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Fact and fiction in the legend of Molière

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A Thesis
Presented to
The Faculty of the Department of French
University of Southern California
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Arts
Anne Barasch
June 1941
UMI Number: EP57736
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T h i s thesis, w r i t t e n by
u n d e r the d i r e c t i o n o f h§.¥.. F a c u l t y C o m m i t t e e ,
a n d a p p r o v e d by a l l it s m e m b e r s , has been
presented to a n d accepted by the C o u n c i l on
G r a d u a t e S t u d y a n d Research in p a r t i a l f u l f i l l ­
m e n t o f the re q u ire m e n ts f o r the degree o f
MA STER.0 F....ARf8.
D ean
J B .E , 1941
Michaut, in his article "Moli&re dans son oeuvre,”
discusses at length evidence for and against sub.1ectivlsme
in Moli£refs works.
It is this article which aided me in
formulating my problem.
Michaut has also offered much
valuable material In his three books: la Jeunesse de Molifere.
le D6but de Molibre. and les Luttes de Molibre.
The work
of Larroumets JLa Com^die de Molifere has also been of in­
valuable assistance.
With Michaut and Larroumet as my chief guide I have
made an attempt to differentiate between fact and fiction.
The thesis is resolved into these questions:
Did Moli&re reveal
himself in his plays?
Did Moli&re reveal
himself as a misanthrope?
Did MoliSre reveal
himself as a hypochondriac?
Did Molifcre reveal himself as a Jealous husband?
Table of Contents
Introduction • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Chapter I
• • • • • • • !
Moli&re, R^v4lateur?
La Grange; le Boulanger de Chalussay; a course
of moderation; opinion of contemporaries; Moli&refs response in 1 1Impromptu de Versailles# . #1
Chapter II
Molibre, Misanthrope?
The r6le of Alceste; Molifere as a misanthrope;
Molibre as Alceste# • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Chapter III
Molikre, Malade imaginaire?
Accusation by Boulanger de Chalussay; comparison
of Argan
and Molibre: health, attitudetoward
awareness of condition; but de
Chapter IV
com^die. • 16
Moli&re, ffCoculf?
Accusations of Molibre*s contemporaries. • • #34
Armande’s infidelity as cause for
Molibre’s jealousy • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 3 9
Armande’s temperament as cause for
MoliSre’s jealousy • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Molibre’s self revelation • • • • • • • • • •
Conclusion • • • • • • •
Bibliography • •
• • • • • • • • • • • •
• • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Chapter I
Moli&re, R£v£lateur?
It has been suggested by many writers from the seven­
teenth century until today that Molibre presented himself
as well as his contemporaries in his plays.
Critics point
to his comedies as documentary evidence of his life and
But did Moli&re actually reveal himself in the r6les
he portrayed?
What has led people to search for him in
his comedies?
In 1682 an edition of Moli&re’s works was published
by the order of Armande, his widow.
The three collaborators
of the work were La Grange, whose Registre has so much
authority; Vinot, who is said to have been an intimate friend
of Moli&re; and Marcel, a eomedien who is said to have known
It is, so to speak, the edition sponsored by
Molibreis family.
The preface of this edition is a short biography by
La Grange and Vinot.
This biographical ’‘notice11, according
to Michaut, offers all the guarantees, and the affirmations
have an incontestable value.
Here the following statement
is to be found:
II CMoli^r^J observait les manf^res et les moeurs
de tout le monde; il trouvait moyen ensuite d*en faire
des applications admirables dans ses comedies, oil l ’on
1 Cf. Michaut, "Molibre dans son <Buvrew, Annales
de l fUniversity de Paris. Mars-Avril 1937, P. 133.
Molibre, R^vdlateur?
peut dire q u fil a jou6 tout 1© monde, puisqu*il s*y
est i0u<^ le premier en pluslers endroits, sur des
affaires de sa famille et qui regardalent ce qul se
passait dans son domestique. C*est ce que sea plus
particullers amis ont remarqud bien des fois.
Critics point to this statement as giving authority
for conjectures about the life of Moli&re as revealed in
his comedies;
all his plays.
they have launched a search for Molibre in
Michaut offers the following criticism of
these conjectures:
--Mais peut-Stre serait-il bon, m£me dans ce cas, de
s fen tenir au texte sur leauel on s*appuie* La Grange
a £crit "dans ses eomddies , non pas *dans toutes ou
presque toutes ses comedies*; il a 6cr±t fplusieurs
endroits* et non pas *partout ou presque partout1; il
a 6ovlt *bien des fois* et non pas ftoujours ou presque
toujours*. Pourquoi abuser ainsi de son t^moignage?
Pourquoi supposer que Moli&re n fa fait autre chose que
se peindre?^
Michaut offers an interpretation which seems to be in
accordance with the close reserve of the "Preface" and in
opposition to a subjective one.
Entre gens qui vivent ensemble dans une m£me maison,
il y a des malentuendus, des piques amicales, des quiproquos, des incidents ou petits accidents; il se fait des
repostes famili&res et amusantes; on se taquine sur des
manies, des gestes, des tics, des habitudes physiques:
toutes choses qui, reproduites telles quelles ou ldgdrement ddform^es, peuvent £tre u t i l i s e s dans une comddie
pour faire rire les spectateurs.5
He suggests, that it would be well to ask whether Armande
would have accepted this "Preface" if the subjective inter-
3 Reprinted in Despois, CEuvres de Molidre (Paris,
Hachette et Cie, 1873—
), Vol. I, P. xv-xvi.
Michaut, loc. clt.
Ibid.. P. 135.
Moli&re, R£v£Lateur?
pretation were true#
Would Armande have accepted the in­
sinuation that her traits and characteristics were presented
on the stage in the rdles of Angelique or C&Limdne?
Armande have been fool enough to tolerate insinuations of the
sort which place her reputation at stake?
The validity of Michaut*s argument cannot be denied#
Hence, the statement made by La Grange and Vinot gives no au*
thority to look for Molibre in each of the characters he
Other contemporaries of Moli&re have pointed out his
resemblance to specific characters but none have attested
to the general revelation of Moli^re in all or in the majority
of his plays#
It may be concluded that there is insufficient
evidence for the hypothesis that Moli&re presented a selfportrait in his comedies#
In fact, there is evidence to the contrary: that Molibre
did not reveal himself in his plays.
Of primary importance
is the statement made by Le Boulanger de Chalussay, his
He states in the preface to his play, Elomire
hypocondre# that the only self-portrait of Moliere had never
been revealed to the public and that this portrait had been
destroyed by Moliere himself#
#.##tous ces portraits q u fil a exposes en vue k toute
la Prance n*ayant pas eu une approbation g£n£rale comme
il s*est enfin r^solu de faire le sien et
de 1*exposer au public.#.. II a done fait son portrait, il a
promis plus d ’une fois de l*exposer
en vue..#car il y a longtemps q u ’il a dit en particulier
et en public q u ^ l s fallait jouer lui-m&me•.• j *ai appris
que, pour des raisons qui ne me sont pas connues,••#ce
fameux Peintre a pass£ 1 !Sponge sur ce tableau, qu*il
Molifcre, Rdv4lateur?
en a efface tous les admirables traits, et qu’on
n 1attend plus la vue de ce portrait qu1inutilement*
Le Boulanger de Chalussay, in his play, accuses Molifere
of being a hypochondriac and includes other slanderous accu­
sations made against him.
Since the tone of this play,
Elomire hypocondre, is definitely, antagonistic, then any
statement made to the advantage of Molifere would seem to be
the necessary admission of existing fact.
Therefore it may
be concluded from this preface that up to 1670 (date of publi­
cation of Elomire hypocondre) Moli&re had never presented a
self-portrait to the public.
Furthermore, that such a self-
portrait ever existed cannot be proven.
One fact remains;
in 1670 no such portrait of Moli&re existed.
There is another point of evidence;
upon examination
of Moli&re*s plays it can be seen that he continuously
returns to ”le juste milieu” and f,le bon sens” and that he
advocates this course of moderation with a good deal of
intensity— these ideas being placed in the mouths of sympa­
thetic characters.
Emphasizing this philosophy still more,
Moli&re shows that those who digress from the middle road
are always ridiculous.
And as he pointed out in the preface
to Tartuffe:
Les plus beaux traits d Tune s^rieuse morale sont
moins puissants le plus souvent que ceux de la
satire; et rien ne reprend mieux la plupart des
hommes que la peinture de leurs d^fauts. C !est une
6 Le Boulanger de Chalussay, Preface de Elomire hypocondre t com^die. Extract reprinted in Michaut, Molifere,
racont«f par ceux qui l*ont vu.
(Paris. Librairie Stock. 1932).
P. 164.
Molidre, R^v^lateur?
grande atteinte aux vices que de les exposer & la
risde de tout le monde. On souffre ais^ment des
reprehensions, mais on ne souffre point la raillerie.
On veut bien etre mechant, mais on njs veut point etre
Moli^re probably shared that human characteristic of not
wishing to appear ridiculous.
Furthermore, the characters which Moli&re portrayed are
the very ones which are made to appear ridiculous in his
It would hardly seem logical, in view of the above
statement appearing in the preface, to assume that Molibre
made fun of himself.
Therefore, why suppose that the ridicu­
lous characters which he portrayed were created with himself
as a model?
The statement of the preface can almost be
regarded as a refutation of the supposition that Moli^re pre­
sented a self-portrait.
Even had the accusations against Moli^re been true, what
gives modern critics the right to assume that by examining
his plays they would find a revelation of his life?
There are
in fact statements that Moli^re did not create portraits by
means of his characters.
Donneau de Vis£ who was a fervent
attacker of Moli&re wrote:
ce sont des portraits de la nature qui peuvent
passer pour originaux.
II semble qufelle (la nature)
y parle elle-m&me. Ces endroits ne se rencontrent pas
seulement dans ce que Joue Agn^s, mais dans les r$les
de tous ceux qui jouent £ cette piece. Jamais comd'die
ne fut si bien repr^sent^e ni avec tant d'art; chaque
7 Preface reprinted by Despois et Mesnard, CE uvres de
MoliSre, IV, 577-378.
Molifere, R^v^lateur?
acteur salt combien 11 y doit faire de pas et toutes
ses oeillades sont compt^es.
According to de V ls4, it is Nature which is revealed in
Moli&refs plays.
In other words Moli&re has made each char­
acter true to life but not a physical revelation of any of
his actors.
In fact de Vis^ denies Moli^rets ability to
paint true portraits:
Quoique ce peintre se vante de travailler d'&pr^s
nature, ce n fest toutefois quft*n fort mauvals copiste.
Les portraits q u fIl fait ne sont pas si ressemblants
que le vulgaire se persuade; et quoique l !on publie
qu1il d^peint bien des gens de qualit^, je n'ai encore
rien vu dans ses peintures qui leur ressemble.9
Here is an enemy of Moli^re who accuses him of being a
"cocu" and yet is not able to use M o l i d r e ^ plays in support
of his accusation.
Wouldnft it have been to de Vise!s advan­
tage to have been able to point to Moli^reTs plays and say:
tfYou yourself have revealed a 'Koli^re, Cocu1”?
His not being
able to avail himself of this argument may be an impressive
guarantee that there Is no revelation of Molibre in his
Another of M o l i ^ r e ^ contemporaries holds the opinion
that there Is no specific revelation in Moli&re!s plays.
II n fest pas impossible que Molidre ait travaill^
sur quelque original; mais, comme ces portraits
8 Donneau de Vis£, Nouvelles nouvelles. Extract
reprinted by Michaut, Moli&re, racont^ par ceux qui l*ont
v u , P. 54.
9 Donneau de Vis6, Z^llnde , comd'dle. Extract
reprinted in Michaut, Moll&re racontd par ceux qui lfont
vu, P. 68.
Moli&re, R6v£lateur?
ressemblent h mille personnes, il y a plus
d fapparence q u Tils ont eu pour principe des
observations g^n^rales.
A most curious statement is to be found in 1 TImpromptu
de Versailles.
It seems that here Moli&re speaks for him­
self as well as for the director in the play.
Michaut says:
!,Moli^re a expliqu^, avec beaucoup de nettete et de fermet^,
dans 1 TImpromptu de Versailles, conune il entendait se conduire envers ceux qui l fattaqueraient dans se vie priv^e:
La courtoisie doit avoir des bornes et il y a des
ehoses qui ne font rire ni les spectateurs, ni celui
dont on parle,
Je leur abandonne de bon coeur mes
ouvrages, ma figure, mes gestes, mes paroles, mon ton
de voix, et ma fagon de reciter, pour en faire et
dire tout ce qu'il leur plaira.... Mais, en leur
abandonnant tout cela, ils me doivent faire la gr£ce
de me laisser le reste et de ne point toucher & des
mati^res de la nature de celles sur lesquelles on
m fa dit qu'ils m fattaquaient dans leurs comedies.
C ’est de quoi je prierai fort civilement ce honn^te
Monsieur (Boursault), qui se m£le d'^crire pour ©ux,
et voilil toute la response qu111s auront de m o l .
If these lines are truly spoken in behalf of Moli&re
himself, then this speech seems to be the focal point of his
response to his enemies.
To their criticism he submitted
”Moli&re, auteur, com^dien, directeur” but no more.
It is
Impossible to determine whether this statement, made in
1663, remained his answer to the insinuations thrust at him
throughout his life.
10 Philippe de la Croix, La Guerre Comlque. Extracts
reprinted in Michaut, MolISre, racont4 par ceux qui 1 1ont
v u , P. 128.
11 Cited with italics by Michaut, Debuts de Moll&re,
(Paris, Librairie Hachette et Cie, 1925), P. 159.
Molidre, R^v^lateur?
On further analysis, it would seem that Moli^re did
not transplant whole situations from life to the theatre
since he offers his work to criticism, while yet pleading
for the cessation of discussion about private matters*
Michaut asks whether Moliere would have dared to express
himself thus if his enemies could have declared:
Nous ne parlons que de choses sur lesquelles
vous vous §tes confess^ publiquement. Nous ne
faisons que montrer du doigt dans vos comedies
l ’homme priv£ que vous y avez publiquement r^vel^. 2
In the light of this declaration, if indeed it was meant
as a response to his public, Moliere*s plays should be
interpreted with an objective attitude*
l,Moli&re dans son oeuvre11, P* 144*
Chapter II
Moli&re, Misanthrope?
Did Mollfcre reveal himself as a misanthrope?
To answer
this question, three problems must ;be investigated.
Moli&re portray the r&le of Alceste?
Was Moli'bre actually a
Did he reveal himself as Alceste?
As proof that MoliSre played the role of Alceste,
“l'homme aux rubans verts” , M. Souli6 has recorded the inven
tory of the costume:
Une...bo1^te oV sont les habits de la representation
du Misanthrope, consistant en haut-de-chausses et
juste-au-corps de brocart ray^ or et soie gris,
double de tabis, garni de ruban vert; la veste de
brocart d !or; les bas de soie et jarreti^res.i
Having thus established the fact that Moli&re portrayed
the r6le of Alceste, it is important to discover whether he
was actually a misanthrope before determining if he revealed
himself in Alceste.
According to Larousse, the definition
of the term "misanthrope” is as follows:
le genre humain.
"Individu qui halt
Par extension, homme bourru, d*humeur
There are several reliable references to Moli&re’s
From this evidence it can be deduced whether or
not Moli&re was actually a misanthrope.
described Molibre as follows:
Mile Poisson
”A l f£gard de son caractdre,
1 Inventory found in Documents de Recherches sur
Moll&re, P. 276. Cited by Despois et Mesnard, CEuvres de
Moll&re» V, 398.
MoliSre, Misanthrope?
il ^tait doux, complaisant, g^n^reux.
II aimoit fort k
An additional reference to Molibre!s character is to be
noted in the preface of the 1682 edition of his works:
Ainsi il se fut remarquer \ la cour pour un homme
civil et honnSte, ne se pr6valant point de son m^rite
et de son credit s 1accommodant Ik l'humeur de ceux
avec qui il d'toitHbbllg^ de vivre , ayant l'Hlme belle,
lib^rale: en un mot, poss?dant et exerjant toutes les
qualit^s d ’un parfaitement honn^te homme.3
Chappuzeau also writes a short paragraph in regard to
Moli^re’s character:
Mais outre les grandes qualitez necessaires au
PoSte & a l fActeur, il possedoit celles qui font
^honneste homme; 1JL estolt genereux & bon ami ,
cluil & honorable en toutes ses actions , modeste
receuoir les 61oges qu’on luy donnoit s^auant sans
le vouloir par£tre, & d fune conuersation si douce &
si ais4e, que les premiers de la Cour & de la Vllle
estoient rauis de 1*entretenir. Enf in il auoit tant
de zele pour la satisfaction du Pub 11c .~~cTont IT se
vovoit aim£. &, pour le bien de la Troupe qui n f¥toit
soutenfte que par ses trauaux, qufll tascha tout sa
vie de leur en donner des marques indubitables.4
From the above descriptions of Moli^re’s character it
can readily be seen that he was not a misanthrope.
2 From a letter inserted in the Mercure de France, mai
1740. This letter was reprinted by les Fr&res Parfaict who were
acquainted with Mile Poisson as shown by biographical nota­
tions. They establish in some measure the authenticity of
this letter which bears no signature. At the death of
Molifcre however Mile Poisson was only 7 years old. Comment
by Despois et Mesnard, ojq. cit. . Ill, 383.
3 From the preface of the 1682 edition as reprinted by
Despois, CBuvres completes» I, xv,
4 Chappuzeau, Le Th^ttre francois. (Paris, Jules
Bonnassies, Librairie^Editeur, 1876. Reprinted from 1674
edition), Book III, chapter xxix, B. 126.
Moli&re, Misanthrope?
Furthermore Ashton points out that the way in which Moliere
conducted his life is ample proof that he could not have been
the model for this aspect of Alceste:
His speech to the King and Court on the occasion
of his first appearance in Paris after the Provincial
period, his dedications, his petitions to the King,
his verses of thanks, the very accusations of his
rivals that he was an intriquer, all go to prove that
he was quite willing to practice the usual social
If Moliere was not a misanthrope, can Alceste be a rev­
elation of Moliere?
It is true that he introduced into the
play a specific reference to his own height:
addresses Alceste as flmon petit Monsieur” and the other
retorts with ”mon grand Monsieur” .
As proof of the correct­
ness of this assumption, Larroumet points to a portrait of
the actors in this play, called Les Farceurs, in which
Moliere is shown to be shorter than the other actors.^
A contradictory piece of evidence is to be found in
Mile Poisson1s letter in the Mercure de France. Mile Poisson
5 Ashton, Moliere, (New York, E. P. Dutton & Co.,
1930), Pp. 105-106.
