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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.


The Misanthrope provides examples of:

  • 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.
  • 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: Alceste, by his own choice. She offers to marry him, but by that point he's convinced that her love is less than genuine.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Éliante (though she denies it)
  • No Ending: The play ends with all but one plot thread unresolved. Philant and Éliante get together, but Alceste and Célimène are still at odds, Alceste's case hasn't been resolved, and Alceste is still threatening to abandon society and live in isolation.
  • 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.
  • Such a Phony: Célimène. She 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.

Alternative Title(s): Le Misanthrope


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