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The Misanthrope is one of the literary creations of a celebrated comic dramatist from France. The first performance of the play in 1666 featured Moliere himself and his wife (Bolt 3). Injustice, hypocrisy and corruption are the major issues that disgust Alceste who is the “misanthrope” as also it has been expressed in the title because he is entangled in a number of lawsuits. He wants justice since the result of these cases is not aimed at pleading someone guilty. On the contrary, the most influential in court are the people who determine the outcome. Nevertheless, Alceste falls in love with a young widow Celimene (Dromgoole 12). She is a bright example of dishonesty since she finds fun in surrounding herself with suitors and flirting hence despite the acts with a bad reputation which Alceste despises. Moreover, she promises her love to a number of suitors and sees others on their back at the same time. Hence she is confronted by all of them. Alceste swears to run off and live in isolation in the backwoods and it can be viewed as a sign of giving up and fearing the effects of diverse legal encounter (Bolt 7). The Misanthrope, thus apprehends himself with the themes of hypocrisy, honesty, injustice, the conflict between society and individuals along with the manipulative social games people engage in.
In this paper, I will therefore critically analyze and scrutinize the understanding and interpretations of the characters Alceste, Philinte, Celimene and Eliante. I will also place them by looking at the message they are communicating.
In the play The Misanthrope Alceste is the protagonist as well as the person respoinsible for the major conflict in the play. His status quo clashes with the ethical values in his society, hence he is frustrated with the present immense corruption (Dromgoole 17). He is a ringleader in advising others on the importance of honesty and giving them reasons why they should avoid hierocracy. No one takes his words seriously and it leads to his isolation from the others. Nonetheless, he is loved by both men and women and Philinte appears to respect his integrity. Furthermore, both Celimene and Arsinoe display attraction towards him. By the end of the play, Alceste shows some changes since he is willing to forgive. He marries Celimene despite the fact that she disrespected and offended him. He realizes that he is not unique since he is also a captive of love just like any other human being. The change Alceste goes through is not absolute because he gets infuriated with Celimene’s behavior. Therefore, he ended up alone and unhappy (Moliere 39).
Consequently, the author uses Alceste’s character as a device to show satire. He signifies that surviving in a society where most people do not observe moral values is tricky even when the willingness is present. In fact, this evil is capable of pulling someone from righteousness (Nicholas 114). Alceste has a number of embodiments, for example, one as a comic revolutionary and second as an ordinary emotional human which is widely juxtaposed and contracted within him.
Moreover, we have Celimene who controls the actions of the misanthrope. She is naughty, energetic, young and bouncy, hence can capture anyone’s attention and make all play revolves around her (Moliere 66). Celimene stands out since she is jovial, charming and witty. At the same time with a common magnitude Alceste is bitter and isolated. She has been also adopted to the survival tricks in her society wich gives her lot of happiness as every man in the court stare at her. She has own way of saying the right words to the right persons besides gossiping and flirting, hence she remains the centre of attention (Moliere 19). One of the greatest ironies of the play is Alceste getting attracted to Celimene, yet their personalities are greatly contrasted. Despite their disparities, she cares for him, thus showing her receptiveness to emotion.
In the last scene of the play, Celemene’s carelessness goes too far since several of her suitors ascertain a letter she had written making fun of all of them (Gaines 23). We can then say what goes round comes round since her gossip comes back to hound her. In this confusion all her suitors leave her apart from Alceste and she is not sure about what she really wants in spite of being very confident (Moliere 78). At no time does she demonstrate extreme frustrations and desires that may give an explanation to her lack of ethics. Celimene is quick to criticize and attack others, yet she is unable to correct her own mistakes. She also does not have ethical values and she is not reliable for making decisions. It is evident from the scene when she turns to Eliante when Alceste and Oronte ask her to make a decision to choose between them. Despite all her beauty and charm, Celimene is immature. Moliere proposes that she will never become mature unless she starts taking responsibilities for her deeds and words. This immaturity declares her a fallen hero at the end of the play since she is alone and unhappy. Her traits alert us that we should learn to make choices and to look at ourselves before criticizing others.
Philinte. The author blesses Philinte with a balancing sense that is very sharp and quick (Nicholas 33). Philinte values and respects the society in addition to his being forgiven. He recognizes that people are imperfect which makes him a very boring character, totally opposite personality to Alceste. Moliere portrays him as an advisor when he tells Alceste to treat others fairly when he concentrated so much on judging others on what is morally acceptable or not acceptable. The social balance of Alceste continues to shamble since he ignores his friend’s advice, which is unfortunate (Moliere 44). He is an outstanding male character in the play given that he does not solely seek Celimene’s attention and adoration. Eventually, Philinte is rewarded with an unbeaten relationship with the author, Moliere. Eliente and Philente confess their love for each other in the last scene.
This character communicates that reticence, modesty and control are the acceptable behavior in the society. Alceste and Celimene do not have these values in different ways, hence they turn into alone and unhappy people as the play ends. From a critical point of view, Philinte narrates this story except for his romantic affairs. He mentions Eliante and Alceste to be the most unpredictable characters in the story. He also never acted impulsively and his actions are stable throughout the play.
Eliante. She is the cousin to Celimene, though she avoids gossip and appears satisfied (Moliere 7). Eliante adjusts well and seems to have solutions to everything because she keenly observes human behavior. Most of the time she comes with a sensible answer whenever Philinte avoids giving a comment regarding anything. She conveys an intelligent appraisal of how men act being in love and she balances Celimene’s behaviour. Celimene is her total contrast. She is also helpful when Celimene asks Eliante to favor her to choose a lover. However, she turns her down requiring Celimene to find own way out of this mess.
She is only portrayed as weak when she feels obligated to Alceste abasing herself to the level of agreeing to be his lover in order to help him overcome the deceptive experience he had with Celimene (Nicholas 26). At the end, she thought it out and decided that Philinte is her perfect match. It is much respected throughout the play that Eliente is not involved in deceit and hypocrisy what makes her perfect for Philinte. Moliere brings in a successful conclusion when he unites Philinte and Eliante. Unfortunately, the protagonist in the play, Alceste, does not find happiness.
In conclusion, The Misanthrope is a story of domestic unhappiness, struggle, death, hard work and even shame. Celimene is imprisoned in her own deeds since she does not become mature enough to the end of the play. Alceste also loses out since his expectation of a perfect world is a fantasy that never comes true. Thereby, he ends up being unhappy and miserable.