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Theatre / The Misanthrope

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« L'ami du genre humain n'est point du tout mon fait. »
"The human race's friend is not the sort for me."
Alceste, Le Misanthrope

The Misanthrope, or The Malcontent in Love (Le Misanthrope, ou l'Atrabilaire amoureux) is a 1666 comedy of manners by Molière, written in the typical Alexandrine verse note  of the French classical drama. Alceste, the title character, looks down on the society, believing it hypocritical and disdaining the false compliments which are considered polite. Unfortunately, the very qualities which are horrifying to him are exemplified in Célimène, the woman he loves.

Some Hilarity Ensues, but the play also seriously points out human flaws.

For the general trope on misanthropy, see Hates Everyone Equally and Misanthrope Supreme.

The Misanthrope provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Arsinoé is in love with Alceste, who is not attracted to her. In the end, he tells her outright that he is not interested.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: In the beginning, Philinte is in love with Éliante, while Éliante is in love with Alceste and Alceste is in love with Célimène who has many suitors.
  • Beta Couple: Philinte and Éliante. They get together at the end, with no drama at all.
  • Brutal Honesty: Alceste endorses and applies this, getting him in a lot of trouble. For example, he tells Oronte that his poem is bad.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Philinte name-drops School for Husbands, another Molière play.
  • Chick Magnet: The three female characters, Célimène, Éliante and Arsinoé, are attracted to Alceste, in spite of his poor social skills.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Philinte and Éliante getting together at the end, providing the only honest relationship in the whole show.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: The protagonist, Alceste, ends up alone. He proposes to his Love Interest, Célimène, who would have accepted his offer if he had not demanded her to withdraw from the world with him.
  • Downer Ending: Alceste and Célimène have broken it off, and Alceste is still set on becoming a hermit. It doesn't help that the play ends so abruptly (see No Ending, below).
  • Foil:
    • The polite Philinte for the brutally honest Alceste.
    • Honest and loving Éliante for the (ultimately) two-faced Célimène.
  • Giftedly Bad: Oronte thinks that he is a talented poet and he publishes his poems, but his poetry is really bad according to Alceste and Célimène.
  • Grande Dame: The prude Arsinoé is an upper-class woman who complies with the social norms and criticizes frivolous women like Célimène.
  • Hates Everyone Equally: Alceste claims to feel this way, but in practice is simply honest with everyone equally. It's hard to say if he's actually any more malicious than the other characters, or if it just seems that way because he speaks his mind while they conceal it.
    Alceste: No, I include all men in one dim view:
    Some men I hate for being rogues; the others
    I hate because they treat the rogues like brothers.
  • Hopeless Suitor:
    • Célimène cultivates a herd of them. It's implied that she did like Alceste the best, but is just unwilling to give up on all the attention.
    • Éliante is one for Alceste, although she is perfectly aware of this and really wants him to be happy.
  • I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Philinte for Éliante, and Éliante for Alceste. Both are equally fine being the runner up to their beloved's preferred suitor.
  • Liar Revealed: Célimène accepts the advances of several men, and writes letters to them with notes on how stupid the other suitors are. This gets rubbed in her face in her final scene when they all confront her at once.
  • Love Triangle: Bordering on Love Dodecahedron, focused on two points:
    • Célimène, desired by (apparently) every man except Philinte
    • Alceste, the object of affection for Célimène (kind of), Éliante, and perhaps Arsinoé (though she denies it)
  • Moral Guardian: Arsinoé visits Célimène to inform her that many people criticize her for flirting with many men. Arsinoé suggests Célimène should reform.
  • No Ending: The play ends with all but one plot thread unresolved. Philinte and Éliante get together, but Alceste and Célimène are still at odds, and Alceste is still threatening to abandon society and live in isolation.
  • Noodle Incident: At the start of the play, Alceste is in litigation with an unnamed character for an unknown reason. In the end, we hear that he lost the trial, but we never hear of the identity of his opponent and the reason for the trial.
  • Opposites Attract: Alceste despises anyone who is polite instead of honest, but is in love with Célimène, who by the end of the play is revealed to be about as two-faced as they come. It's Lampshaded several times.
    Alceste: I see her faults, despite my ardent love
    And all I see I fervently reprove
    And yet I'm weak; for all her falsity,
    That woman knows the art of pleasing me
    And though I never cease complaining of her
    I swear I cannot manage not to love her
  • Protagonist Title: The title refers to Alceste, the protagonist.
  • Really Gets Around: Downplayed. Célimène accepts the advances of several men, and tells each of them that she loves him.
  • Serious Business: A police officer comes for Alceste because he told Oronte that his poem was bad. It seems that the police tries to mediate in this kind of conflicts.
  • Such a Phony: When she hears that Arsinoé is coming, Célimène castigates her. As soon as Arsinoé enters the room, Célimène pretends to be nice to her and says that she really enjoys her visit.
  • The Three Faces of Eve: Arsinoé (the "wife") is an older woman who complies with the social norms. Célimène (the "seductress") accepts the advances of many men. Éliante (the "child") is a younger, innocent woman.

Alternative Title(s): Le Misanthrope