stolen his cash-box and demands him to return that, while Valere is certain that Harpagon is talking of Valere's love for Elise (which Harpagon doesn't actually know of).
  • The Scrooge: Harpagon, who else.
  • Servile Snarker: Flèche and, even more so, Master Jacques (who gets beaten for it, twice).
  • Stealth Insult: Harpagon wants Elise to marry Mr. Anselme, because he'd take her without dowry. When Valère hears this, he comments: "When a man offers to marry a girl without a dowry, we ought to look no farther. Everything is comprised in that, and "without dowry" compensates for want of beauty, youth, birth, honour, wisdom, and probity." Harpagon takes it completely seriously.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Harpagon goes to great lengths to tell his son how he totally doesn't have a money-filled cash-box hidden.
  • Yes-Man: Valère acts like this towards Harpagon.

Alternative Title(s): L Avare