Le Misanthrope, Act I, scene ii, lines 433-434.
7 Statement by Larroumet, La Com4die de Moliere,
(Paris, Librairie Hachette et Cie, 1909), P. 308. Reproduc­
tion of fragment by Leopold Lacour does not show the height
of Moliere as compared with other actors in foreground.
Cf. Moliere Acteur, (Paris, Librairie Felix Alcan, 1928)
P. 65, Plate III.
Cf above, note 2 of this thesis.
Moliere, Misanthrope?
the daughter of the actor de Croisy, depicted from memory the
physical traits of Moliere whom she had seen at the age of
f,il avoit la taille plus grande que petite."^
Mile Poisson has recorded a little glrlfs impression of
Moliere, it is entirely possible that her memory of the actor
had become v a g u e , o r
the apparent contradiction may be
explained by the realization that to a little girl even a
short person would seem taller in proportion to her.
As for "Alceste, misanthrope," it is entirely possible
that Moliere did not even originate the character.
would eliminate the hypothesis that Moliere1s own personality
suggested to him the role of the misanthrope.
Mesnard points
to a note in the manuscript of Trallage, one of Molierefs con­
"Cfest une accusation de plagiat bien complet",
writes Mesnard.
He states further:
Le sieur Angelo, Docteur de l Tancienne troupe
italienne, avait parl£ & Moliere d fune com^die jou^e
h. Naples sous le titre du Misanthrope et lui avoir
rapport^ tout le sujet "et m£me d fun homme de cour
faineant, qui s famuse V crocher dans un puits pour
faire des ronds... Trois semaines ou tout au plus
tard un mois apr^s, on repr^senta cette pi^ce (celle
de MoliSre) . H
Cited Despois et Mesnard,
c l t . , III, 578.
10 The letter was written some 67 years after the death
of Moliere.
Despois et Mesnard,
cit., V, 415
Moliere, Misanthrope?
It is to be remembered however that du Trallage was one among
Moliere1s contemporaries who thrust slanderous accusations at
Is this accusation of plagerism founded on fact?
Professor Oliver nevertheless believes that ”in some
degree, Alceste1s misanthropy represents one of the aspects
of Molierefs nature,”
The same view is held by the modern
critic Fernandez who believes the character of Alceste is
not fully understandable unless one assumes that Moliere him­
self was the basis of this r$le.
He suggests that the
character of Alceste was created by Moliere as an Outlet for
his own resentment toward society.
It -would be advisable to
quote his argument here in fulls
Le Misanthrope est une tr&s grande oeuvre parce
q u fAlceste s ’enerve et s*emporte sur des futilit^s,
Imaginez un homme accabl^ de besognes et de soucis
et en m§me temps oblig£ par sa situation de faire
bonne figure au monde, Imaginez-le souriant aux
F^cheux qui l fexcbdent, arr&te dans les coins par des
bavardes inutiles,
Imaginez enfin que cet homme, par
la gr£ce du g^nie, cr£e un personnage dont l fhumeur
et le franc-parler le d^livrent, lui de ces col^res
qu’Il est contraint de dissimuler. Vous concevez
qu 1II s fen paiera un bon coup, qu!il cassera les v^tres,
qu fil lancera Alceste dans ce jeu de quilles, Le seul
ddfaut du Misanthrope c fest que l fhumeur d 1Alceste ne
soit pas sufisamment justifi^e. On s f^tonne q u ftin
oisif ais£ ait pu accumuler tant de bile.
II n fest
que de placer Moliere dans la perspective d fAlceste pour
tout ^clairer. Alceste est devenu furieux parce qufll
a beaucoup travaill^ dans des conditions diffIdles.
12 The writer has found no further mention of this
possible source of the Misanthrope♦
13 Preface to Misanthrope, Edition Oliver, (New York,
Henry Holt & Co., 1931), Pp. xxii-xxiii.
Moliere, Misanthrope?
Parce quTil a du beaucoup prendre sur lui, 11 se
d^livre d !un coup. Alceste, c !est Moliere avec
les permissions que Moli&re n !avait p a s .
One would conclude that the Misanthrope was merely a guise
for Moliere1s attack on society.
However this suggestion of
Fernandez is mere hypothesis with no fact to substantiate it.
If the critic finds insufficient reason to explain the bit­
terness of Alceste, surely he would find less reason to
assume that this bitterness was characteristic of Molidre.
It is hardly likely that a man who has a tendency toward
misanthropy would write comedies to amuse the people as
Molidre had done.
No, the basic trait of Alceste, his mis­
anthropy, Is not a revelation of Moliere.
Even the statements of MoliSre's contemporaries and of
critics of the early eighteenth century do not indicate that
MoliSre was the model for Alceste.
They propose the Due de
Montausier as the model for the misanthrope.
However this does not eliminate the possibility that
MoliSre introduced something of his own nature into the char­
acter of Alceste.
Nevertheless It would be difficult to
determine the extent of correspondence between the author and
14 Fernandez, f,A propos de Moliere," La Nouvelle Revue
frangaise, (Paris) ler fevrier, 1957, P. 276.
15 Statement made In the following works:
Olivet, Histoire de l fAcademie frangaise, Edition of 1729, II, 158.
Saint-Simon, Journal de Dangeau, II, 126.
Segralsiana, p . 65.
Mdnagiana, Edition of La Monnoye, 1729, IV, 8.
As cited by Despois et Mesnard, 0£. cit. , V, 387-588.
Chapter III
Moliere, Malade Imaginaire?
Molilre was accused of being a hypochondriac and repre­
senting himself as the ”malade imaginaire.”
These conjectures
are based on a contemporary pamphlet, Elomire hypocondre,
already mentioned in another regard.
The caustic and seeming­
ly well-informed author, le Boulanger de Chalussay, presents
material of a rather controversial nature, beginning with
the title which immediately suggests the a u t h o r ^ concep­
tion of Moliere.
This title, Elomire hypocondre, seems to
be interpreted "Moliere malade imaginaire •”^
Le Boulanger de Chalussay indicates In the preface of
his play that he is presenting a portrait of Moliere— further­
more, a portrait patterned after the obliterated one Moliere
himself had created:^
II y a longtemps q u Til a dit, en particulier et en
public, q u !il s !alloit jouer lui-meme, et que ce
seroit 1& que l !on verroit un coup de ma'itre de sa
fagon.... J !ai appris que pour des raisons qui ne me
sont pas connues, mais que je pourrois deviner, ce
fameux peintre a passe l ’eponge sur ce tableau....
Je me suis consol^ d Tune si grande perte; et, afin
de le faire plus aisement, j!ai ramasse toutes ces
idees dont j ’avois forme ce portrait dans mon imagi­
nation, et j 1en ai fait celui que je donne au public,^
Elomire is an anagram of Moliere.
2 Whether such a portrait ever existed is entirely
3 Preface reprinted by Michaut, Moliere, raconte^ par
ceux qui liont vu, Pp. 163-64.
Moli&re, Misanthrope?
his character.
Several critics have suggested that Moliere
took his material where he found it and from it created an
original character.
Mesnard says:
... .1© po§te choississait et copiait de bien des
c6t6s; et puis, voilk surtout ce qu’il ne faut pas
oublier, son imagination cr^atrice dominait, transformait tous ses souvenirs et les combinait dans
une forte unit^.l®
This same idea is expressed by Victor Cousin:
Le Misanthrope n fest la, copie d ’aucun original.
Bien des originaux ont pose devant le grand contemplateur et lui ont fourni mille traits particuliers;
mais le caractere entier et complet du Misanthrope
est sa creation.1^
Michaut writes:
•. • .un personnage d finvention, pour lequel Moliere
aura emprunte A la vie les traits qui convenaient
a son dessein; fait de mille ’originaux1, il ne
represente aucun d ’eux en particulier.l®
The interpretation that Moliere v/as an eclectic in com­
posing the character of Alceste, as proposed by the above
critics, seems wholly in accordance with the existing
The genius of Moliere lay in his ability to form
a wholly realistic and integrated character.
if he borrowed certain small traits from his own personality,
his very genius would render it impossible to determine
where such a resemblance began and ended.
No, Alceste the
misanthrope is not Moliere.
Despois et Mesnard, ojo. cit., V, 386.
Cited by Despois et Mesnard,
18 Michaut, Luttes de Moliere,
Hachette et Cie, 1925), P. 245.
cit., V, 380
(Paris, Librairie
Moliere, Malade imaginaire?
In the play itself,
there are several indications that
the leading character, Elomire, is a hypochondriac.
Isabelle (sa femme)
Et Lazarllle et vous,
Si vous vous croyez maigre et pale, etes deux fous;
Vous dormez comme un pore, vous mangez tout de meme;
Qui diant re done pourrait vous rendre maigre et bleme?
... Je me crois bien malade,
Et qui croit l !etre, l ’est...^
In another scene of the play, a pretended doctor examines
pretended patients in the presence of Elomire; he says to
one of them:
Monsieur, vous vous croyez etique et jDulmonique;
Mais vous vous abusez: vous &tes frenetique,
Autrement hypocondre.*
These words are meant for Elomire, or rather for Moliere.
Larroumet is of the opinion that Moliere was really a
(His conclusion is based essentially on the
work of Maurice Raynaud, Les Md'decins au temps de Moliere,
of which he quotes neither the evidence nor the conclusions.)
"Ce qui me parait aussi certain, c !est que, a ces maux
physiques, vint se joindre une affection morale, l*hypocondrie” , he says.
Further he remarks that it is simply a
4 Extracts of play, Elomire hypocondre, reprinted by
Michaut, o p . cit . , Pp. 165-197.
Act I, scene i.
Act III, scene ii.
Moliere, Malade imaginaire?
state of pitiful anxiety, provoked by an illness real or
imaginary which cruelly corrupts its victims without fundamentally affecting the intelligence.
Even judging by this
definition, Moliere could not have been called a hypochon­
driac, and it must be realized that Moliere’s concern has
every justification.
In the seventeenth century with medi­
cine in its state of uncertainty each patient was an
Another criticism is this:
the interpretation of
Larroumet is not in accordance with the accusation of the
Boulanger de Chalussay, nor with Moli&re1s comedy.
Elomire hypocondre. there is definitely an implication of
imagined illness and not expressed concern over an actual
state of weakness.
There can be no doubt about the follow­
ing statement intended for Elomire:
Monsieur, vous vous croyez etique et oulmonique;
Mais vous vous abusezj vous §tes frenetique,
Autrement hypocondre.®
According to the author of Elomire hypocondre, a hypo­
chondriac is quite healthy while believing himself to be
ill; he is unaware that his illness is imaginary; he does
not realize that he is an exaggerated and ridiculous
The "Malade imaginaire'1 of Moliere!s play ex­
hibits the same characteristics as Elomire in the play of
Cf. Larroumet, La Comedie de Moliere. P. 347.
Moliere, Malade imaginaire?
Boulanger de Chalussay.
Moliere1s entire play carries this
note of a perfectly healthy man who is the victim of those
who exploit the terrors of illness.
But was Moliere a hypochondriac?
with Argan?
Can he be compared
Of primary importance is the comparison of
health of both Argan and Moliere.
Argan1s saying ff.. .me
voyant infirme et malade comme je suis...” prompts Toinette
to ask !fest-ce que vous etes malade?”
” je suis malade, impudente?”
appease Argan concedes:
Argan replies:
Toinette seemingly to
” ...oui, monsieur, vous etes
malade, n fayons point de querelle la-dessus; oui, vous etes
fort malade, j fen demeure d 1accord, et plus malade que vous
ne pensez... 57 Is Toinette trying to indicate that Argan is
a hypochondriac; is it in this way that he is more ill than
he thinks?
Mesnard suggests in a footnote:
”Nous croyons
que Toinette entend parler de cette maladie, des medecins
dont Beralde tentera de guerir son frere au troisieme acte.”
At any rate it is a rather definite indication that Argan
believes himself to be ill.
In the second act there is a passage which shows quite
clearly that if Argan is ill it is an illness which exists
in his mind.
Acte I, scene v.
Moliere, Malade imaginaire?
Monsieur je suls ravi de vous trouver debout
et de voir que vous vous portez mieux.
Toinette, feignant d'etre en colere:
Comment ”qu'il se porte mieux”?
Monsieur se porte toujours mal.
Cela est faux:
J fai oui dire que Monsieur etoit mieux, et
je lui trouve de bon visage.
Que voulez-vous dire avec votre bon visage?
raarche > d ort, mange et boit tout comtne les
autre s ; mais cela n'empeche pas qufil ne so it fort
malade . H
It is true that Argan seems to have only the fear of illness,
while he eats, sleeps and drinks like any normal man.
then is deserving of the title Malade imaginaire.
The state of Moliere*s health can be determined by
considering the available evidence. Larroumet
attention to the fact that six months after the first pre­
sentation of 1 TAmour medecin, on February 21, 1666, Robinet
informs us that Moliere had been gravely ill.
It is at this
time that the first indications of his failing health are
Act II, scene ii.
C f . La Comgdle de Molllre. P. 343.
Moliere, Malade imaginaire?
Je vous diray, pour autre avis,
Que M., le Dieu du ris
Et le seul veritable Morne
Dont les Dieux n ’ont qu*un vain Pantome,
A si bien fait avec Cloton
Que la Parque au gosier glouton
A permis que sur le Theatre
Tout Paris encor l*idol&tre.
Oui, tel est le D^cret du Sort,
Qui, certe, nous oblige fort,
Que du Comique ce grand Mal'tre
Dans quelques jours poCirra paral!tre. ^
In the month of April, 1667, Robinet indicates a cur­
rent rumor that Moliere was ill, however he himself believed
that it
was merely one of Moliere*s ruses.
graph about Moliere is
His short para­
extremely perplexing.
Inthe second
paragraph he wonders about the validity of the rumor.
quote the two paragraphs here in full:
Le bruit a courru que Moliere
Se trouvoit a l*Extremite
Et proche d*entrer dans la Biere:
Mais ce n*est pas la verite'.
Je le connes comme moy-m^me:’
Son mal n*etoit qu*un Stratageme
Pour jouer m§me aussi la Parque au Trait fatal.
He/lasl C*est un Strange Drole:
II faut qu*il exerce son Role
Sur le Particulier & sur le General.
Parbleu, quoi qu*II en soit, ce seroit grand dommage
Que la gloutonne Antropophage
Eut d£vor^ ce bon Chretien.
Je lui souhaite longue Vie:
De mainte autre elle est le Soutien,
Et s*il meurt, nous mourrons tous de Melancolie.
13 Lettre de Robinet, Continuateurs de Loret. (Paris,
Demascene Morgand, 1882), II, 711.
Lettre de Robinet,
cit., II, 810,
Moliere, Malade imaginaire?
A few months later Robinet announced Moliere*s recovery:
Et Lui, tout rajeuni du Lait
De quelqu*autre Ifante d !Inache,
0,ui se couvre de peau de Vache,
S !y remontre enfin a nos Yeux
Plus que jamais fac^tieux.15
At the time that Moliere was writing 1*Avare (1668) it
was already necessary to make some mention of his ailment in
the play.
It seems that Moliere was able to turn what was a
grievous fault for an actor into a medium for comedy.
is a passage where he referred to his personal affliction
from which he suffered more and more until it finally caused
his death.
Mesnard refers to the statement in the preface of
the 1682 edition of Moliere*s works:
”11 ^toit malade en
effet d*une fluxion sur la poitrine qul 1 *incommodoit beaucoup et
laquelle il ^toit sujet depuls quelques annees.
II s*^tolt jou^ lui-meme sur cette incommodite/ dans la
cinquieme scene du second acte de 1*Avare.”
This is the
sc^ne where Prosine flatters him about his apparent good
Je n*en ai pas de grandes (incommodit/s), Dieu merci.
II n*y a que ma fluxion, qui me prend de temps en temps.
Lettre de Robinet, le 12 juin, 1667,
clt., II
16 Preface reprinted b y Despois et Mesnard, op. cit.,
I, xvii.
Mollire, Malade Imaginaire?
Pros ine
Cela n ’est rien. Votre fluxion ne vous sied point
mal et vous avez grace & tousser.
La Grange adds:
lfCependant c !est cette toux qui a abrlg^
sa vie de plus de vingt ans.
II etoit d*ailleurs d !une
tr£s bonne constitution et sans l !accident qui laissa son
mal sans aucun remede, il n ’eut pas manque7 de forces* pour
•j rt
la surmonter.”
Approximately six months before the final tragedy of
death, La Grange gave still further evidence of the actor1s
declining health:
he explains the interruption of the show
on the 9th and 12th of August with ffM. de Moliere e7tant
Moland refers to another indication as found in a
letter by Brossette:
Deux mois avant la mort de Moliere, M. Despreaux
alia le voir et le trouve fort incommode" de sa toux
et faisant des efforts de poitrine qui sembloient le
menacer d fune fin prochaine. Moliere, assez froid
naturellement, fit plus d ’amltie que jamais a M.
Cela l !engagea a lui dire:
"Mon pauvre
monsieur Moliere, vous voila dans un pitoyable £tat.
La contention continuelle de votre esprit, l 1agita­
tion continuelle de vos poumons sur votre theatre,
tout enfin devroit vous determiner it renoncer k la
representation .1119
Ibid., I,*xvii.
18 Reglstre. (Edition J. Claye, Imprimeur editeur,
Paris, 1876j, P. 134. Also cited by Moland, La Vie de
Molibre, (Paris, Garnier frbres, 1892), P. 298.
19 Lettresfamiliferes de Boileau-Depreaux et Brossette,
(Edition Cizeron-Rival) citecPby Moland, Vie de Eollbre .
P. 298.
Moliere, Malade imaginaire?
That Moliere indeed presented ”le Malade” in his few
performances is shown also by the words of Robinet in his
letter of the seventeenth of February:
Cu d*un Malade Imaginaire
II nous depeint le caract^re
Avec des traits si naturels
Qu*on ne peut voir de portraits tels.
At the time of Moliere*s death, La Grange in his
Registre discusses the health of the actor:
...•fort incommode d*un rhume et fluxion sur la
poitrine qui lui causoit une grande toux, de sorte que,
dans les grands efforts qu*il fit pour cracher, il se
rompit une veine dans le corps.^1
It is indeed to be seen that Moliere was gravely ill.
restatement of his condition is to be found in the preface
of the 1682 edition of Moliere*s works:
Le 17e fevrier, Jour 3e
quatrieme representa­
tion du Malade Imaginaire t il fut si fort travaille/
de sa fluxion, qu*il eut de la peine a Jouer son
il ne l*acheve qu*en souffrant beaucoup, et
le public connut aislment qu*il n*^toit rien moins
que ce qu*il avoit voulu jouer. 2
Moliere, then, was really ill and did not resemble his char­
acter Argan who suffered from imaginary ailments.
