The Misanthrope and Other Plays

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

Moliere, who built 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 quickly become obsessions, which inevitably replace any authentic response to life, thus causing delusion. One can easiliy see that delusion, in any form, prevents truth, and thus such efforts, be they foolish and satirical, or deliberate and, one could even say, more noble and goal 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 wants to rise above his station in life. He is merely a merchant - a member of the middle class, and his family neither dresses in the manner, nor partakes in the activities, of the higher social class. Nor are they interested in studying dance, fencing, music, or philosophy. Monsieur Jourdain, however, has his mind set on higher social...

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