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Delusion and Demise: The Obsessions of Moliere’s Alceste and Monsieur Jourdain

Moliere, who constructed his reputation writing plays that satirize late 17th French society, develops two title characters in his dramas “The Would-Be Gentleman” and “The Misanthrope,” the former, Monsieur Jourdain who attempts to recreate his self image in order to be accepted into high society, and the latter, Alceste, who tries desperately and single mindedly to destroy such artificial constructs that bind society. The efforts of these two men speedily become obsessions, which inevitably replace any authentic response to life, as a result causing delusion. A single can easiliy see that delusion, in any type, prevents truth, and as a result such efforts, be they foolish and satirical, or deliberate and, one could even say, more noble and aim worthy, are doomed to end in defeat for they continually prove to be unreasonable and unreal.

The story of Monsieur Jourdain is the classic story of a man who desires to rise above his station in life. He is merely a merchant – a member of the middle class, and his loved ones neither dresses in the manner, nor partakes in the activities, of the larger social class. Nor are they interested in studying dance, fencing, music, or philosophy. Monsieur Jourdain, however, has his mind set on larger social standing. He wishes to surround himself with individuals who have already accomplished that status, such as the count, Dorante, and goes so far as to model their behavior. It quickly becomes apparent that Monsieur Jourdain’s efforts to do so are absolutely nothing quick of foolish, and in the end produce foolish results. While operating with his music master, he finds the songs also dismal, and decides to make a suggestion of his own: “Jenny was methought / As sweet as she was fair / Jenny was methought / as gentle as a lamb” (189).

Needless to say, this is a song that the larger social class would laugh at. Whilst the music and dancing masters continue to school Monsieur Jourdain for the money, they would significantly appreciate it if he had “a little much more understanding of what [they] lay on him” (186). His inability to comprehend crosses over to his fencing lessons, when soon after getting taught, he nonetheless does not comprehend how one “can be positive of killing his man and not being killed himself” (195). Also, Monsieur Jourdain’s education is so extremely lacking that his philosophy master, rather of teaching his philosophy, ends up teaching him the letters of the alphabet and the sounds that each and every one tends to make.

It soon becomes obvious that not only are Monsieur Jourdain’s efforts foolish, but they are also false. He not only is unable to understand what is being taught to him, but he has no interest in understanding it. He is merely looking for to have the appearance of one particular of higher social standing. As lengthy as he appears to do what the “qualilty” do, then there is absolutely nothing else of importance. For instance, his dancing master and music master are preparing a ballet for him, and he reminds them that this ballet is “for when the lady I’m going to all this bother for will be undertaking me the honour of dining here” (193). He is even prepared to employ the music master for a lot more hours simply because, in the words of the music master himself, “a gentleman such as [himself], living in style, with a taste for fine items, ought genuinely to be holding musical at-homes each Wednesday or Thursday” (193). The only reassurance he demands just before consenting is to know that this is “what the quality do” (193).

Monsieur Jourdain’s obsession quickly progresses from the trivial matters of dress and entertainment, to the more critical matter of income lending. When his wife questions his partnership with Dorante, Monsieur Jourdain replies: “If I hob-nob with the gentry, at least I show very good taste. It is greater than hanging about with your middle class crowd” (210). He is so wrapped in raising his social status that he is unable to see the accurate character of Dorante, which those around him simply find out. Madame Jourdain admits to her husband that Dorante is indeed great to him and shows him “such kindness,” however she is quick to add that he also “borrows [her husbands’s] cash,” and that his kindness is merely Dorante’s “way of obtaining about her husband” (211). However, Monsieur Jourdain’s obsession with his social status leaves him unable to respond to life in an authentic manner he is as well delusional to see what is quite clear to other folks – that Dorante is “milking [him] like a cow” and will not “be happy until he’s ruined” him (213).

Not only has Dorante tricked Monsieur Jourdain into “lending” him cash, but he has also tricked him into believing that he is assisting him to win the affections of Dorimene, when in truth he is soon after her himself. The “diamond ring that [he] entrusted to [Dorante] to give her as a present from [him]” is indeed given to her, but as a gift from Dorante himself (215). At this point, due to his obsession, Monsieur Jourdain is so entirely deluded that he will think something, no matter how outrageous or clearly deceitful, as lengthy as it is promised to lead to the elevation of his social status.

Monsieur Jourdain reaches the very bottom when he allows his obsession with social status to compromise his daughter Lucile’s happiness. When Cleonte asks for Lucile’s hand in marriage, Monsieur Jourdain does not ask him to say that he loves his daughter and will care for her now and always, but rather states: “Before I give you my answer sir, I ask you to tell me if you are of noble birth” (225). Not only does Cleonte honestly tell him that he “is not nobly born,” but he states that “it is an act of cowardice to conceal the estate to which it has pleased heaven as well get in touch with [one particular], to seem in the eyes of the planet decked out in a borrowed title and pretend to be what [one is] not,” which is specifically what Monsieur Jourdain has been undertaking (225). When his wife mentions the reality that his father was merely in enterprise, he brushes her comment aside, going on to vow that his daughter will be a marquise “even if the entire planet turns against [him]” (227). He is willing to sacrifice all of his relationships, even his connection with his daughter he is willing to sacrifice his daughter’s happiness for the sake of a noble title.