Another point of comparison between Argan and Moliere
is their attitude toward the medical profession.
believed implicitly in the advice of doctors and was willing
Cited by Despois et Mesnard, ojo. cit. , IX, 217.
21 P. 140, Cited also by Despois et Mesnard, op. cit.,
IX, 218.
Preface reprinted by Despois, p p . cit. , I,*vii.
Molilre, Malade imaginaire?
to try all sorts of remedies.
Moliere, on the other hand,
although he realized the value of medicine, was antagonistic
to the charlatans of the profession.
In the preface to
Tartuffe, (published in 1669), Moliere made the following
La mldecine est un art profitable, et chacun la
revere comme une des plus excellentes choses que
nous ayons; et cependant 3JL % a eu des temps ou elle
>s s t rendue odieuse, et souvent on en a fait un art
d !empoisonner les hommesVSTS
Another statement is offered by G-rimarest, a statement
as told to him by Baron.
This Baron was at the bedside of
the dying Moliere and quotes the great dramatist as saying:
"Tout ce qui n fentre point dans le corps je l feprouve
volontiers; mais les r^raedes qu!il faut prendre me font
peur; il ne faut rien pour me faire perdre ce qui me reste
de vie."
The testimony of Grimarest cannot be quoted as
primary evidence, although his source of information was
the actor Baron, a young man in close contact with Moliere.
The statement may be used however In lending local color to
the written statement of Moliere as cited above.
Moland says that this "recit de Grimarest...a un caractere
assez frappant de verite."^^
23 Preface to Tartuffe.
Mesnard, 0£. cit., IV, 381.
Reprinted by Despois et
24 Edition Chancerel, (Paris, Albert, 1930— reprinted
from 1705 edition), P. 89.
Vie de Moliere. P. 302.
Moliere, Malade imaginaire?
Another indication of Molifere!s attitude may be found
in the words of the character Beralde.
Moliere, in attempt­
ing to correct the vices of his society, advocated in his
plays a course of moderation.
Therefore this character of
Beralde who voices tfle bon sens” and "le juste milieu" may
be said to express the attitude of Moliere.
Louis Moland
points out that the curious passage of the third scene, in
Act III "a l*air d fune protestation publique .,f26
jn this
scene Beralde says, "II sera encore plus sage que vos medeclns, car il ne leur demandera point de
Rigal suggests that Moliere*s antagonistic attitude
toward doctors is expressed in the scene where Beralde
repeats the words of the doctor, and "ou Moliere se met
lui-m'Sme en scfene et se fait maudire par Argan comme con­
tempt eur des
dec Ins et de la m^decine lff2^
II a ses raisons pour n Ten point vouloir, et il
soutient que cela n f©st permis qu’aux gens vigoreux
et robustes, et qui ont des forces de reste pour
porter les r^mSdes avec la maladie; mais que, pour
lui, il n fa justement de la force que pour porter
son mal.29
Certainly it is evident that Moliere In no way resembled
Argan in his attitude toward the medical profession.
Vie de MoliVre, P. 300.
Cited, Ibid., P. 300
28 Rigal, Moliere,
1908), II, 283.
(Paris, Librairie Hachette et Cie.
Act III, scene iii.
Moliere, Malade imaginaire?
Another point which proves that Moliere did not reveal
himself as Argan is as follows:
Not only is Argan the victim
of an exaggerated imagination hut he is unaware that he is
suffering from imaginary ailments.
In a scene, when questioned by Beralde:
Argan replies:
"Mais quel mal
"Vous me feriez enrager.
voudrois que vous l ’eusiez mon mal, pour voir si vous
jaseries tant.”^
Poor Argan does not even know what ill­
ness he is supposed to be suffering from.
The very fact
that Moliere created Argan as a hypo­
chondriac excludes
the possibility that Argan is Moliere.
If Moliere himself were really a hypochondriac he would be
unaware of it and so would not present himself with the
attributes of Argan.
Continuing to another point of comparison, Argan is un­
able to see the ridiculousness of his situation.
is a very serious matter Indeed to be so ill.
To him It
Moliere on
the other hand, laughed at the vain terrors which the love
of life inspired.
The very fact that Molilre made the
hypochondriac the subject of his comedy
shows that he was
entirely aware of its amusing nature.
Mesnard states that Moliere, "a bout de forces,
extenu^, il entreprit de railler sur le theatre l famour
Moliere, Malade imaginaire?
tyrannique de la vie, la crainte pusillanlme de la mcrt."0*1*
Mesnard speaks of the courage of a man who was irremediably
stricken and who felt himself to be conquered:
De quel effet devait etre cet aveu, bien inattendu
entre des Eclats de rire, du declin irremediable de
* ses forces1
, et quel singulier courage il avait fallu
a Moliere pour trouver dans son esprit, tout plein, a
cette heure m e m e , de lugubres pressentiments, la source
vive de gaiet^ qui, de toutes parts, jaillit larpiecel^
The fact that Moliere presented Argan as a ridiculous
character would of itself exclude the possibility that
Moliere created a self-portrait.
According to the preface
of T a r t u f f e a man does not want to be the subject of
Certainly this applies to Moliere who was well
aware of the maxim f,connais-toi tol-meme” .
Moliere did not
reveal himself as the exaggerated and ridiculous Argan,
But if Moliere is not a hypochondriac, then why did he
write le Malade imaginaire?
Do not the numerous times in
which he used doctors as either the entire theme of a
comedy or as incidental characters tio carried the action
forward, seem to indicate that Moliere was preoccupied with
the question of health?
IsnTt the characterization of a
man in anguish the portrait of Moliere?
Moland, Vie de MoliVre, P. 300.
Despois et Mesnard, 0£. c i t ., IX, 222.
Cf. above Chapter I, P. 4 of this thesis.
Moliere, Malade imaginaire?
suggests that at the time of this play Moliere
felt himself to be very ill and was not able to see aid com­
ing from medical science*
Although the work of Grimarest is
not authoritative, a passage in his book reveals this atti­
Grimarest quotes the words of Moliere on the day of
the third performance of Le Malade imaginaire as repeated to
him by Baron:
Tant que ma vie a ^te/ melee e'galement de douleur
et de plaisir, Je me suis cru heureux; mais aujourd!hui
que je suis accable de peines, sans pouvoir compter
sur aucun moment de satisfaction et de douceur, je vois
bien q u fil faut quitter la partie. Je ne puis plus
tenir centre les douleurs et les deplaisirs qui ne me
donnent pas un instant de r e l a c h e . 3 *
Mesnard goes on to
suggest that Moliere wished to depict his
own anguish on the stage, but that the only means of making
it humorous would be to ally it with a man who had only the
fear of illness and who was a victim of those who exploited
its terrors.
Much the same
opinion is held by Moland who says that
the characterization of a man in torment is that of Moliere,
but that "ce q u 1il y aurait de fictif dans son r$le, ce
serait non pas la maladie, mais la sante.”^
Or in other
words, Moliere is a hypochondriac, but only on the stage.
Cf. Despois et Mesnard,
c it. , IX, 221-223.
La Vie de M. de Moliere, edition Chancerel, P. 88.
Moland, La Vie de Moliere. P. 300.
Moliere, Malade imaginaire?
This analysis presented by Moland suggests that although
Moliere was not a hypochondriac, he nevertheless depicted
himself in his play l£ Malade imaginaire.
However this is a
highly subjective interpretation and cannot be substantiated
by documentary evidence.
It is true that Moliere* s attitude toward the medical
profession as expressed in his comedies is highly antagonis­
tic; yet it is entirely natural for an ailing man to be
caustic' in his characterizations of men who are supposed to
know the art of healing and who nevertheless leave him in
the same pitiful condition.
However this ridicule of the
medical profession is more easily explained.
It was a tradi­
tional theme of the times to make fun of doctors in comedies;
it is entirely possible that Moliere merely followed the pop­
ular vogue.
Furthermore, it wasn’t the first time that Moliere used
this theme for his comedies.
In the first two plays attri­
buted to Moliere, La Jalousie du Barboullle and l£ Med.ecIn
volant, the entire "d^noument" is brought about by the
Later on in his career, L*Amour M^decin again intro­
duces this theme and this comedy was already being presented
before the first visible signs of illness— performances
being given up to and including November 29, 1665 (according
to the Reglstre of La Grange) and the recovery of Moliere
being announced by Robinet on February 21, 1666.
Holier© r Malade imaginaire?
Another explanation is offered by Mesnard who suggests
that the malicious satire of the Boulanger de Chalussay may
have provoked Moliere to create a character in which he
allowed certain distant resemblances to himself.
He says
however that there is little likelihood that Moliere was
really represented in the traits of his Argan merely because
it pleased his enemy to portray Moliere as a hypochondriac
to the point of folly.
He remarks that Moliere might have
profited by the observations made of himself, in creating
a portrait of Argan which is far from being his own.
adds :
On constate sans peine dans plusieurs de ses
comedies qufil ne cherchait pas seulement au dehors,
mais dans son propre coeur, des faiblesses humaines
a noter. C ’^tait d failleurs son art de ne jamais
rien mettre de sa ^ersonne dans ses creations sans
transformer le models qui lui avait ete offert par
le flconnais-toi toi-memeVf|37
And he points out Ihrther that in this.derogatory play the
caricature may have suggested to Moliere the idea of a
On 1*avait, lui trop vraiment morlbond, choisi
pour un type de malade imaginaire; il voulut montrer
comment on peint le veritable caract&re de 1*Egoist©
peureux qui ne saurait se passer un seul jour de
toutes sortes de remedes dont il n fa aucun besoin; e t ,
dans la com^die oh il 1 1introduis it, il prit so in de
faire d^cl^rer par un de ses personnages combien luimeme, cet Elomire hypocondre se moque des m^decins
soidisant veng^s.38
Despois et Mesnard,
L o c . cit.
cit. , IX, 224
Moliere, Malade imaginaire?
It Is true that le Boulanger de Chalussay seemed to
provoke a response from Moliere with the statement In his
preface to Elomire hypocondre .
Si Elomire le trouve trop au-dessous de celul
qu*il avoit fait, et q u fune telle copie defigure par
trop un si grand original, II lui sera facile de
tirer raison de ma 'temerity, puisquTil n ’aura qu’a
refaire ce portrait effacer et a le mettre au jour.?®
And Mesnard points out a place in the dialogue between
Elomire and the valet Lazarile where there seems to be a
foreshadowing of the Malade imaginaire:
Ils m ’ont fait tant de peur que j!ai pense' mourir,
Et me traitent de fou.
Songez a vous guerir,
Vous pourrez un jour faire une com^die.^®
But why assume that there was anything subjective in
the play at all?
Moliere had another play to write; he had
to continue to amuse his audience.
Here was this play of
the Boulanger de Chalussay with an excellent theme for a
Here was an opportunity to ridicule not only the
hypochondriac but the charlatans of the medical profession.
This was In accordance with Moliere!s "but de comedie."
Le devoir de la comedie e'tant de corriger les
hommes en les divertissant, j’ai cru. que, dans
l'emploi ou Xe me trouve, je n'&vols rlen de mieux
39 Preface reprinted by Michaut, Moliere, raconte
par ceux qui 1* ont vu, P. 164.
Moliere, Malade imaginaire?
a faire que d fattaquer par des peintures ridicules
les vices de tnon s i & c l e . ^
There is no reason to assume that Moliere was a hypochon­
driac himself, nor that he depicted his own anguish in the
role of Argan.
Even Grimarest, who seems to find a great many personal
references to Moliere in the plays, says:
f,le Malade
imaginaire dont on pretend qu* il etait l1original .f,42
-§0 ^
there is no evidence that Moliere drew a self-portrait in
le Malade imaginaire.
41 Premier Placet presente au roi, sur la comedie
du Tartuffe. Reprinted by Despois et Mesnard, CE uvres de
Mollfrre. IV. 385-386.
M. de Moliere, edition Chancerel, P. 87.
Chapter IV
Moliere, ,fCoculf?
The last problem of this thesis is to determine whether
Moliere revealed himself as a jealous husband.
But in order
to ascertain the veracity of the hypothesis that he was a
"cocu" it is necessary to discover whether Moliere actually
was a jealous husband.
The best source of evidence is the
seventeenth century and the authors of that period.
The Accusations of MoliereTs Contemporaries
Moliere1s contemporaries have accused him of being a
jealous husband.
Montfleury suggests that Moliere depicted
jealous husbands on the stage and that he himself was a
de Moliere,.... cet auteur burlesque d Taujourd*hui,
De ce daubeur de moeurs, qui, sans aucun scrupule
Fait un portrait na¥f de chaque ridicule,
De ce fl^au des cocus, de ce bouffon du temps,
De ce heros de farce acharn^ sur les gens,
Pont pour pelndre les moeurs la veine est s1 savante
Qu* il parait t out semblablV a ceux qu* il repr^sente.
Montfleury states his accusation but presents no proof for
his conjecture.
Another contemporary, Donneau de Vise, seems to sug­
gest that Moliere was jealous at the time of I 1Ecole des
1 Montfleury, Impromptu de l 1Hotel de Conde, 1663.
Reprinted by Michaut with the following note's rrDonc, fcocu1
lui-mSme." Moli£re t racont^ par ceux qui 1* ont vu, P. 101.
Moliere, "Cocu”?
He precedes his accusation with an explanatory paragraph:
Je dirai le verite sans que ce fameux auteur
s*en doive offenser; et certes il aurait grand tort
de le faire, puisqufil fait profession ouverte de
puhlier en plein theatre les verites de tout le
Cette raison ra*oblige a publier les siennes
plus librement que je ne ferals. 2e n firai point
toutefois jusques a la satire, et tout ce que^je
dirai sera tant soit peu plus a sa gloire q u fa son
De Vise announced that he would reveal the truth about
Moliere, and here is his explanation of Moliere*s ridicule
ffdes cocus” ;
•••si vous voulez savoir pourquoi presque dans
toutes ses pieces il raille tant les cocus et
d^peint si natureliement les jaloux, c*est q u fil est
du nombre de ces derniers. Ce n*est pas que je ne
doive dire, pour lui rendre justice, q u fil ne t^moigne
pas sa jalousie hors du th^&tre; il rie publique;
mais il voudrait faire en sorte, par le moyen de ses
pieces, que tous les hommes puissent devenir jaloux
et t^moigner leur jalousie sans £tre blames, afin de
pouvoir faire comme les autres et de temoigner la
sienne sans crainte d Tetre r a i l l e . ^
Here again is an unsubstantiated accusation, and
Michaut^ asks how de Vise7 could have devined the truth.
a later date (in answer to 1 1Impromptu de Versailles)
Donneau de Vise' seems to apologize fpr having made such a
Dans tout ce que j Tai e^crit contre Elomire, je
n*ai point pre'tendu toucher a sa personne. Je veux
croire qu*il est honnete horame, et j’aurais tort de
2 Donneau de Vise, Nouvelles nouvelles, 1663. Extract
reprinted by Michaut with the following note:
lf0n observera
quelles precautions prend Vis^, dans la crainte sans doute
d*une riposte,— qui vint eff ect ivement.11 Moliere , raconte'
par ceux qui 1* ont vu, P. 47.
Ibid, P. 55.
4. Cf. loc. cit.
Moliere, ”Cocu”?
dire le contraire; puis que .je ne sals point le a parti­
c u larity de aa v i e ; mais, quand je les aaurais, je
n !en parlerais point, puisque cea sortes de choses
n'ont rien & d^mSler avec l ’esprlt.5
Michaut explains such an apology by the fact that de Vise
feared a law suit or a legal reply.
Livet6 mentions that de Villiers, a comedian of the
Hotel de Bourgogne made this allusion to Moliere in le
Vengeance des Marquis
II a ete plus de cocus q u !il ne dit voir le
Portrait du Peintre; j'y en comptay un jour jusques
& trente et un. ^"ette representation ne manque pas
d*approbateurs: trente de ces cocus applaudirent
fort, et le dernier fit tout ce q u ’il put pour rire;
mais il n ’en avoit point envie.®
Here is an additional accusation by a contemporary that
MoliSre was a "cocu".
Livet however questions the value of
de Villiers’ statement and his reference to Portrait du
De m&ne, dans le Portrait du Peintre , Boursault
aurait supprim^ & 1 ’impression: les uns ont pensd'
qu’il raillait le menage de Moliere, les autres
q u ’il d^noncait son ”libertinage” religieux. Quoi
qu’il en sox't, si le premier texte est pour nous sans
valeur, partant d ’un ennemi acharn^, qui se plaisalt
a attaquer Moliere, que l ’on savait jaloux, par son
point le plus sensible, le texte de Boursault prouve
5 Donneau de Vise, Lettre sur les affaires du th^^tre.
Extract reprinted in Michaut, Moliere raconte par ceux qui
1 ’ont vu, P. 98.
Livet, Notes to La Fameuse comedienne , P. 149-150
Scene iii.
November, 1663 as stated by Livet, L o c . c i t .
Cited Ibid.. P. 149-150.
Moliere, "Cocu”?
encore moins, puisqu’il ne nous est parvenu que par
une tradition plus ou moins suspecte.9
Philippe de la Croix, also a contemporary of Moliere,
seems to suggest that the accusations against Moliere are
merely malicious slander and chides those authors who use
this means to criticize his works:
Quand une personne met au lour quelque chose,
tout le monde a droit de la censurer; on peut s ’en'
railler impunAnent si l ’on en trouve 1 ’occasion.
Mais cette liberty, avec laquelle on peut dire son
sentiment de l fouvrage ne doit point servir de pretexte pour injurier l1auteur, et l ’on peut en remarquer
les d^fauts sans se prendre a sa personne. ^
In contrast to the accusations, le Boulanger de
Chalussay, an obvious enemy of Moliere, presents conversa­
tion in his play, Elomire hypocondre, which refutes the
hypothesis that Molfbre was a ”cocu” :
J ’aurais des cornes, moil
moi, je serais cocul
L ’Orvietan
On ne dit pas qu'encor fous le soyez actu;
Mais, e'tant marie, c ’est chose tres certaine
Sue fous l ’^tes du moins en puissance prochalne.
...Je ne suis point cocu, ni ne le saurais etre,
Et j’en suis, Dieu merci, bien a s s u r ^ . ^
Ibid..‘Pi 149-150.
