Misanthrope Essay, Research Paper
The tension of illusion and reality present a tremendous problem for the characters in Moliere?s Misanthrope. Another tension, to a lesser extent, is that of love and principle. Throughout the play the characters are saying or thinking one thing, but saying or doing the complete opposite. The conflict of these tensions is what makes this play a comedy and in some ways a tragic comedy. The main character, Alceste, goes from beginning to end judging people on their morals and ideals, yet never once examines himself. He would rather magnify the flaws of others then look at himself for what he really is. He is also falls guilty to letting his love of a women, whom he was deceived by, outweigh his judgement.
In the beginning of Act One, Scene One, Alceste is quarreling with Philinte because Alceste believes that Philinte is a fraud:
I see you hug a man to death/
Exclaim for joy until you are out of breath/
Once the man?s back is turned, you cease to love him/
And speak with absolute indifference of him (16).
It is in this exchange with Philinte that Alceste is blaming Philinte for embellishing his like of someone. Alceste says that he would: ?hang himself without delay? (17) if he was to do something like that. He is being very judgmental when there really is no need to be. He lives in this illusion that his society has to be perfect. The illusion goes even further because Alceste has this self-righteous confidence in his own perfection that will later set him up for catastrophic consequences in love, law and literary criticism.
The single biggest deception in the play is the illusion that Celimene puts on for Alceste. In Act Three, Scene Seven, Arsinoe tries to let Alceste know that Celimene doesn?t really love him at all: ?You?re very much too good for Celimene/ She?s wantonly misled you from the start? (99). Alceste?s response to this is: ?You may be right; who knows another?s heart/ But ask yourself if it?s the part of charity/ To shake my soul with doubts of her sincerity? (99). Arsinoe says that she has proof that Celimene is deceitful, and Alceste still has trouble believing her. Alceste?s concept of what is reality and what is and illusion is clouded by his love of Celimene.
In Act Four, Scene One, Philinte is informing Eliante about the verbal exchange between Oronte and Alceste concerning the sonnet that Oronte had written for Celimene.