It is at this point, when Monsieur Jourdain has gone beyond basically embarrassing his family members, that Cleonte and his servant, Covielle, decide to take matters into their personal hands. Their strategy is to convince Monsieur Jourdain that the son of a Grand Turk, who in actuality is Cleonte himself, wishes to marry his daughter. Given his existing state of delusion, Monsieur Jourdain goes along with the charade with no even the slightest bit of persuasion being necessary. It is because of this delusion triggered by his obsession with social status that Covielle remarks, “if there’s a bigger fool than him anywhere on earth, I’ll shout it from the rooftops!” (252).

In contrast to the Alceste’s efforts, which can be labeled as far more noble, Monsieur Jourdain is satirical to the core. What else can 1 make the man whose efforts, prior discussed, are nothing quick of foolish? Monsieur Jourdain becomes so obsessed with achieving higher social standing that he becomes deluded and is unable to see the truth of what it would in fact need for him to raise his social status. As a outcome, he goes about it the wrong way, and his foolish efforts fail him miserably in the end, as he is tricked into condoning a marriage that he truly condemns. His efforts reflect on the society that has developed such a man, as effectively as the individual who recreated his life primarily based on such artificial principles.

It is since of this that Monsieur Jourdain is precisely the sort of man that Alceste would be disgusted by, as we can see from the extremely beginning of Moliere’s “The Misanthrope” when he is speaking to his pal, Philante:

You should be mortally ashamed of your self. What you did was totally inexcusable, and utterly shocking to any honourable man. I see you loading a man with each mark of affection, professing every single concern for his welfare… And then when he’s gone… Your enthusiasm dies with your parting and to me you speak of him as though he mattered nothing at all to you… If ever I had had the misfortune to do such a issue I’d go and hang myself on the spot out of sheer disgust… I anticipate you to be sincere and as an honourable man by no means to utter a single word that you do not actually mean. (95)

Alceste is shocked that his personal buddy would participate in the upholding of “the foolish manners of the age,” which Alceste is so adamant of ridding from society (96). He is obsessed with truth, and the artificial constructs present in society can't assistance truth, and hence he can not support society. He refuses to listen to Philante, who insists that “the planet [will not] modify its ways on account of anything” Alceste does (99). He merely brushes him aside when Philante explains these defects that Alceste finds in society as “inseparable from human nature,” and likens the notion to “vultures ravenous for carrion” (99).

However, Alceste is soon to turn into an example supporting this really concept. Philante points out that the lady Alceste loves, Celimene, embodies the really qualities that he loathes “her coquettishness and enjoy of scandal look to chime so nicely with the manners of the age” (100). However, he loves her in spite of her faults. He supposedly has no control over regardless of whether or not he loves her he “sees her faults, but it makes no difference” (100). Nevertheless, later on in his conversation with Philante, he admits that he would not adore her if he did not think that she loved him as effectively. With this statement Alceste is claiming that human nature does not have a hold on him, and he can love whom he pleases. If so, why does he love an individual who possesses the quite traits that he vows to invest his life fighting against? Alceste is fighting against the hypocrites of society even though he himself is 1.

Alceste’s obsession with correcting the “flaws” of society only deepens as time goes on. He progresses from mere hypocrisy concerning his adore for Celimene, to risking his personal effectively getting for the sake of his beliefs. Soon after creating demeaning comments regarding a sonnet of Oronte’s, who pleaded for his opinion, Alceste has been criminally charged and faces arrest. Even then, Alceste states that “nothing will make [him] go back on what [he has] said” (133). He goes so far as to say that he “will have practically nothing to do with mankind,” for “justice was on [his] side but he lost his case” (133-134). But instead of fighting the wrong that he believes has been accomplished to him, he wishes to let the verdict stand as “a notorious instance, a notable testimony, of the wickedness of [his] generation” (135). A single moment he wants to change society and the next he basically desires to point out its wrongdoing so that he will have the “right to denounce the iniquity of human nature and cherish an undying hatred of it” (135). Due to his obsession, Alceste no longer cares to do the noble factor and attempt to right society. Rather, he wishes to withdraw from society. Alceste is disgusted with human nature, and wishes to “never [be] incorporated among [its] quantity as lengthy as [he] reside[s]” (134). What he fails to realize in his state of delusion is that he himself remains human, and hence is topic to the extremely human nature which he abhors.

Therefore, while Alceste begins by fighting for a noble principle, his obsession with overcoming the artificial constructs of the hypocritical society in which he lives leads to the exact same delusional demise that Monsieur Jourdain falls victim to. Alceste’s goal, and even Monsieur Jourdain’s purpose of raising his social status, even though far-fetched, appear somewhat noble. Nevertheless, their efforts to reach their goals quickly grow to be obsessions, which replace any authentic response to life that they may have, causing them to turn into delusional. This leads to both men generating decisions that avoid them from reaching their objectives.

Functions Cited


Moliere. “The Misanthrope.” The Misanthrope and Other Plays. New York: Penguin Books, 2000. pp 95-142.

Moliere. “The Would-Be Gentleman.” The Misanthrope and Other Plays. New York: Penguin Books, 2000. pp 186-252.
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