10 Philippe de la Croix, La Guerre Comique. Extracts
reprinted in Michaut, Moliere, racont^ par ceux qui l 1ont
yu, P. 125.
11 Elomire hvoocondre. Act I, scene i. Extracts
reprinted by Michaut, Molidre, racont^ par ceux qui l ’ont
vu, Cf. P. 169.
Moliere, "Cocu11?
In this play which was written in 1670, le Boulanger
de Chalussay included all the current gossip and slander
concerning Molilre and yet he suggested that Moliere was not
a r,cocuM .
The very fact that the Boulanger de Chalussay
could make such a suggestion seems to indicate that even an
enemy of Moliere could not find any basis of truth for this
If any faith would be placed in this statement
appearing in Elomire hypocondre then at least up to the
year 1670 Moliere was not a f,cocufl.
However it is from these statements by Moli§refs con­
temporaries that modern critics have concluded that Moliere
was a jealous husband.
They have searched every available
source for some evidence which proves the truth of this ion.
Prom such evidence as was cited above it is to be seen
that a few seventeenth century writers have accused Moliere
of being "cocu” , without offering proof, one has denied the
validity of such an accusation and Moliere1s greatest enemy
seems to have professed his inability to add this gossip to
his already over-abundant slander.
Moliere, ,fCocu"?
A m a n d e ’s Infidelity as Cause for Moliere*s Jealousy?
It is very difficult to determine whether MoliSre was
a jealous husband.
Where might the proof lie?
If events
could be discovered which might possibly give rise to such
a feeling of jealousy, they might indicate a certain valid­
ity in the statements of Molidre!s contemporaries.
it have been that Armande was unfaithful to Moliere?
Public figures are by their very prominence frequently
the subject of the sort of gossip whose origins and accuracy
are difficult to determine.
Most theories concerning
Armande*s alleged infidelity to Molilre have grown out of
the slanderous accusations of Moliere1s contemporaries,
especially the anonymous Fameuse comedienne and its sup­
posed revelations.
This work was written after the second
marriage of Armande, but bearing no date and place of
12 Statement by Livet: The second edition with the
name of publisher and date of 1688 bears a preface from this
tfJe ne connois ni l'Auteur de cette Histoire, ni
la main d !ou elle me vient. Un Courrier, qui, en passant
par cette ville, achetoit quelques livres dans ma Boutique,
m ’en a fait present, et m !a assur^ q u !elle est veritable dans
toutes les circonstances. J fai cru devoir rendre ce present
au public, pour lui fair part des principales aventures de
cette fameuse comedienne, autant c^l^bre par sa coquetterle
que par la reputation de feu Moliere, son premier mari."
It is to be noted that the publisher suggested that
Armande was noted as a coquette, or was this his impression
after reading the book?
It is from this edition of 1688 that
Livet has made his own: La Fameuse comedienne (Histoire de
la Guerin), Edition Livet, Paris, Liseux, Editeur, 1877.
Moliere, ”Cocurr?
Writers concede that, although the work contains some exact­
ness, the facts are often Imaginary,
L 1auteur a certainement vu de pres Moliere et
Armande, elle a probablement fait partie de leur troupe,
elle connait par le menu l’histoire de leur theatre.
Le caract^re et la mani&re d T§tre q u felle pr^te aux
deux dpoux, les incidents publics de leur existencev
q u Telle raconte, tout montre en elle un t^moin bon a
entendre. Mais c ’est tout. Possed^e contre Armande
d ’une haine f^roce, haine de femme et de comedienne,
elle n fa qu*un but, qui est de la rendre odieuse; ce
qufelle sait des actions de son ennemie, elle le dena­
ture, ou, tout au moins, l !exag&re; ce q u ’elle ne sait
pas, elle l flnvente. Qui veut deshonorer un homme lui
attribue des actes d findelicatesse ou de l£chete,j qui
veut deshonorer une femme lui pr£te des amants: ce
sont les moyens les plus s u r s . 1 3
However, the author, whether it be a woman or not, tries to
prove too much and In this way proves nothing; she does not
even indicate how these facts became known to her.
fidences abound with material evidence:
tions, etc.
The con­
letters, conversa­
There is too much substantiation, too many
details enumerated about acts which, by their very nature,
are known in their entirety only by the participants.
calls this book an "oeuvre de haine et de scandale, sans le
moindre garantie, sans le moindre autorite, qui reproduit de
pretendues confidences sans m&me essayer d fexpliquer comment
elles auraient 4te connues..."^
However, since it is from this work that many of the
Larroumet, Com^die de Moliere, P. 151.
"Moliere dans son oeuvre” , P. 130.
Moliere, "Cocu11?
arguments concerning Armande’s faithlessness are taken, it
would be advisable to examine in detail each supposed fact
of the Fameuse comedienne.
La Fameuse comedienne states that at the time of la
Prlncesse d ’Elide Armande
became the mistress of the abb^ de
Richelieu, that she later
became infatuated with the conte
de Guiche; irritated at the coldness of the conte de Guiche,
she abandoned herself to the conte de Lauzun:
La Fortune de Moliere attira plus d ’Amants a sa femme
que ce m^rite pr^tendu qui l ’a depuis rendue si fi£re
et si hautaine; et il n ’y avoit personne a la Cour qui
ne se fit une affaire d ’en avoir des faveurs. L ’Abb^
de Richelieu fut^un des premiers qui se mit en t§te
d ’en faire sa Maitresse. Comme il ^toit liberal, et
que la Demoiselle aimoit la depense, la chose fut bientot conclue.15
Cela dura quelques mois sans trouble; mais Moliere
ayant fait la Prlncesse d ’Elide, oft la Moliere joua la
Princesse, elle y parut avec tant d ’^clat qu’il eut
tout lieu de se repentir de 1 ’avoir exposee au milieu
de cette jeunesse brillante.
Car a peine fut elle si
Chambord, ou le JRoi donnoit ce divertissement a toute
la Cour, qu’elle devint folle du Comte de Guiche, et le
Comte de Lauztin ^perdument amoureux d ’elle. 16 Moliere, irrit^e des froideurs du Comte de Guiche,
se jeta entre les bras du Comte de Lauzun...!^
Livet refutes these statements found in la Fameuse
com/dlenne saying that the abb^ de Richelieu was in Hungary
at the time of his alleged affair with Armande, that the
comte de Guiche was in Poland.
La Fameuse comedienne» edition Livet, P. 9
Ibid.. P. 9.
Ibid., P. 10.
Moliere, "Cocu"?
L ’abb/ fit partie de l fexpedition de Hongrie, (|ui,
sous le commandement du conte de Coligny, se reunit
k Metz le 24 avril 1664*
Loret annonce les premiers departs des le 22 mars
(Lettres 12e de 1664); Apr^s la paix, conclue le 17
septembre, il repartit pour la France, sans trop de
hSte, et rnourut a Venise, pendant le voyage, le 9
janvier 1665; il etait dans sa 26e annle....
Pour prouver la liaison de Mile Moliere avec ;1 labbe/
de Richelieu, plusieurs /crivains s !appuient sur un
extrait du registre de la Grange, ou l*on voit au1il
paya a la troupe, en visite chez lui.••
Mais, d fune part, le passage cit/, qui est du mardi 6
decembre 1661, s 1applique & une /poque ou Moli/re
n fetait pas mari/; faisait pas alors
partie de la t r o u p e . ^
Marsal fut pris le 4 septembre 1663; le comte de Guiche
resta deux ans en Pologne, c !est-a-dire jusqu!a la
fin de 1665; il n*/tait done pas plus en mai 1664, a
Chambord, ou n favait pas lieu la fete, qu*^. Versailles,
oii elle se donnait.
Quant a Lauzun, sa pr/sence est au moins
personnage de son rang ne pouvait gu&re,
semble, assister aux fetes de Versailles
part aux joutes, ...Cr son nom ne para^t
des r/citsde la faite.^9
douteuse; un
k ce qu’il
sans prendre
dans aucun
Another contemporary, du Tralage, in his notes on the
history of the theater, presents a most condemning accusa­
tion of Armande.
Du Tralage ranks Moliere among the "come7-
diens qui vivaient bien, r/gulierement et m&me chretiennement," and among the "principaux d/bauch/s" he places "la
femme de Moliere, entretenue a diverses fois par des gens
de qualite et s/par/e de son mari."^9
I M d . . P. 147.
This author however
p * 155*
20 Cited by Michaut, Moliere, racontZ par,ceux qui
1* ont vu, P. 220.
Moliere, ffCocurf?
offers no evidence for his condemnation of Armande!s conduct.
Was Armande ever separated from her husband?
Is this state­
ment based on ^a Fameuse com^dlenne or upon rumor?
It is true that jLa Fameuse comedienne states that
Armande remained in Faris while Moliere rented a house In
However the anonymous work uses this as an Indi­
cation of a quarrel between Moliere and Armande.
Enfln elle porte les choses & une telle e x t r A n i W que
Moliere, commengant si s !apercevoir de ses mechantes
Inclinations, consentit & la rupture qu!elle demandolt
incessemment depuls leur querelle; si bien que, sans
Arret du Parlement, ils demeur^rent d*accord qufils
n fauroient plus d !habitude ensemble.21
Grimarest also states that Moliere had a house at
Auteui 1 . ^
The fact that Moliere did have a house at
Auteuil can be proven by referring to the inventory of the
furniture in this apartment.
Livet writes that Moliere went there on occasions to
write, since a few of his works were found at Auteuil:
MoliSre occupait a Auteuil un appartement de quatre
cents livres, plus une chambre de trente livres
dans une maison appartenant a Jacq. de Grou, ecuyer,
sieur de Beaufort, qui, ^tait, en 1655, porte-manteau
de S. A. R., mais qui ne figure pas sur les Etats de
la Prance de 1665 a 1699. Ce serait donn^, selon
M. Ed. Fournier (La valise de Moliere). le fameux
souper d*Auteuil,TT la suite duquel Chapelle et plusieurs de ses amis, ayant le vin trlste, se seraient
all^s noyer si Moliere ne les eut retenus. Molidre
s'y retirait parfois pour travailler, car on y trouve
quelques-uns de ses livres.24
P. 39.
La Fameuse comedienne, edition Livet, P. 16.
Grimarest, La Vie de M. de Moliere, edition Chancerel,
C f . Soulie/, Les Recherches, P. 282.
Notes by Livet to la Fameuse comedienne, P. 162.
Moliere, "Cocu”?
However, it is entirely possible that Moliere!s enemies
distorted a simple fact to their own purpose.
There exists
no impartial evidence supporting the proposal that Moliere
and Armande were separated.
After the death of Moliere there was a scandal, f,le
proems Guiehard.”
Larroumet quotes a few lines of the
infamous "factum” for which Guiehard was ordered to make a
complete reparation:
La Moliere est infame
que d !§tre marine, elle a
prostitution universelle;
elle a toujours^v^cu dans
qui dit la Moliere dit la
de droit et de fait...avant
toujours v^cu dans une
pendant qu'elle a 4te marine,
un adultere public; enfin
plus infame de toutes les
The very exaggeration of these insults prove their falsity,
according to Larroumet.
He asks whether Armande would have
received so complete a reparation had she been the woman
Cited by Larroumet, La Comedle de Moliere, P. 176-177.
Moliere, "Cocu”?
Armande’s Temperament as Cause for Moliere’s Jealousy?
Upon examination of the existing evidence in regard to
the infidelity of Armande it can readily be seen that there
is no proof for the slanderous accusations thrust at her.
The attempts to prove Armande unfaithful to her husband
seem to be groundless and in certain cases entirely errone­
ous; however, while being for the most part exonerated from
adulterous action, her conduct may have been such as to
arouse suspicions.
The credulity may have arisen from the
coquettish nature of the temperament of the young actress-such is the theory.
The entire attempt made by critics to discover the
nature of Armande’s temperament rests for the main part upon
la Fameuse comedienne and its supposed revelations.
It is
probably upon one particular passage of the Fameuse comedienne
that theories about Armande’s character are based.
This is a
supposed conversation between Moliere and his friend Chapelle
(taking place at Auteuil) which is quoted here in full:
Je suis ne, disait-il, avec les dernieres dispositions
a la tendresse; et, comme j’ai cru que mes efforts pourroient lui inspirer par l ’habitude des sentiments qu£ le
temps ne pourroit d^truire, je n ’ai rien oubli^ pour y
Comme elle ^toit jeune quand je 1 ’Spousal,
je ne m ’aper^us pas de ses mechantes inclinations, et je
me crus un peu moins malheureux que la plupart de ceux
qui me prennent de pareils engagements. Aussi le
mariage ne ralentit point mes empressements; mais je
lui trouvai tant d ’indifference que je commensal &
m ’apercevoir que toute ma precaution avoit ^te' inutile
et que tout ce qu’elle sentoit pour moi ^toit bien
^loign^ de ce que j’aurois souhaite' pour 6*tre heureux.
Je me fis a moi-m&ne des reproches sur une d^licatesse
qui me sembloit ridicule dans un mari, et j’attribuai &
Moliere, "Coen”?
son humeur ce qui 6tolt un effet de son peu de tendresse
pour moi. Mais je n ’eus que trop d© moyens pour m fapercevoir de mon erreur; ©t la foil© passion q u e l l e eut, peu
de temps apr^s, pour le comte de Quiche, fit trop de
bruit pour me laisser dans cette tranquilit^ apparente.
J© rif^pargnai rien, \ la premiere connaissance que j 1en
eus, pour me vainer©, dans 1 1empossiblit^ que je
la changer.
Je me servis pour cela de toutes
les forces de mon esprit; j fappelai » mon secours tout
ce qui pouvoit contribuer a ma consolation; je la considerai comme un© personne de qui tout le m^rite est dans
1*innocence, et que son infidelity rendoit sans charmes.
Je pris des lors la resolution de vivre avec elle comme
un homme qui a une femme coquette, et qui est bien per­
suade, quoi q u fon puisse dire, que sa reputation ne
depend point de la m€chante conduite de son excuse.
Mais j 1eus le chagrin de voir qu'une personne sans
l feducation que je lui ai donnee, detruisoit, en un
moment, tout© ma philosophie. Sa presence me fit
oublier mes resolutions, et les premieres paroles q u e l l e
dit pour sa defense me laiss^rent si convaincu que mes
souppons etoient mal fond^s, que je lui demandai pardon
d favoir
si credule.
Cependant mes bont6s ne l*ont point chang^e; et si
vous saviez. ce que je souffre, vous auriez pitte de moi.
Ma passion est venue & un tel point q u Jelle va jusques
\ entrer avec compassion dans ses interets; et quand
je Gonsid&re combien il m'est impossible de vaincre
ce que le sens pour elle, je me dis en m&me temps q u ’elle
a peut-'etre une nfeme difficulte k d^truire le penchant
q u ’elle a d ?£tre coquette, et je me trouve plus dans
la disposition de la plaindre que de la blamer. Vous
me direz sans doute .qu’il faut 'ktre p^re pour aimer
de cette manibre; mais, pour moi, je crois qu*il n*y
a qufune sorte d famour, et que les gens qui nlont point
senti de semblables d^licatesses n font jamais v£ritablement aim^* Toutes les choses du monde du rapport
avec elle dans mon coeur. Mon id^e en est si fort occup^e que je ne sais rien en son absence qui me puisse
Quand je la vois, une Emotion et des
transports q u !on peut sentir, mais q u f.on ne saurait
dire, m ’&tent l fusage de la reflexion.
Je n*ai plus
d*yeux pour ses d^fauts, 11 m fen rest© seulement pour
ce q u ’elle a d^i m a b l e .
IPest-ce pas 1& le
dernier point de la roxie, et n *admirez-vous
Molilre, "Cocu"?
pas que tout ce que j fai de raison ne sert q u fa me
faire conna^tre ma faiblesse sans en pouvoir
According to Edouard Fournier this passage might well
be taken from either a remembrance written by Chapelle or
from a letter written by Moliere to his friend, a letter
which fell into the hands of this enemy.
But this is
mere hypothesis,
Larroumet on the other hand believes it is
more simple to admit that this passage was written by the
author of the entire book, the passage being inspired by the
tirades of Alceste, and the role lent to Chapelle being
entirely fictional,^8
Livet makes an extended comment upon this particular
passage of JLa Fameuse comedienne t attempting to refute each
Cette conversation de Chapelle et de Moliere a it4
cltie comme authentique; elle nous parait imagine'e par
l fauteur, comme toutes les conversations de tous les
petits romans de ce genre, et tir^e de la situation...
Moliere parle de 1*amour de sa femme pour le comte de
Guiche comme s fil ^tait vrai, et nous avons demontr/
peremptoirement que le comte itait en Pologne au temps
m§me de la prltendue passion qufil aurait lnspiree 5.
Armande; dans le [email protected] discours Moliere dit que sa
femme £tait sans beaute': ce n*£tait certes pas
26 La Fameuse comedienne, Edition Livet, P. 22, Cf.
Le Misanthrope, I, lines 230-32:
....Elle a l'art de me plaire.
J !ai beau voir ses d^fauts et j fai beau l fen blamer
En d^pit qu'on en ait, elle se fait aimer.
C f . Fournier, Le Roman de Mol_iS_re, Vol I, P. 2.
Larroumet, Comedie de Moliere, P. 158-9.
Moliere, ”Cocu’f?
son opinion; il pari© de I 1education q u Til lui a
oii, quand, si Armande est la fille du
comte de Mod^ne , ^lev^e dans le Midi jusquf£t l ^ g e
de 15 ans?
comment, dans sa vie errante de 1653 &
1658, si elle ^tait fille de Joseph B^jart, venue
It Lyon 1 l f^;ge de dix ans? Enfin il n faurait pas
os£ dire, en parlant de sa femme, peu de temps apr§s
la Requete au Roi o&rMontfleury l faccusait, au dire
de Racine, d favoir efpous^ la fille apr£s avoir
couch^r avec la m § r e : ”Vous me direz sans doute
qufil faut ^tre p&re pour aimer de cette mani&re.”
II est vrai que 1 1”ddition de 1688 porte po&te. au
lieu de p&re. Mais cette variant© parait un peu
Grimarest also quotes this conversation at Auteuil;
however, he proposes as confidants the painter Mignard and
the physician Rohault.
Appearances seem to indicate that
Grimarest borrowed this passage from the annonymous work.
However, although Moliere is still shown to be jealous, he
is nevertheless certain of the virtue of his wife.
Cette femme, cent fois plus raisonable que je ne
le suis, veut jouir agr^ablement de la vie; elle va
son ehemin; et, assur^e par son innocence, elle
d^daigne de s fassujettir aux precautions que je lui
Je prends cette negligence pour du mdpris;
je voudrois des marques d ’amiti^ pour croire que l fon
en a pour moi, et que l fon eut plus de justesse dans
sa conduite pour que j feusse l ’esprit tranquille.
mais ma femme, toujours ^gale et libre dans la sienne,
qui seroit exempte de tout souppon pour tout autre
homme moins inquiet que je ne le suis, m C l a i s s e
impitoyablement dans mes peines; et, occup^e seulement du d^slr.' de plaire en general comme toutes les
femmes, sans avoir de dessein particulier, elle rit
de ma foiblesse.3^
This insistence upon the perfect innocence of Armande while
yet revealing her coquettish nature is in accordance with
P. 48.
Notes by Livet on lsi Fameuse comedienne. P. 163-164.
Grimarest, Vie de M. de MoliSre, edition Chancerel,
Moliere, lfCocu!f?
the entire tone of Grimarest*s work*
In another paragraph Grimarest offers an explanation of
Armande1s conduct which could well apply to the situation.
However he proposes that her action was a source of torment
and anguish to MoliSre.
Celle-ci ne fut pas plus t6t mademoiselle de Moliere,
qu!elle crut £tre au rang d*une Duchesse, et elle ne
se, fut pas donn^e en Spectacle h. la Com^die, que le
Courtisan d4soccupe' lui en conta.
II est bien diffi­
cile st une Comedienne, belle et soigneuse de sa personne,
d !observer si bien sa conduite, que l !on ne puisse
l fattaquer. Qu*une Comedienne rende § un grand Seigneur
les devoirs de politesse qui sont dus, II n*y a point
de mis^ricorde:
c !est son amant. Moliere s !imagina
que toute la cour, toute la ville en voulait & son
epouse. Elle n^gligea de l*en d^sabuser; au contraire,
les soins extraordinaires qu!elle prenait de sa parure,
& ce qu!il lui semblait, pour tout autre que pour lui,
qui ne demandait point tant d !arrangement, ne firent
qu!augmenter ses soupcons et sa jalousie.
It avait
beau repr4senter & aa>femme la maniSre dont elle devait
se conduire pour passer heureusement la vie ensemble,
elle ne profitait point de ses lecons, qui lui paraissaient trop s^v^res pour une jeune personne, qui
d !ailleurs n 1avait rien & se reprocher. 1
Although this paragraph may seem entirely reasonable
to modern critics it must be remembered that according to
a close friend of MollSre, namely Boileau, Grimarest did
not know what everyone else knew.
This work then, based
on hearsay and lacking confinnation from a reliable source,
cannot be taken as evidence.
That Armande was an excellent actress and t ha t she
knew how to play the "coquette” to perfection, is easily
Ibid., P. 24-25
Moliere, “Cocu”?
ascertained by reading such reliable witnesses as Robinet,
Yet to prove that Armande was by nature a “coquette” ,
is almost impossible.
Modern critics seem to be drawn instinctively to the
impression of Armande as a coquette, yet they are unable to
find reliable material upon which to base a portrait of
A r m a n d e ^ character.
They too, like the author of la
Fameuse comedienne and Grimarest, turn to Moli§refs plays.
They combine all the situations presented in the comedies
and form a continuous thread, and then they attempt to use
this thread to prove that Molilre revealed his life in his
This is proving a statement by assuming t hat it is
The fact that Armande gave such a brilliant portrayal
of a coquette on the stage gives rise to the conjecture that
Armande must have been somewhat of a coquette herself to be
able to portray one so admirably.
The work of Larroumet is an example of this search into
Moliere* s plays for a s-ubstantiation of the supposition t ha t
Armande was a coquette.
He explains
that her first r&le,
that of Elise in Ia Critique de l*Ecole des femmes, was
simple and certain to assure success, for Moliere had not
allowed her to make her debut until a year and four months
after their marriage.
Larroumet adds that having performed
so well, Armande was given a rble in Impromptu de Versailles.
played by “Mile Moliere, satirique spirituelle," as the
distribution called her.
Moliere, ”Cocu”?
Outre une petite escarmouche avec Moliere, en
qui elle raille plaisament le directeur et le mari,
elle a toute une sc§ne It part, et des plus brillantes,
avec Mile du Parc, l fautre ^toile de la troupe; elle
reprend le malheureux Lysidas, ramen^ sous son feu.
De petites tirades, pas trop ‘longues, sont m^nagd'es
pour elle, et Moliere, en distribuant ses conseils,
lui a fait le m#me compliment qu*a La Grange et &
Mile de Parc, les deux parfaits com^diens;
”Pour vous,
je n ’ai rien k vous dire.11 L factrice que sera Mile
Moliere s e l a i s s e d^j£ voir avec ses traits essentiels
dans ces deux r£les de d^but.*2
However this statement does not suffice for Larroumet;
he attempts to find Armande in the stage character:
la femme y est aussl, ce me semble, avec son caract^re:
bon sens net, mais un peu £troit, humeur railleuse,
par suite un peu m^chante, assez d*esprit, peu de bont^.
This analysis is entirely personal to Larroumet and one which
has no authoritative source.
Of the Princesse d !Ellde. Larroumet says:
,fToute la
pi£ce ^tait conjue pour mettre en relief ses diverses qual/
ites, art de la parure, chant, danse.”
In the r6le of Elmire in Tartuffe, Armande portrays
quite a serious character and it is her debut into high com­
Yet Moliere was careful not to make the character too
cold and austere with her good common sense.
Moliere eut soin d !y m£ler un peu de coquetterie,
qui loin d !en alterer le caract&re, le rendait encore
Larroumet, Comdfdie de Moliere, P. 132.
Loc. clt.
Ibid., P. 133.
MoliSre, "Cocu"?
plus vrai, et aussi le rapproehait davantage des moyens
d !Armande. Elmire a, du reste, les gouts de luxe et
d ^leganc e d !Armande elle-mSme; ce ’’train" de maison,
ces robes de "princesse", qui excitent les col&res de
Mme Pernalle, ^taient le cadre que Moliere avait donn^
a la beaut^ de sa femme.35
Armande, writes Larroumet, "avait incarne/ la C^lim^ne
du Misanthrope. son triomphe, la plus fameuse de ses crea­
tions, celle ou son empreinte est restee le plus profondement.
He believes that Celim&ne is one of the most original and
complete characters which ever sprang from the genius of
Moliere and the most difficult to portray.
La comedienne qui, la premiere, sut porter un tel
role et s fy incarner fut vraiment une grande artiste.
Or Armande s !y surpassa elle-m£me; ce fut, dit un contemporain, ce pauvre Robinet, qui sent raieux q u !il
n !exprime, ce fut "un charme," "un ravissement," expres­
sions que le temps devait rendre banales, mais qui
retenaient encore toute leur f o r c e . 36
Such is the objective discussion of Larroumet; however he
again falls under the temptation of seeing Armande in one of
her characterizations.
Larroumet again interprets subjectively in regard to
the r'ole of Angelique of George Dandin.
Sans pousser plus loin qu1il ne convient la ressemblance du personnage et de l ’actrice, il est probable
que celle-ci n feut pas trop It violenter sa nature pour
entrer dans l fesprit du rGle, et qu1Angelique, avec son
Ibid., P. 154.
Ibid.. , P. 155.
Moliere, ffCoeuM?
humeur Imperieuse et son ironie froide, ne pouvait
£tre mieux represent^e que par Armande.
He points out that the remaining roles, although more
sympathetic and delightful, were not particularly outstand­
ing for they did not raise much controversy.
In le Bourgeois
gentllhomme he seems to find a portrait of Armande, the
validity of which will be examined later.
In le_ Malade
lmaglnaire Armande played the young ingenue Angelique and
this was her last 1*3le created by Moll&re.
comment is as follows:
La voix touchante d fArmande €tait bien celle
qufII fallait au rSle, et c ’est surtout le souvenir
du Malade imaglnalre qui inspirait & 1 !auteur des
Entretiens galants son double portrait de La Grange
et de Mile MoTTFre.38
Although Larroumet has attempted to be objective in his
Interpretation he has at times Introduced certain aspects of
the Armande legend.
Combined into his subjective interpretation Larroumet
has suggested a theory explaining the type of role Armande
portrayed without, however, realizing the full extent to
which such a theory might be used and without realizing that
such a theory eliminates the necessity of a subjective inter­
pretation of the problem.
It is. more logical to assume that
these roles were suited to her talents then to assume that
Armandefs roles are a revelation of her character.
Ibid., P. 137.
Ibid., P. 140.
Moliere, MGocu”?
It would be advisable to examine in full his discussion
of this particular problem for here might indeed be the
seeds of a true objective interpretation of the relation
between Armande in life and Armande on the stage*
It Is to
be regretted however that Larroumet failed to include a bib­
liography and thus has left unavailable the primary evidence
which he used In his work.
Larroumet seems to believe that the young actress, being
of a high-spirited temperament, had the gift of interpreting
the coquette.
Rather than being an expression or revelation
of Armande*s life, these roles were created as a vehicle to
show off the talents of the young actress.
Larroumet bases his opinion that Moli&re created r6les
best suited to her talents upon the remarks of Mile Poisson
who wrote that Moliere flfaisoit ces rS’les pour elle,f and of
Grandval who wrote that Moll&re "travailloit expr^s pour ces
Larroumet, although he uses these quotations,
does not question the value of the evidence, nor does he
state the source of his material*
Both Mile Poisson and
Grandval were late contemporaries of Moliere, and moreover it
is difficult to accept phrases without first examining the
context in which these phrases appear.
Another source of evidence for Larroumet is the anony­
mous author of Entretlens galants.
Larroumet mentions that
Cited by Larroumet, Com^dle de Moll&re, P. 131
Moliere, "Cocu"?
this anonymous author was a contemporary of Moliere and
merely cites a few sentences.
The anonymous author com­
ments upon the performance of La Grange and Armande:
se faisaient valoir l fun l fautre et, lorsqu1ils jouaient.
ensemble, c f£tait un enchantement.“
The author of
Entretiens galants follows this with extended praise for the
two actors.
Finally he seems to suggest that Armande was a
coquette in so far as her r6le required.
Si Mile Moliere retouche quelquefois k ses cheveux,
si elle raecommode ses noeuds ou ses pierreries, ces
petites facons cachent une satire judicieuse et naturelle; elle entre par lb. dans le ridicule des femmes
qu'elle veut jouer. 2
He suggests further that Armande adapted herself to the part
to the extent of changing her voice:
"elle prend autant de
divers tons qufelle a de r$les differents .
The above evidence appears to be entirely valid and an
excellent objective presentation.
However we have only the
word of Larroumet that these statements are primary material.
To substantiate further this objective interpretation
of the problems let us relate it to a modern situation*
the stage an individual actor may portray continuously the
40 In the catalog of the Bibliothbque Nationals the
only work listed which could possibly be the work referred
to by Larroumet v/as: _________ , Les Entretiens Galans
d fArestippe et Axiane, Paris, Barbin, 1664. However this
book was unavailable for examination.
Cited by Larroumet, Com^dle de Molifere, P. 130
Cited Ibid.. P. 130.
Cited Ibid., P. 130.
Moliere, "Cocu”?
r&le of a
Can one assume then that this is a reve­
lation of
the actor’s character and temperament?
fact that
one may rightly assume is that that actor has a
particular ability to interpret such r^les.
The only
It would be
well to have in mind this view on the problem when examin­
ing the possibility that Armande was a coquette.
Xt must be added however that there is a possibility
that the actor who plays the villain, plays what he knows
best, the villain that he himself is.
When there is suf­
ficient evidence to show the correlation between life and
the stage it is a simple matter to make a true statement of
the situation.
In the case of Armande, where there is such
scarcity of primary material it is difficult, in fact fool­
hardy, to make a definite statement about the temperament
and character of Armande.
Moliere, "Codi”?
Moliferefs Self Revelation
Summarizing the investigation thus far, it is to be
seen that some of Molifere!s contemporaries have accused him
of being a "cocu” but without advancing any proof whatso­
ever for their statements.
The anonymous Fameuse comedienne
offers a more detailed accusation, directing the slander for
the most part at Armande.
However, the specific facts as
presented in this book are easily proven to be false.
validity of the suggestions and implications is more diffi­
cult to determine.
The book leaves one with the impression
that although the incidents revealed in la Fameuse comedienne
have no basis of truth, there may have been a general feel­
ing at the time that the relationship between Moliere and
Armande was not a happy one.
This same impression is sug­
gested by Grimarest1s La Vie de M. de Moliere.
Nineteenth century critics have first of all investi­
gated the facts presented b y Moliere’s contemporaries and
having proven them worthless, have then proceeded to an
inquiry into the more subtle implications.
Somehow they
have fallen under the spell of a subjective interpretation
of the problem.
These nineteenth century critics not find­
ing sufficient primary evidence to prove the existence of
tension in the household have searched further for a
possible source of information.
Perhaps Moliere either
willingly or unwillingly incorporated his feelings into his
Moliere, "Cocu"?
These critics have become so engrossed in the pro-
cess of the subjective interpretation of Moliere1s great
comedies that they carry it even beyond the suggestions of
Moliere1s contemporaries.
Through the course of his plays,
they find periods of quarrels and of reconciliations, and
they offer these plays as proof of the jea'lous nature of
Moliere and of his tumultuous life with Armande.
The arguments of these critics will be presented in
the following pages and refuted with the available evidence.
An attempt has been made to find Moliere and Armande
even in the first plays after their marriage.
L fEcole des marls and 1* Ecole des femmes concern various
marriage situations and since many of the passages express
melancholy or jealous anxiety, these subjective critics have
concluded that here was an expression of the author1s own
They hardly realize that the plot calls for
passages of this type and for characters such as Moliere
They have read the statement of La Grange, that
Moliere borrowed traits of character and little incidents
from life, and now they try to find every instance in which
Moli&re has done so.
(But their supposition is merely
S fil a plusieurs fois emprunt/ certains traits st
sa femme pour les appliquer aux personnages q u fil lui
donnait k representor, il est impossible q u fil ne
Moliere, ffCocuff?
laisse pas voir go. et
k travers ces personnages
les sentiments qu'elle lui inspirait.^4
Taking the plays In chronological order:
the earliest
comedy which has been cited as a revelation of Molierefs per
sonal situation is 1 fEcole des maris.
Lefranc makes the
Le sens cach£ de la pi&ce doit cone order avec
la passion tr^s vive, au1il 4prouvait k ce moment
pour Armande, et d fautre part avec l fhesitation qui
accompagnait ses projets de marriage.45
He points to the similarity in that Moliere had partially
raised Armande and that he was some twenty years older than
she .
He adds :
...on peut croire que l fEcole des marls out pr^cis^ment pour but de prouver q u fune solution favorable
de cette difficulte £tait possible; un tableau s^duisant de la vie d fun manage analogue k celui que l fauteur
allait fonder s !y trouve trac^ et la possibility de
l famour l fun pour l fautre de deux ^tres diff^rents
d !^ge y est demontr^e••
Lefranc believes that although Molifere himself did not play
the leading role, Ariste, he is the flporte-parole de Moliere
Michaut however refutes in a very logical manner the
statements of Lefranc.
He says first of all:
Q u fAriste soit le porte-parole de Moli&re, c fest
certain, en effet; mais le porte-parole de la th^se de
<44 Larroumet, Com^die de Molidret P. 142.
45 Cited by Michaut, Dlbuts de Moliere, P. 12S
46 Cited ibid., P. 129.
47 C f . Debuts de Moliere, P. 129.
Moliere, "Cocu”?
What authorizes anyone to believe that there is a ,fsens
cach£” , that Moliere placed a reflection of his personal
feeling in the play?
One may suppose, continues Michaut, that Moliere had a
"passion tr£s vive” for Armande (although there is no proof)
whereas Ariste had a calm tender regard for Leonor.
He con­
It is not known whether Moliere hesitated before
his marriage but surely he cannot be compared In this inde­
cision with Ariste who did not hesitate for a moment.
is not certain that Moliere raised Armande -- what informa­
tion there is comes from those who thrust the vilest
accusations at Molier^.^®
Michaut adds furthermore that Moliere could not have
attempted to show Armande that she should marry him in spite
of his age, nor to indicate what his views upon married life
Her very close contact with Moliere would reveal to
Armande Molierefs character and views without the Intermedi­
ary of a play.
Michaut concludes:
"Je ne crois done pas
du tout au 'sens cach^* de l*Ecole des maria.
To those TAfoo say that 1* Ecole des femmes is a subjec­
tive piece of work and that MoliSre In the role of Arnolphe
48 Moliere1s relation to Armande before their marriage
is not part of this thesis.
These are Michaut*s arguments
concerning 1 *Ecole des marls.
C f . Michaut, Les Debuts de Moli^re, P, 131.
Moli&re, “Cocu"?
61 Armande, Michaut says that the theory Is not even
worth refuting.
The modern subjective critics presume that the idea-for
l ^ c o l e des femmes occurred to Molifere at the same time as
1 !Ecole des marls and that both have a bearing on Moliere*s
personal life.
It does not seem likely that Moliere made a
personal reference here since 1 1Ecole des femmes has a liter­
ary source.
Two seventeenth century authors make statements
to this effect:
Le sujet de ces deux pieces n'est point de son
invention; il est tir£ de divers endroits, k savoir
de Boccace, des contes de Douville, de la Precaution
Inutile de Scarron, et ce q u fil y a de plus beau dans
la derni^re est tir^ d fun livre intitule les Nuits
fac^tleuses du Seigneur Straparole, dans une histore
duquel un rival vient tous les jours faire confidence
a son ami, sans savoir qu*il est son rival, des
faveurs qu* il obtient de sa ma^tresse, ce qui fait
tout le sujet et la beaut€ de 1 1Ecole des femmes.
Je crois que la Precaution inutile et les histoires
de Straparolle lui ont fourni quelque chose de son
sujet, (pour 1* Ecole des femmes), q u fil lit les
Italiens et les Espagnols, qu’il en tire quelque id^e
dans l foccasion; mais le bon usage a u 1il fait de ces
choses le rend encore plus louable.*2
Michaut asks what reason could these modern critics
have to suspect that there was discord in the household since
Cf • Ibid. i "P. 214.
51 Donneau de Vis£, Nouvelles nouvelles. Extract re­
printed in Michaut, Moliere, racont£ par ceux qui I 1ont vu,
P . 53.
52 Philippe de la Croix, La Guerre comique. Extract
reprinted in Michaut with the followint note: ^On ignore tout
de cet auteur.11 Molifere, racont^ par ceux qui 1 Tont vu, P. 132,
Moliere, flCoculf?
the first months of marriage.
Even the vicious slander of
la Fameuse comedienne dates the first supposed strain from
1664— and even this has no basis of truth,
Le Mariage forc^ is also attributed with an autobio­
graphical character.
Lefranc believes that Moliere continues
to ridicule the inequality of age in marriage; he believes
the idea is basically the same as in 1*Ecole des maris and
1*Ecole des femmes.
...Cette continuity dans l fytude des questions du
marriage et des femmes peut para^tre singulidre et
tourne vyritablement k 1*obsession. Faut-il y voir le
r^sultat des observations du grand comique, ou parlaitil, k certains moments, par sa propre exp4rienee?53
Lafenestre proposes the following:
Quelques-uns crurent deviner dans les allures
^mancip^es de Dorimene la peinture, volontairement
chargee, des fa^ons de Mile Moli&re, dont les
coquetteries commen^aient d !inquieter le mari laborieux, surmen^, maladif, irritable, Moliere en y
jouant...le Sganarelle, semblait bien, il
est vral, attaquer de face les malententionnys pour
n ^ t r e point attaau^.
Rire le premier, ri re plus
fort que tous, de ses propres inquietudes et de ses
propres mis&res, c'^tait ne laisser k personne le
droit d !en affirmer 1*existence ni d !en mesurer
l !£tendue. N4anmoins, en se donnant k lui-m£me, sous
un costume d femprunt, tant de raisons pour excuser
un mariage disproportionn4, en se complaisant avec
une telle opini^tret^ en des illusions de tolerance
delicate et de tendres attentions, pour s 1assurer
l'affection et la vertu d rune indigne compagne,
jusqufau remords final, ne pr£tait-il pas le flanc
S. toutes les malignitds?
S !il riait k gorge deploy^e,
ne pouvait-on insinuer a u !il riait jaune? Quelquesuns n !y manqu^rent pas.54
53 Lefranc, Revue des cours 1907-08, Vol. I, P. 631.
Also cited by Michaut, Les Luttes de Moliere» P. 14.
54 Lafenestre, Moliere, (Paris, Hachette et Cie, 1909),
P. 52. Also cited Michaut, Luttes de Moliere, P. 14.
Moliere, ,fCocu”?
Michaut would like to know who these 11quelques-uns”
rf6n les laisse anonymes, et pour cause,11 he writes.
"Enfin, pour voir dans lei Mariage forc^ une !opiniatret£ en
des illusions de tolerance delicate, etc.,’ il faut avoir
de bons yeux, que Je n !ai pas. ^
Michaut concedes that in-the three plays Moliere
treated the question of marriage; however in 1 TEcole des
femmes it was not a question of disproportionate age, in
1 TEcole des m a r i s , Moliere justifies a disproportionate
marriage, and in .le Mariage f orc€ he condemns one.
points out that not a single fact can be used as the b a s is
of a comparison between the stage and reality;
the situa­
tions are not similar, since Sganarelle is some thirteen
years older than Moliere, and since Moli&re had known
Armande from early childhood, and he points out also that
Armande was soon to have a child and could not have had the
opportunity to be a coquette.
His conclusion is:
"Je ne
crois done pas qu* il y ait dans l£ Mariage forc^ la moindre
confidence, m£me involontaire •
Les F^cheux again raises the problem of a play compar­
able to life.
"Selon Edouard Fournier, la com^die aurait
la valeur d !une confidence personnelle," writes Michaut.’
Fournier believes that Moliere, in love with Armande, and
wishing to devote his attention entirely to her, shows in his.
Michaut, Luttes de Moli&re, P. 14, note 1.
Ibid., P. 16.
57 Michaut, Debuts de Moliere, P. 141.
Moliere, fTCoeu,f?
comedy how he is continually interrupted and distracted by
orders which he as poet and author had to obey.
La pi&ce m£me, pour qui pouvait savoir sa preoccu­
pation constants, disait ce qui se passait en lui et
corabien l famant se trouvait, g§n^ par tout ce que le
po&te et le com£dien 4tait obligd" de f a i r e . 5 8
Fournier adds lUrther:
II joua les Fftcheux devant des gens qui £taient,
pour lui et pour son amour beaucoug trop d^rang^e,
les plus grands f&cheux du monde.^u
We are not concerned here with
Molidre!sactual purpose, but
only with the possibility that
he took asituation from his
own life and placed it on the stage.
Ramon Fernandez would like to substitute a simpler
explanati o n :
Un biographe Ing4nieux a imaging que les F&cheux
nous content la g&ne de Moli&re emp^ch^ par les
importuns de rejoindre Armande.
C fest aller bien
loin et manquer le symbols tr&s simple de la pi&ce.
Le temps est Infiniment pr^cieux & Molidre...Un
homme ainsi bouscul^ et dou^ du temperament que nous
lui connaissons ne supports bient&t de la vie que le
strict necessaire.
Tout ce qui s fajoute k ce n^cessaire le f£che, etc. Eraste se cougnant k Orphise,
& Lysandre, it Caritides et aux autres, c fest, en plus
l^ger et sur le mode mineur, Moliere se heurtant It
tous les modules de ses comedies. ^
Michaut, however, assumes that if one discards a very
ingenious symbol, then he has the right to ask before one
Ibid., P. 141.'
Ibid., P. 141.
C f . La Revue critique, 5aout
T,MolHFre dans sonQBuvre",
P. 147.
Cited by
Moliere, ”Cocu”?
substitutes a more simple symbol what necessity there is of*
assuming that Moliere1s plays are symbolic at all, especially
this one:
Que Moliere, oblig^ de bacler une pi&ce, ait
imaging de croquer un certain nombre de ridicules;
que pour les presenter, pour falre l funit^ de-sa
pi^ce & tiroirs, il ait imaging un amoureux
emp§ch<£r par eux de retrouver celle q u 1il aime,
voil& qui est plus simple encore que le symbole le
plus simple:
n !est-il pas beaucoup plus sur
d !admettre une explication aussi naturelle que d*en
aller chercher d*autres et plus compliqu^es et plus
Michaut's opinion of the play is as follows:
....les F&cheux ont fal^ comprendre mieux que
jamais k Moliere I ’agr^ment que peut avoir la
peinture fiddle du vrai. Puisque ici 1 ’intrigue n fa
pas d*int^r$t veritable, puisque les passions des
protagonistes ne peuvent ^mouvoir, si la pidce a
plu, c !est parce qufelle repr^sentait fnaivement! la
r£alit*f de la vie .62
It is to be noted that Michaut does not imply that the
play was a representation of Moli&re1s life but of life in
La Fontaine, also, suggests that Moli&re presented
life in general.
Et maintenant il ne faut pas
Quitter la nature d'un pas.63
Mesnard suggests that in l fImpromptu de Versailles
it is not a r8le created by Moliere, but rather the author
himself that we see act and hear speak.
It seems to be a
situation in which he often found himself.
"Moliere dans son oeuvre” , P. 147.
Michaut, Debuts de MollSre t P. 144.
63 Letter to his friend Maucroix.
Debuts de Moliere , P. 144.
Augier says:
Cited by Michaut,
Moli&re, lfCocu,f?
C f£tait de cette mani&re sans doute qu!il expliquait aux comd'diens les rdles dont il les chargeait;
c !^tait ainsi que d^veloppant k leurs yeux le
caract&re de chaque personnage il leur apprenait k
le revetir des f o m e a les plus vraies et les plus
expressives .64
This interpretation seems entirely plausible; however
Lefranc has gone farther.
He finds that in this play
"l’homme s !est d^peint et racont^ avec f i d d l i t ^ . " ^
writes Michaut, "nous ne trouvons pas l !homme Moliere;
nous y trouvons 1 1auteur MoliSre, le com^dien Moliere, le
directeur Moliere; et, une fois de plus, c !est tout autre
Michaut seems to make the concession that M 0li&ref
public life Jias been placed upon the stage.
But the critics are not content with this public por­
Once having launched this subjective analysis,
they allege that the "piquant dialogue" of the Impromptu
de Versailles testifies to the growing discord in the
Larroumet disagrees with this theory:
La petite querelle de directeur et de mari q u ril
introduit dans I 1Impromptu de Versailles laisserait
m&ne croire qu*11 vivait encore & ce moment dans une
parfaite security.67
Michaut avoids this personal interpretation.
If the
director in this comedy is shown to be brusque and impatient,
Cited by Despois et Mesnard, o£. c it. , III, 404, note
Cited by Michaut, "Moliere dans son oeuvre", P. 127.
Ibid., P. 127.
Larroumet, Com^die de Moliere, P. 143.
Moliere, ,,Cocuf,?
it is part of the very theme of the play:
the agitation,
worry, and embarrassment of a director obliged to put on a
performance without having anything ready,
Michaut adds:
Qui ne voit qu*ils attestent au contraire la
parfaite s^curit^de Molidre, et que ce sont ill
piques de nouveaux ^poux encore amoureux?^8
Loiseleur admits this possibility, but he adds that Moliere
gave h i s w ife the satisfaction of "repousser les m^disances,
qui couraient d£j& sur son compte.1'6®
Michaut asks what
proof exists for such a statement.
Even if this play depicts the friendly quarrels of
Armande and Moli&re, there exists no proof of it.
Above all
there is no definite sign of strife between husband and wife.
In this respect Larroumet has written:
II se sert ici, pour un effet plaisant, d fun simple
lieu commun de com^die, et, par cela m&me qu*il l ’emploie
c ’est q u Til'n ’en redoute pas l fapplication pour lui-m§ine. 0
It is the opinion of Larroumet that 3^ Mariage f orc^
offers more direct allusions to Molidrefs household.
He adds
that it Is not impossible that Moliere, as soon as he was
married, heard from his wife the declaration of DorimSne to
Je crois que vous ne serez point de ces marls
Incommodes qui veulent que leurs femmes vlvent comme
des loupsgarous. Je vous avoue que je ne m ’accoriioderois pas de cela et que la solitude me d£sesp&re.
Michaut, Debuts de Moliere a P. 216>
Cited ibid., P. 216, note 1.
Larroumet, Com^dle de Moliere, P. 143-4.
Moliere, ”Cocu”?
J ’aime le jeu, les visites, les assemblies, les
cadeaux et les promenades; en un mot, toutes les
choses de plaisir.
This passage recalls a similar one in the work of
Grimarest, writes Larroumet.
Aussitot mariie, Armande "se croit une duches'se” ,
se pare avec fureur et coquette Mavec le courtisan
d^soeuvri qui lui en acute” ; elle hausse les ipaules,
aux observations de son mari; ces lemons lui paraissent
”trop siv^res pour une jeune personne qui, d failleurs,
n Ta rien a se reprocher.”72
The critics who use the work of Grimarest as evidence
hardly realize that his writing is not primary e vidence.
On the contrary, it is entirely possible that Grimarest,
not having sufficient information from Baron and "others” ,
looked to the anonymous Fameuse c om^dlenne and other con­
temporary works to fill in the gaps of his story--he may
have even paraphrased certain passages from Moliere1s plays.
It must also be remembered that Boileau remarked that
Grimarest did not even know what everyone else knew.
Larroumet points out that a similar passage is to be
found in the speech of Angelique to George Da ndin:
C !est une chose merveilleuse que cette tyrannie
de messieurs les maris, et je les trouve bons de
vouloir q u 1on soit morte & tous les divertissements
'et q u Ton ne vive que pour euxl Je me moque de cela
et ne veux point mourir si jeune...Je veux jouir,
s* il vous pla£t, de quelque nombre de beaux jours que
Cited by Larroumet, Com^die de Molidre, P. 144.
Cited by Larroumet, L o c . cit.
Moliere, ,fCocun?
rafoffre la jeunesse, prendre les douces libert^s
que l !£ge me permet, voir un^ peu le beau monde
et goiter le plaisir de tn'oul’r dire des douceurs.
In summary of the two plays Larroumet writes:
Mariage f or c^ was written and presented in 1668— after two
years and more certainly after six years of marriage, the
fatal consequences of a difference in age and in tempera­
ment were bound to cause strife in the household.
Avide de plaisir et de vie bruyante Armande aurait
voulu imposer ses gouts S son mari; revenu de bien des
choses, souffrant, ^cras£ de travail et de soucis,
Moli&re aspirait & la vie de famille, intime et caoh^e.
Profondement bon, mais nerveux et irritable comme les
hommes de vive sensibility, il dut quelquefois contrarier et rudoyer la creature frivole et de petit
jugement q u fytait A r m a n d e . ^
But Larroumet assumes that the character of Armande has
been revealed.
In reality there
is nothing which verifies
this theory; no authoritative contemporary can be cited as
having presented a reliable moral portrait of the young
And even though Larroumet admits that there is
little likelihood that Moli&re saw his own fate in the fu­
ture of Sganarelle or in the present of Georges Dandln,
what gives him the right to assume that there is any sub­
jectivism whatsoever?
Upon what evidence did he conclude
that Moliere was Irritable and nervous?
In fact, the only two references to Moliere1s tempera­
ment which are available attest to his melancholy nature,
yet neither source suggests that Moliere was irritable and
Cited, by Larroumet, Com^dis de Molidre» P. 144.
Moliere, MCocufr?
Quoiqu'il fut tr&s-agr€able en conversation lorsque
les gens lui plaisoient, il ne parloit gu&re en compagnie, k moins qu!il ne se trouvsit avec des personnes
pour qui il eut une estime particuli^re: cela faisoit
dire k ceux. qui ne le connaissoient pas q u !il ^toit
i^veur et mllancolique; mais s !il parloit peu, il par­
loit juste. 5
On fait reflexion au caract&re d*esprit de Moliere,
k la gravity de sa conduite et de sa conversation.*^
But if indeed .this is a revelation of a problem which
Armande and Moliere had to fhce and that Moliere revealed the
oharacter of his young wife,
then the mere fact that Moliere
placed it upon the stage should indicate that serious quar­
rels did not take place in the household.
an indication of its relative unimportance.
This is rather
It must be
remembered that Moli&re!s enemies were attacking him and
anything he wrote-was used against him; in light of these
attacks it is not likely that the dramatist would give these
scandal mongers further information to use to their own
And if indeed Moliere*s plays may be used as an indica­
tion of his thought, then critics should take more notice of
the declaration made in l 1Impromptu de Versailles, a passage
which we repeat here for further emphasis:
La courtoisie doit avoir des bornes et il y a des
choses qui ne font rire ni les spectateurs, ni celui
dont on parle.
Je leur abandonne de bon coe ur mes
ouvrages, ma figure, mes gestes, mes paroles, mon ton
75 La Grange, Preface to 1682 edition of Moliere’s
works, reprinted by Despois, 0£. c i t .» I, xv.
P. 46.
Grimarest, La Vie de Moli&re, edition Chancerel,
Moli^re, “Coci}1*?
de voix, et ma fagon de reciter, pour en faire et
dire tout ce qu!11 leur plaira...Mais en leur
abandonnant tout cela, ils me doivent faire la
grsice de me laisser le reste et de ne point toucher
It des mati^res de la nature de celles sur lesquelles
on m !a dit q u !il m fattaquaient dans leurs comedies.
C'est de quoi je prierai fort civilement cet honnete
Monsieur, qui se m&le d f£crire pour ©UX, et voil&
toute la r^ponse q u !ils auront de m o i . -This same question concerning the difference in temper­
ament between Armande and -Molifere is brought up in connection
with la Prlncesse dfBllde»
Livet in his edition of la Fameuse
comedienne points to the couplet where the princess professes
to hate love as a personal revelation:
..*Mon cos ur est le prix q u fils veulent tous courir
Mais quelque espoir qui flatte un projet de la sorte,
Je me tromperai fort si pas un d'eux l ’emporte* 8
He then quotes the speech ofthe princess where
attitude and his comment
she explains
is typical of many critics:
Dans la sc^ne suivante (11,2), Aglante ayant dit:
flTous les plaisirs sont fades s !il ne s fy m£le un peu
d'amour,” la prlncesse, c fest-^-dire Mile Moli&re, r^pond:
f,Pouvez-vous bien prononcer ces paroles et ne
devez-vous rouglr d fappuyer
une passion qui niest
qu’erreur, que foiblesse
et qu*emportement,et dont tous
les d^sordres ont tant de repugnance avec la gloire de
not re sexe? J fen pretends soutenir l fhonneur jusquTau
dernier moment de ma vie, et ne veux point du tout me
commettre k ces gens qui font les esclaves aupr^s de
nous pour devenir un jour nos tyrans.
Toutes ces larmes,
-tous ces soupirs, tous ces hommages, tous ces respects,
sont des embuches q u Ton tend & notre coeur, et qui souvent l Tengagent k commettre des l^chetds.
Pour moi,
quand je regarde certain exemples et les bassesses
^pouvantables oft cette passion ravale les personnes
sur qui elle ^tend sa puissance, je sens mon coeur qui
P. 159.
Cited writh Italics by Michaut, Debuts de Molidre,
Moli&re, ffCocuff?
s 1^meut, et je ne puls souffrir qu!une §me qui fait
profession d !un peu de fierte ne trouve pas une honte
horrible It de telles faiblesses.11 II nous parait
impossible q u fune t&lle tirade ait
introduite sans
dessein dans la pi^ce. Moli&re n fa-t-il pas trahi
dans cette scene les preoccupations de son caract^re
Michaut*s criticism, of this as follows:
"ce couplet
est l fabrege d fun couplet de Cintia; et le !dessein! qui l !a
fait introduire dans la pidce est bien clair:
si la prin-
cesse n*est pas ennemie de l !amour, il n !y a plus de
Here the critics have refused to accept the
simplest explanation of this particular tirade--they are in­
tent upon substantiating a belief that Moli^re revealed his
life in his plays.
In le_ Misanthrope Larroumet again interprets subjec­
Q u fil y ait beaucoup d felle-m£me dans le r&le, on
ne saurait le m^connaitre.
ceiim&ne, est, par excel­
lence, la_ grande coquette , et il semble bien q.u!^ la
ville Armande tenait le r$le au thd&tre. A defaut
d !autres preuves, son gout de la parure et ses recherches de fantaisie orlginale suffiraient pour
l findiquer. Armande avait aussi de la coquette, l !humeur imp^rieuse et vaine; elle "vouloit, dit la comedienne, §tre applaudie en tout, n !^tre
contredite en rien, et surtout elle pretendoit qu!un
amant fut soumis comme un esclave."81
Here Larroumet has accepted a statement of la Fameuse come­
dienne .
If indeed this anonymous work is a mixture of truth
and fiction who can take upon himself the authority of
Cf. Livetfs notes on la Fameuse comedienne, P. 153-154
Michaut, Luttes de Moli&re, P. 28.
Larroumet, Comedie de Moli&re, P. 135-6.
Mol i^ re, "Cocu"?
declaring one statement
true and another false?
more, how does a liking for adornment reveal the coquette?
Larroumet goes still farther and sees the possibility
of a revelation, of Moli^re himself:
Le po&te dut dprouver les m§mes souffranees que
son h^ro, avec ce surcroit d*irritation et d !inquietude
que donne la qualitd de mari, c fest-lt-dire la crainte
de perdre non seulement ce que l fon desire, mais ce
que lfon poss&de, et le souci de l fhonneur endanger.
II y a dans le r6“le d fAlceste, je ne sais quoi de profond^ment vrai que la puissance cr^atrice du po&te ne
suffirait pas k expliquer, des accents o& le coeur a
plus de part que 1 fImagination, une m^lancolie profonde o& percent les souvenirs d fune experience
Moli^re has made the torment of Alceste so life-like
that Larroumet has fallen under its spell.
Larroumet be ­
lieves that Moli&re has here expressed his own apprehension.
Several other critics have offered the same interpretation
based upon la Fameuse comedienne in spite of its unrelia­
Louis Moland admits that the play may touch upon
many points of reality in the life of Mol id re:
II mit dans la nouvelle et Immortelle com^die
beaucoup de son coeur: Alceste, adorant malgre lui
la coquette C^llmdne, exprimait des peines et de
faiblesses que Molidre n ’avait'pas besoin de feindre.
C.!^tait lui qui reprdsentait '1fhomme aux rubans verts1,
et C^lim&ne £tait jou€e au naturel par Armande Bejart;
ces deux ^poux se trouvaient done avoir & peu pr&s la
m£me situation r^ciproque sur le th6&tre que dans la
vie, et leurs r3les ne pouvaient qu!emprunter It cette
conformity un accent de v^rit^ p r o f o n d . ^ 3
Ibid., P. 145.
ffC o c u ”?
However he adds as an after-thought:
Si en certains moments Alceste souffre, se plaint,
s'indigne comme ferait Moli&re, gardons-nous d ’en conclure que nous voyons dans Alceste MoliSre peint par
Mesnard also suggests a conflict in the household:
.. .et il n fest pas invraisemblable qu*il (Molidre)
ait mis beaucoup de lui-m£me, des col^res de son Ihie
bless^e dans ce role d*Alceste, dont il s f¥tait, comme
aeteur, r^serv^ 1 finterpretation. II ne faudrait pas
pour cela chercher MoliSre dans le personnage du
Misanthrope tout entier.85
Does Mesnard believe that difficulties arose in the house­
hold although he is aware that the play cannot be used to
substantiate this conjecture?
Mesnard in discussing this problem points out that in
la Fameuse com^dienne a direct allusion is made to Moli&re
as Alceste and Armande as C^lim^ne, loved to her last and
unpardonable infidelity.
However Mesnard*s statement is
not absolutely correct.
The situation as discussed in la
Fameuse comedienne is very similar to the one in the
Misanthrope but there is no reference made to the characters
in the play, nor is a date given for this supposed quarrel. w
Besides, is there any guarantee of authenticity in these
How can we accept the inference of the anony­
mous author of la Fameuse comedienne most of whose statements
Ibid.. P. 257.
Despois et Mesnard,
clt. , V, 386.
86 Cf. Edition Livet, P. 16-21.
Mesnard, Ojd. cit. , V, 385.
Cited by Despois et
Moli&re, "Cocu"?
have already been proved invalid, if indeed this is a refer­
ence to the Misanthrope?
Mesnard also cites a note of Aim^-Martin made & propos
to verse 1784:
"En 1664, ^poque k laquelle Moli^re tra-
vaillait au Misanthrope, il se s^para de sa femme, comme
Alceste de C4lim^ne, apr&s lui avoir offert son pardon."
Prom what source has Aim^-Martin taken his information?
Isn’t it quite possible that Moli^re based this character
Alceste on some literary source?
What evidence does
Aim^-Martin offer to prove that Moli&re separated himself
from his wife?
Ashton seems to chide those critics who see a revela­
tion of Moli&re in Alceste.
He points out that the evidence
of Moli&re’s quarrels with Armande is not trustworthy and
cannot be advanced to explain the Misanthrope.
That Molifere should make fun of himself in public
when suffering from his wife’s infidelities, that he
should expose to the public gaze his private affairs
and, in the midst of bitter family quarrels, should
prevail upon his wife to play C4lim&ne to his Alceste
may seem quite plausible to critics who have in mind
Elle et Lui or Sainte-Beuve’s Livre d ’Amour, but it
cannot be accepted by anyone -who knows the literature
of the days of Louis XIV.'88
Furthermore, according to Mesnard, some of the very
passionate lines of the rftle of Alceste, where he expresses
87 Next to last scene in the edition of Aim^-Martin
Cited by Despois et Mesnard, 0£. cit., V, 388
Ashton, Molifere, P. 102.
Molilre, "Cocu”?
his jealousy, are to be found in Dom Garcie de Navarre, a
play produced a year before his marriage with Armande.
repetition seems to indicate that this was not the outburst
of the author’s own jealousy but rather a literary device
introduced to carry the action forward.
Surely, if Moli^re
wished to express the torment of his own jealousy, his
genius would have created a new effusion of verse rather
than have borrowed the purely literary tirades of Dom Garcie
de Navarre.
It appears that Moli&re merely thought the lines
of Dom Garcie de Navarre of sufficient merit to be used as
an expression of Alceste1s jealousy in the Misanthrope.
Jules Loiseleur introduces a subjective interpreta­
tion into the play Georges Dandln.
He believes that this
play is a revelation of Moli&re's private life.
George Dandin...dut &tre ^crit dans une de ces
p^riodes de Brouille oh les deux £poux passaient de
la paix arm4e aux hostilites.
Armande remplissait
dans cette com^die le r6le d ’Angelique, c ’est & dire
celui d'une femme marine qui manque It ses devoirs,
et c ’est.le seul de cette nature qu’il y ait dans tout
le th^&tre de Moli&re.°^
Loiseleur believes that this was the only revelation of this
sort in all of Moli&re’s comedies.
Yet even if the situation in Georges Dandin were a true
one, why diould Moli&re wish to reveal it to the public?
Mesnard a sks:
89 Loiseleur, Les Points obscurs de la Vie de Molifere,
(Paris, I. Liseux, 1877) P. 315.
Cited also Despois et
Mesnard, 0£. c i t . . VI, 497.
Moli&re, flCoculf?
...quelle satisfaction aurait-il trouv^e dans
Georges Dandin & se repr^senter sous les traits
ridicules de ce mari tromp^ et k montrer Mile
Moli&re si digne des vilains noms q u 1il n f^pargne
pas k Angelique?90
Mesnard concludes that there is nothing personal expressed
in Georges Dandin.
Laissons done k Mile Moli&re la creation du role
d'Angelique, mais sans croire que Moli&re le lui ait
donn^ pour prendre le public II t^moin des chagrins
qufelle lui causait;
autant eut valu s ^ t t a c h e r luim^me pour courir les rues le bat l^gendaire qui connaissent les lecteurs de la Fontaine.91
Furthermore, there is an important point which critics
accept the subjective theory overlook, namely:
would be ridiculing himself.
As was shown in Chapter I of
this thesis, Moli&re stated that a man does not wish to
appear ridiculous.
lous character.
Georges Dandin is undoubtedly a ridicu­
Therefore, how can one assume that Georges
Dandin is Moli&re?
There is a paragraph in Grimarest which shows quite
clearly that Moli&re did not reveal himself.
The following
anecdote which Grimarest presented in his book cannot be
used as authoritative evidence, yet it certainly decreases
the likelihood that Loiseleur1s opinion is correct:
II projeta de donner son Georges Dandin. Mais un
de ses amis lui fit entendre q u fil y avait dans le
monde un Dandin qui pourrait bien se reconnaltre dans
sa pi^ce, et qui ^tait en ^tat par sa famille non-
Despois et Mesnard, Ojd. cit. . VI, 498-9.
Ibid., P. 499.
Moli&re, "Cocu"?
seulement de la d^crier, mais encore de le faire
repentir d Ty avoir travaill^.
"Vous avez raison,
dit Moli^re k. son ami; mais je sais un sur moyen
de me concilier l ’homme dont vous me parlez:
j ’irai lui lire ma pi§ce.ff92
There is certainly no valid evidence for the theory that
Georges Dandin is Moli&re.
Without having proven that there was ever any discord
between Moli&re and Armande, critics nevertheless wonder
whether the two portraits in la Princesse d !Elide and in
le Bourgeois gentilhomme are the evidence of reconciliation
between the two— if indeed they ever quarreled.
Was Moli&re
extolling her particular loveliness, or is the description
added merely to satisfy the needs of the plays?
Is this
evidence of the amorous tone of Moli&re, husband and lover?
Larroumet is of the opinion that:
Dans la Prlncesse d !Elide..., Armande faisait la Euryale, repr^sent^ par La Grange,
d^taillait en son honneur un portrait qui dut 3tre
salue de longs applaudissements: ”Elle est adorable
en tout temps, il est vrai; mais ce moment l !a emport^
sur tous les autres et des graces nouvelles ont
redouble l !^clat de ses beaut^s.
Jamais son visage
ne s ’est par£ de plus vives couleurs ni ses yeux ne
se sont army’s de traits plus vifs et plus perpants.
La douceur de sa voix a voulu se faire paralftre dans
un air tout charmant qu!elle a daign^ chanter, et
les sons merveilleux qu!elle f o m a i t passaient
jusqu!au fond de mon tme et tenaient tous mes sens
dans un ravissement k ne pouvoir en revenir. Elle a
fait ^clater ensuite une disposition toute divine, et
ses pieds amoureux, sur l !^mail du tendre gazon,
tracaient d !aimables caract&res qui m !enlevaient
92 Grimarest, La Vie de M. de Moli&re, edition
Chancerel, P. 60-61.
Moli&re, "Cocu^?
hors de moi-mfime et m fattachaient par des noeuds
invincibles aux doux et justes mouvements dont
tout son corps suivait les mouvements de ^harmonie.
Michaut cannot understand how this can he the portrait
of Armande; such general terms could he used to describe
almost anyone.
Furthermore, he points out that La Grange
does not speak in Moli^reTs name hut rather in the name -of
the character he portrays, and that tie describes the
Princess, not Armande:
La Princesse a voulu s^duire Euryale-par ses
chants et ses danses, et elle y a de son mieux
d^ploy^ ses graces; lui, il en ^t^ charm^, d 1autant
plus charm^ au1il se contraignait It la froideur;
rencontrant son confident, il est tout naturel, il
est n^cessaire qu!11 soulage son coeur et crie son
It is toward a logical development of the play that the hero
expresses his sentiments, and an echo of the sentiments of
the author himself should not he sought in these words.
Michaut points out also that the last of this speech,
describing the dancing of the princess, could not refer to
Armande at all since the ballet took place during the
"entracte” and it was Mile du Parc who took the r&le at that
C f^taient d !ailleurs Mile du Parc, qui dans la
troupe '^tait ,fl f£toileff de la danse.
C'est toujours
elle, et ici en particulier, c !est elle seule que
nomme et vante Loret.95
Larroumet, Com^die de Moli&re, P. 133.
Michaut, Luttes de Molidre, P. 28.
95 C f . Letter of February 2, 1664.
Michaut, Luttes de Moli&re. P. 28.
Statement by
Moli&re, "Cocu”?
Michaut makes another criticism; he asks what proof
there is that Moli&re ever used such a langourous tone with
Armande, especially after their marriage.
He points out
that it is quite another tone that the two converse in ±n
1 1Impromptu de Versatiles.
Michaut does not realize however
that there is no validity in assuming that the manner of
speech in the earlier comedy is more representative of life
than in the later one.
As a matter of fact they both may
or may not he a true representation.
It is the opinion of Larroumet that Moli&re drew a
very flattering portrait of Armande in _le Bourgeois gentilho m m e, that he showed an attitude of admiration toward her
even eight years after their marriage, an attitude which is
indicative of a love as keen and as ardent as the first day.
A ce moment, la concorde rOgnait entre les deux
Opoux, et le pobte n ’avait pour sa femme q u fingenieuses
provenances et dOlicates flatteries.
But what makes Larroumet so certain that there were
periods of discord?
And in addition how can he assume that
the amorous tone expressed here is a revelation of MoliOre’s
own sentiment?
And as Michaut asks, what indicates that
this feeling corresponds with the period in which it was
Si l fon retrouve dans l foeuvre de Moli&re une
comOdie o& certains passages semblent dictOs par une
passion ardente, qui nous prouve que ce passage
Larroumet, Com^die de Molidre, P. 138.
Moli&re, TICocu,f?
n fest pas en r^alit^ anterieur k la date oi!l il a
6t4 rendu public?
qui nous prove que ce passage,
s' il a 4t4 ^crit effectivement
cette date, ne
l Ta pas it4 sous 1 Tinspiration d ’un lointain
souvenir, ou par un effort de d^doublement...
The situation in le Bourgeois gentilhomme is as
Cl^onte has become angry with Lucile (played by
Armande) and instructs his valet to create as disagree­
able a portrait of her as possible, pointing out all her
The valet takes his task seriously, but as he re­
veals each defect, the master turns it into an advantage
with impatience and warmth of feeling:
Voll^. une belle mijaur^e, une pimperou^e
bien batie, pour vous donner tant d ’amourl
Je ne lui vois rien que de tr&s mediocre; et
vous trouverez cent personnes qui seront plus
dignes de vous. Premi&rement, elle a les
yeux petits .
Cela est vrai, elle a les yeux petits.
Mais elle les a pleins de feu, les plus brillants, les plus per^ants du monde, les plus
touchants qufon puisse voir.
a la bouche grande.
Oui; mais on y voit des graces qu!on ne
voit point aux autres bouches; et cette bouche,
en la voyant, inspir^ des d^sirs, est la plus
attrayante, la plus amoureuse du monde.
sa taille, elle n ’est pas grande.
mais elle est ais^e et bien prise.
Elle affecte une nonchalance dans son parler et dans ses actions..*.
Michaut, MMoli&re dans son (Euvretf, P. 131
Moli&re, "Cocu^?
II est vrai; mais elle a gr&ce & tout cel&;
et ses mani&res sont engageantes, ont je ne sais
quel charme II s !insinuer dans le coeur.
Pour de l ’esprit...
. elle en a, Covielle, du plus fin,
plus d^licat.
Sa conversation...
Sa conversation est charmante.
Elle est toujours serieuse.
Veux-tu de ces enjouments ^panouis, de
ces joies toujours ouvertes?
et vois-tu rien
de plus Impertinent que des femmes qui rient k
tout propos?
Mais enfin, elle est capricieuse autant
que personne du monde,
Oui, elle est capricieuse, jfen demeure
d faccord; mais tout sied bien aux belles; on
souffre tout des belles,
Puisque cela va comme cela, je vois bien .
que vous avez envie de l faimer toujours,
Moi? J Taimerais mieux mourir; et je vais
la ha'ir autant que je l fai aim^e.
Le moyen, si vous la trouvez si parfaite?
C fest en quoi ma vengeance sera plus ^clatante, en quoi je veux faire mieux voir la
force de mon coeur h la ha'i'r, It la quitter,
toute belle, toute pleine d fattraits, tout
aimable, que je la trouve.98
Livet also believes that Moli&re depicted Armande in
the Bourgeois gentilhomme as he himself saw her.
To sub­
stantiate his opinion he quotes a letter written by Mile
98 Cited by Michaut, "Molidre dans son oeuvre ", P. 141,
MoliSre, "Cocu"?
Polsaon, daughter of Du Crolsy, which appeared in the Mercure
of May, 1740.
Elle avait la taille mediocre mais un air engageant,
quoique avec de tr^s-petits yeux, une bouche fort
grande et fort plate; mais faisant tout avec grstce,
jusqu’aux plus petites chose,, .99
Michaut points out however that in 1740 Mile Poisson was
75 years old, and therefore at the time of Moli&re's death
she* was seven.
He asks how a child of seven could have
observed accurately and how could the description written
in 1740 be a true portrait of Armande,
He points out further
that Mile Poisson was not infallible since she had erred in
describing Moli&re as being tall rather than medium or even
esyna I
Another contemporary, the anonymous author of la
Fameuse comedienne, describes Armande thus:
"Et il est sOr
que la Guerin quoique laide, a ^t^ une personne fort touchante, quand elle a voulu plaire,
This statement is
entirely vague and can carry no real weight since this book
is hardly an authoritative piece of work.
Rigal himself, who opposes any sort of subjective inter­
pretation of Moli&re’s w^rks, recognizes in this play the
portrait of Armande:
La Fameuse comedienne, notes by Livet, P, 139,
Cf. "Moli&re dans son oeuvre ",
Edition by Livet, P. 7.
P, 141,
Moli^re, ”Cocu”?
La femme ratine de Moli&re, l 1enchanteresse Armandet
est,--ce sont les contemporains qui nous l Tattestent,
--minitieusement d^crite dans ]Le Bourgeois gentilhomme.
Quelle revelations ne peut-on pas attendre de l ’homme
qui ne craint pas de d e t a i n e r k ce point devant le
public' les beaut^s de celle qu!il aime et qui porte son
Having thus summarized the arguments, he answers:
Mais quoil Mile Moli^re ^tait actrice; c'^tait son
metier d'etre analyses, critiqu^e, admir^e par les
spectateurs; et ce portrait qui nous parait k nous si
revelateur, ne revelait rien du tout aux contemporains*104
Michaut criticizes the opinion of Rigal:
”11 ne s !agit
pas de savoir si cela r^V3le quelque chose; il s*agit de
savoir si Moli&re exprime ici son amour pour Armande.”10^
If this is such a portrait, he continues, then it would be
evidence of this subjectivism:
II faut distinguer en effet le portrait physique du
portrait moral * Le portrait physique nous d^crit une
femme de taille mediocre, avec des yeux petits, une
grande bouche, une certaine nonchalance dans le parler
et dans les actions*
£Te veux que ce soit l'exacte
peinture d TArmande. Mais c !est Armande qui joue le
rtJle; il faut bien que la description de Lucile s Taccorde avec l fapparence de l !actricequi repr^sente
Sinon, nous aurions un effet de gros comique
...quant au portrait moral, le_ seul qui pourralt £tre
dit rfrevelateur” , il est impost par la donnde m^tne de
la scS'ne; il est celui que sa passion dict^ k
1 ’amoureux Cl^onte*
II est done d^raisonnable d ry
reconna'ftre la passion de Moli&re lui-m§me. L finadap-
102 Who are these contemporaries and can their state­
ments be accepted as authoritative?
Cited by Michaut, lfM'oliSre dans son oeuvre” , P. 140.
Cited Ibid.. P. 140.
Michaut, ”Moli^re dans son oeuvre, ” P. 140-141.
Moli&re, flCocu,r?
tation des paroles ^ la situation et aux sentiments
du personnage, voil& justement h quoi l Ton peut
d^celer 1 Tintervention personnelle de l Tauteur...
Disons~donc que cette jolie sc^ne peint l ’amour de
Cl^onte et non pas q u felle peint 1*amour de Moli&re.
Pas de trace ici de ,fsubjectivisme.”106
Ibid., P. 142-45.
Did Moli&re reveal himself as a misanthrope?
One is
obliged to say that no substantial proof exists which shows
that Moli&re depicted his own misanthropy.
As Ashton points
out and as may be gathered from the preface by La Grange
and Vinot and from the work of Chappuzeau, Holiere was one
who would have been severely criticized by Alceste.
Fernandez offers a contrary theory his short unsupported arti
cle can not be regarded as conclusive*
Furthermore, Moli&re*
contemporaries interpreted the rtle of the misanthropic
Alceste as being based on the Due de Montausier.
Later critics, among whom are Mesnard, Michaut and
Moland, believe that Molidre might have inserted certain
little traits and tendencies in the Misanthrope which were
suggested to him by his own habits but that there is nothing
conclusive to show such a correspondence.
They believe on
the whole that the characters of the Misanthrope are based
on a conglomeration of individuals and are creations rather
than portraits.
Preceding to the second problem:
Although the con­
temporary author, le Boulanger de Chalussay, implies that
Molidre was hypochondriac, it can be seen that this accu­
sation comes from an enemy of the man— no other contemporary
has made such brutal allusions to Moli^re.
It is evident
that the Boulanger was acquainted with the theatrical life
of Moli&re but there is nothing to show that he was on Inti-
mate.terms with the actor and thus qualified to make state­
ments about Molibre*s private life.
In a comparison between Moli&re and the character Argan,
the dramatist1s real illness is the first point of difference
between the two#
There is every indication that Moli&re
was troubled with
illness which although it did not make
an invalid of him was a constant source of agitation and
It may be said that MoliSre did not resemble Argan in
his attitude toward doctors— Argan who was blind to the false­
ness of the doctors, blind to his own delusion of ill-health;
Argan who accepted the pampering of anyone who simulated
and attentiveness#
Moli&re himself could see no help coming
from medical science*
Perhaps the only similarity between Moli&re and Argan
is their concern about health#
However, as we have already
shown, Argan has only the fear of illness whereas Moli£re*s
attitude toward illness and the medical profession results
from the lack of aid coming from his many doctors#
Larroumet has pointed out that according to the medical
definition of hypochondria, Moli&re could be said to be in
that pitiful state of anxiety, provoked by either a real or
imaginary illness#
However, his definition is not entirely
accurate; hypochondria is a mental disorder and mere pre­
occupation with a problem is no indication of mental dis­
Furthermore it must be remembered that the accusation
of the Boulanger de Chalussay carried the definite implication
of an imagined illness and not the concern over actual poor
In the consideration of Moli&refs intention in writing
the play, there are several theories.
The more objective
one is that the dramatist may have used this theme merely
as a vehicle for his talent to depict comic situations— a
theme which was in keeping with the contemporary tradition
of comedy.
Furthermore, the ridicule of doctors had been
the theme of Mollire’s earliest comedies.
The more subjective theory proposed by Mesnard is that
the comedy of Moli^re grew out of his own preoccupation with
the matter of health.
He assumes that the author tried to
laugh at his own anxiety.
Moland proposes the same hypothesis;
he presumes that Molibre created a character with the fictitious
element being Argan1s health.
Mesnard considers the possibility that the derogatory
play, Elomire hvpocondre. might have provoked Moli&re to
create a character which had a distant resemblance to him­
self but which in its entirety was far from being a self
In this way he might have refuted the malicious
However the subjective theories are mere supposition*
As Rigal states, it would betray the most impersonal and
objective of poets to allow the catastrophe of his death
cast a personal shadow on his last play.
It may be concluded then, that the hypothesis that
Molifere was a hypochondriac has no valid basis; for even
when judged by the modern definition, it can be^ seen that he
cannot be so classified.
Above all, the accusation thrust
at the dramatist by the Boulanger de Chalussay can be judged
to be mere slander.
The third and most difficult problem was formulated
for the most part by modern critics who investigated the
hypothesis that Molibre was a "cocu” •
Several of Moli&re*s
contemporaries accused him of being a jealous husband, though
their statements are entirely unsubstantiated.
A search has been m a d e .for evidence indicating the
circumstances which normally lead to jealousy.
upon consideration of the supposed love affairs and the
infidelity of Armande as proposed by her contemporaries,
it may be concluded that insinuations of that sort are
vicious slander without a genuine foundation.
The young
actress cannot be connected in any way with either Richelieu,
the comte de Quiche, or the comte de Lauzun.
it cannot be proven that Molidre and' Armande were separated
at any time (notwithstanding the accusations of vengeful
And Armandefs conduct after Moli£refs
death if it has any bearing on the problem, can also be said
to be blameless.
Furthermore, there is no indication that Armand6fs con­
duct or temperament was a cause for jealousy.
As for the
assumption that Armande was lightheaded and lived only for
pleasure— this is based upon the anonymous 1st Fameuse come­
dienne and Grimarestfs la Vie de M. de Moli&re. two works
whose testimony is practically without any authority whatso­
That certain passages in Moli^refs plays resemble
passages in the above works. is entirely possible since the
writers may have based these portions on the dra m a t i s t s
plays rather than on the actual utterances of Moll^re.
then, can anyone say that such was the character of Armande
when the information is so scanty, and when that information
is not reliable?
As for the theory that the rOles created by Moli&re
for Armande were suited to her talents— this theory proposed
by Larroumet is the most objective interpretation of the
Although the r&Les were created as a vehicle to
show off the talents of his young wife, they were in keeping
with the theme of each comedy.
Upon analysis it can be seen that not every r$le por­
trayed by Armande was that of a coquette; in some plays
the high-spirited actress characterized a very witty woman
and in some, the young ingenue; in other plays Armandefs
r$le was very inconspicuous.
We have every right to ask then, why assume that some
characters are any more of a revelation of Armande than
others; especially, why choose the more coquettish r8les
as representative of the young actress?
Moreover, why assume
that her temperament was a cause for Molifcrefs supposed
Some modern critics have pointed to the first plays
following the marriage of Armande and Moli^re as an indica­
tion of the first seeds of Mollbre’s forbodlngs.
Upon close
examination however, it can be seen that l'Ecole des mar is
does not present to. parallel aspect of the life situation*
It is only those critics who interpret with extreme subjec-
tivlsm who hear the complaints of A m o l p h e in l fEeole des
femmes as an echo of Molidre’s own apprehension.
for Donneau de Vis£, Molidre's contemporaries dared not
suggest that the dramatist had cause for anxiety at this
early date, and even de Vis6 later retracted his statement.
As for le Marlage fore6 . Moll&re here condemned a marriage
of disproportionate age— would Moli&re have publicly con­
demned his own marriage?
Those critics who see a personal revelation intthe
comedy, les F&cheux. complicate the meaning and purpose of
the play; they do not accept the simplest explanation.
Furthermore, they do not realize that because Moli&re*s
plays are so universal, they are easily applicable to him­
self (whether such application is valid or not ) •
For 1 1Impromptu de Versailles it can be said that the
author, the comedian, the director is revealed but that
further personalization is mere subjectivism.
Perhaps if
any subjectivism whatsoever is allowed, then according to his
statement, Moli&re*s comedies should be interpreted with
an entirely objective attitude.
Above all— one cannot point
to 1 1Impromptu de Versailles as a revelation of Molidre*s
private life.
Le Mariage fore6 shows the revolt of a young person
who wants to enjoy the frivolities of 1 ife.
And although
Grimarest has introduced into his book this same desire as
an aspect of Armande* s temperament there is nothing to authen­
ticate Grimarest*s suggestion.
Since no reliable delineation
of Armande*s character exists, it is impossible to form a
valid conclusion as to whether Molilre revealed Arman<hfs
frivolous nature in contrast to his more sedate one.
it is a mere figment of the imagination to assume that this
difference in temperament was the cause of conflict and
discontent between the two.
The interpretation that MoliAre revealed the preoccupa­
tion of jealousy in la Princesse d*Elide can be discounted
as mere subjectivism.
The tirades introduced into the play
are in accordance with the entire theme; had they been in
opposition to the theme, it might have been said that Molibre
had ‘betrayed his personal feelings.
As for l£ Misanthrope:
Armande was the 11grande coquette”
of the theater but what right has any one to assume that she
held the same rdle in, life?
Furthermore, where lies the
evidence that Moli&re expressed his own apprehension in the
guise of Alceste?
If Moli&re la s made the characters of the
Misanthrope life-like, let us not suppose they are copied
from his life.
Certainly Moli&re would not have exposed his
private affairs to the gaze and ridicule of the people.
The interpretation of the play Qeorges Dandin as a
disclosure of Moli$re*s life is further evidence of a subjec­
tive process.
One cannot presume that Moli&re revealed him­
self in these most ridiculous of circumstances, even had they
been a true picture.
It is more judicious to consider the portraits in the
Princesse d*Elide and le Bourgeois gentilhomme as descriptive
of the characters in the plays rather than of Armande.
there is any relation between the two, it is merely that
correspondance which is necessary to lend an air of reality
to the presentation*
If the tone of the description is more
amorous than usual it is in harmony with the theme of the .
comedy rather than with the emotional status of Moliere in
relation with Armande*
It cannot be said then, that Moliere
created a portrait of Armande in his plays, nor that these
two plays are indicative of periods of reconciliation in
the life of Armande and Molifere (if indeed quarrels had
ever existed)*
But let us return once more to the statement of La
Grange: ”il s fest jo\i6 lui-m§me.. .enj plusieurs endroits” •
To what portions of Moliere’s comedies did La Grange refer?
Where are these self-revelations?
Critics may point to Moli&re*s cough in 1*Avare: they
may point out Molidre*s reference to his height; they may
even go so far as to suggest that Moli&re in 1 1Impromptu
de Versailles revealed the portrait: flMoli&re at work1'.
But how can these few examples justify the statement of
La Grange?
There most certainly are numerous other instances
of this borrowing from life*
those instances lie?
Yet who is to point out where
If seventeenth century critics are
dubious as to whether Moliere created portraits^&f himself
or in fact of any one else, how can later critics propose
to designate which characteristics are typical of Moli&re?
Later critics, although they place little confidence
In the accusations of Molibrefs enemies, nevertheless won­
der how it is possible that a dramatist could create such
an intense depth of feeling in a stage character without
having experienced that particular emotion himself#
must the dramatist have endured the suffering
himself to have been able to depict it with such masterful
In everyone !s life there are moments of anxiety which
are easily transferred to the stage#
The expression of
this anxiety can be entirely divorced from the cause and
the circumstances of this emotion and in a play be the ex­
pression of an entirely different set of circumstances.
Only a subjective process in the case of Moli&re could
correlate the stage situation with the life situation#
And if one should analyse the life situation of Moli&re
and Armande from a subjective point of view it is very easy
to imagine that there might have been moments of strife in
the household.
Moli&re already at an age when he wished
to settle down and of a rather quiet temperament seems to
be a direct contrast to the younger and more high spirited
Moli&re, with a troup of actors dependent upon
his literary efforts was continously under uhe strain of
writing a new play and at the same time of producing and
directing one for presentation.
This is indeed a situation
peculiarly fitted to cause quarrels and even deep-rooted
But even in^subjective process one cannot go beyond
the reasonable limits of the evidence.
Une must remember
that Molidre had a keen insight into human nature, a deep
understanding of human weakness and the patience to direct
a troop of actors day after day.
This awareness of human
error should most certainly have enabled Moli&re to avoid
serious conflict in his household.
Yet as in most every household, perhaps momentary
quarrels did occur--perhaps there were insignificant equi­
The genius of Moli&re was quick to sieze
upon such infinitesmal occurrances, was quick to comprehend
the universality of such incidents.
Moli^r©fs -unlimited
capacity for comedy gathered up those almost imperceptable
events, for Moli&re had the task of amusing people, of
pointing out human vices.
But this was a difficult task:
a situation which is not enlarged into the realm of the
ridiculous is in danger of not being noticed, or if it is
noticed, of not being appreciated as humerous.
This exag­
geration of an insignificant bit of action is the very key
note of play-writing.
One must consider also the statements of Moli&re*s
If the particular writer was an enemy of
Moli&re then he would most certainly capitalize on Molibre*s
exaggeration to suit his own purpose.
A jealous actor or
writer of comedies would most certainly be wise enough
not to attack Molibre upon £is acting or writing because
of the evident superiority of Moll£refs work.
And to be
sure, the attacks of Moli&re*s enemies were made with the
purpose of discrediting his personal life— he was besieged
with accusations of the vilest nature.
Perhaps it was these attacks which caused Moli£re*s
apprehension and not Armandefs love of adornment and of
pleasing people.
Perhaps his only real anguish was that
his enemies could so misconstrue his and Armandefs actions*
Perhaps the concern about Armande*s conduct was not an in­
dication of jealousy but rather of the natural care not to
arrouse public suspicion--;?or most certainly anyone*s ac­
tions can be easily misinterpreted for the purpose of a
personal attack#
In fact, one can have any number of subjec­
tive interpretations of the problem.
Now to reverse the process:
given a set of plays,
how can one sufficiently reduce the importance of an indi­
vidual action and minimize the influence of a particualrly
dire set of circumstances*
It is almost impossible to deter­
mine the extent of exaggeration without some clue as to the
nature of the life situation*
Furthermore, who can say that the incident which in­
spired a particular scene or theme in a play occurred at
approximately the same time at which the play was written?
And who can attempt to place In a chronological order an
entire series of relatively minute occurrances of varying
Who can discern what literary effusions are
contemporary with periods of fbrbodings and which are the
result of some distant recollection?
And who can declare
how long before the performance or even the privilege" of
a particular comedy Moli^re began to nurture the first seeds
of the plot?
And is one to disregard entirely the possibility
that Moli&re based the characters and the action of his
plays upon sources other than his personal life?
critics have not been able to discover any new facts which
throw light upon this problem*
Furthermore, it was Moli&refs intention in writing
his comedies to amuse people by ridiculing the defects of
He poked fun at exaggerated characteristics while
advocating a course of moderation*
Upon examination of the
supposed revelations of Moli&ie 1s life, we find that they
reveal a digression from this course of moderation.
any one suppose that Moli&re advocated one philosophy while
he lived according to another?
Can one believe this es­
pecially when Moli&re causes the plans of the ridiculous
characters to go astray and allows l,le bon sens” to triumph?
There is only one conclusion to be arrive at: Moli&re’s
works abound with universal types and universal actions*
It is this universality which has madd the comedies so widely
read and so readily applicable to a variety of persons and
Molibre, the genius, could choose infinitesmal
scenes from life, could mold them into such a well integrated
and universal whole that it would take an especially keen
observer and at that one who was well acquainted with all
phases of his life to discern where the resemblance began
and ended*
Anonymous, La Famouse com^dienne (Histoir© de la Guerin),
Edition Livet, Paris, Liseux--Editeur, 1877.
(No date
on original edition.
Reprinted from 1688 edition)
(To be found at Clark Memorial Library)
Ashton, H., Moli^re, New York, E. P. Dutton & Co., 1930.
(U. S. C73
, Le Th^&tre'frangois, Paris, Jules Bonnassies,
Libraire-Editeur, 1875.
Reprinted from 1674 edition,
Paris, Ren^ Guignard.
(U. S. C . )
Fernandez, R., La Vie de Moliere, Paris, Gallimard, 1929.
Fernandez, R., ffA propos de Moliere” , La Nouvelle revue
frangaise, Paris, lerfevrier, 1937.
(U. S . CT)
Grimarest, J. L. le Gallois, La Vie de M. de Moliere,
Edition Chancerel, Paris, La Renaissance du livre, 1930.
Reprinted from original, 1705.
(U. C. L. A.)
Lacour, L., Les Mattresses de Moli&re, Paris, Soci^t^ francaise d^ditions litteraires et techniques, 1932.
tu. C. L. A.)
Lacour, L . , Moliere Acteur, Paris, Librairie Feliz Alcan,
(U. C. L. A . )
Lafenestre, G . , Moliere, Paris, Libraire Hachette et Cie, 1909.
(U. C. L. A.)
La Grange,
, Registre (1658-1685) Edition J. Claye,
imprimeur editeur, Paris,. 1876.
(U. S. C.)
Lancaster, H. C., A History of French Dramatic Literature of
the Seventeenth Century, Baltimore, Maryland, John
Hopkins Press, 1936, Part 3, 2 V ols. (U. S. C.)
Larroumet, G., La Com^die de Moliere, Paris, Librairie
Hachette et Cie, 1887.
(U. C. L. A.)
Loiseleur, J., Les Points obscures de la vie de Moliere.
Paris, I. Liseux, 1877~I
Michaut, G.,flMolifere dans son oeuvre11, Annales de 1* University
de Paris , Paris, La Sorbonne, Mars-Avril, 1937.
Michaut, G., Moli&re, racont^e par ceux qui 1 1ont vu,
Paris, Librairie Stock, 1932. (U. S . C.T~
Michaut, G., La Jeunesse de MoliSre, Paris, Librairie
Hachette & Cie, 1922.
(U. S / C . )
Michaut, G., Les
Hachette et
Debuts de Moli^re,Paris,
Cie, 1925. (U. S. C.)
Michaut, G., Les
Hachette et
Luttes de Moli&re, ParisLibrairie
Cie, 1925. ( U .S. C.)
Moli&re, CEuvres completes, Edition Despois et Mesnard,
Paris, Hachette et Cie, 1873, 13 V o l s . (U. S. C. )
Moli&re, Le Misanthrope, Edition T. E. Oliver, New York,
Henry Holt & Co., 1931. (U. S. C.)
Moland, L., Vie de J.- B.- P .- Moli&re, Paris, Garnier
fr&res, 1892.
(U. C . L. AT)
Rigal, E., Moli&re, Paris, Librairie Hachette et Cie, 1908,
2 Vols“
U T T S . C.)
Robinet, ”Lettres en vers” , Les Cont inuateurs de Loret.
Paris, Damascene Morgand, 1881 et 1882, 2 Vols.
(U. S. C.)
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