Molière at Versailles

Rehearsal_Hypochondriac-8684

Photo credit to KU University Theatre

Translated and adapted from the plays of Molière

By Mechele Leon

Volume 7, Issue 1 (Spring 2018)

Molière at Versailles is an original piece created by pairing Molière’s 1663 one-act L’Impromptu de Versailles and his 1673 comédie-ballet, Le Malade imaginaire. In adapting Impromptu, a play about Molière’s company in rehearsal, I invented a reimagined premise in which Molière’s company is preparing to offer a command performance of The Imaginary Invalid at the Versailles Palace for Louis XIV. Together, the plays comprise a two-part comedy. However, instead of understanding this as a double bill on a single program, one should take Molière at Versailles as a unified event, offering a play within a play in a way that inflects both Impromptu at Versailles and The Imaginary Invalid. Through this framework, the two parts together function as mutually revealing. Each reflects on the other and, together, creates a new story about a group of actors and a playwright—one that provides audiences with a new view of Molière, his company, and their artistry.[1]

The effort of creating this piece involved translating both plays, a process I undertook with great debt to the eighteenth-century English translations by Henry Baker and James Miller.[2] Their versions can be faulty and, at times, obscure, but reading them puts a jaunty rhythm and archaic line and vocabulary into the ear that I find true and inspiring. Simply calling Molière at Versailles a “translation,” however, fails to signal the extent to which this project is an adaptation. In transforming Impromptu at Versailles into “The Rehearsal,” I eliminated some scenes and rearranged others. I appropriated characters and dialogue from other plays by Molière that were in the same historical orbit (especially La Critique de L’École des femmes). I also added dialogue of my own invention, attempting, when possible, to draw on phrases as I found them in his works. For Imaginary Invalid, I inserted asides and created new English lyrics for a revised finale. Consequently, I claim this project as a “translation and adaption,” knowing full well that such a description reinscribes an outmoded idea of translation as somehow not already being an adaptation. “Debates about when a translation stops being a translation and becomes an adaptation have rumbled on for decades,” writes Susan Bassnett. “The basis of the distinction seems to be the degree to which a text that has been rendered into another language diverges from the source: if it seems so close as to be recognisable, then it can be classified as a translation, but if it starts to move away from that source, then it has to be deemed an adaptation. The problem is, though, how close do you have to be, and how far away do you have to move before the labels change?”[3] In this case, aware that I have moved quite far, “adaptation” seems correct.

Impromptu at Versailles (1663), a one-act prose play in eleven scenes, is among Molière’s lesser-known short comedies. The story concerns Molière and his actors at work. The company has gathered at Versailles to do a command performance of a new play. They have a few hours before the king is expected to arrive, and Molière intends to use the time to conduct a rehearsal of his hastily written, not entirely rehearsed nor memorized new comedy. Instead of focusing on the business at hand, however, the company indulges in disagreement and speculative improvisations. The actors argue with Molière about his response (or lack of it) to his critics, insist they are not ready to perform the play, and coax him to treat them all to his lampoon of actors at the rival Parisian company at the Hôtel de Bourgogne. A further impediment to the task at hand arrives in the form of a nosy marquis. He interrupts their efforts, flirts with the actresses, and goads Molière with sly insults. Finally, Molière and his actors begin the rehearsal of the play, the gist of which is that a group of familiar characters—precious ladies, marquises, a poet, a prude or two, a coquette, and a chevalier—are awaiting an audience with the king. They have barely made headway when a messenger arrives to tell Molière that the king awaits their performance. Clearly not ready, the company panics. After stalling the king several more times, a messenger arrives, letting them know that his majesty understands the position they are in, relieves them of the obligation to perform, and will await the play at its first availability. The company is spared, grateful to the king, and the play ends.

From literary, theatrical, and historical perspectives, there is hardly a play in Molière’s corpus that presents such a tantalizing combination of significance and illegibility. It is a central document in a series of events that took place in 1663, following the premier of The School for Wives in December 1662. That play ignited widespread debate and inspired denouncements by enemies (rival playwrights and men of letters, clergy, salonnières, and particularly the members of Paris’s other theatre, the Hôtel de Bourgogne) who found it, among other faults, to be poorly written and lewdly suggestive. The quarrel manifested in different ways, but largely in the form of a volley of plays between Molière, his defenders, and his rivals. As early as February 1663, news emerged that Molière’s response to his critics would be in the form of a dialogue or petite comédie, as he disclosed in his preface to The School for Wives in March 1663. The play he was referring to is La Critique de L’École des femmes, and it premiered that June by Molière’s company at the Palais-Royal. Playwright and essayist Jean Donneau de Visé responded to this volley by publishing the defamatory Zélinde, ou La Véritable critique de L’École des femmes. The play was probably never performed, but it was widely circulated. The actors at the Hôtel de Bourgogne mounted their own attack on Molière in August, in the form of a play called Le Portrait du peintre, ou La Contre-critique de L’École des femmes, by Edme Boursault. Going beyond merely attacking Molière, the actors of the Bourgogne followed this with a performance of the scandalous La Chanson de la coquille, which consists of verses against Madeleine Béjart. Molière’s response to these scurrilous works—for a response was requested by the king—premiered that October at Versailles. This was L’Impromptu de Versailles, and it was Molière’s last word on the matter.

As his comeback to his critics, the play is immensely clever. Rather than address their attacks, he creates an argument about the futility of responding to them and the insignificance of their criticisms, especially in light of the appreciation of his audiences. He parodies the bombastic acting of the troupe at the Hôtel de Bourgogne and their slavish adherence to prevailing dramatic codes. He highlights his service to the king (and the king’s appreciation in return). In sum, although not quite a pièce à thèse (and the term would be anachronistic, anyway), Impromptu at Versailles is nevertheless an argument as much as it is a play. It offers compelling pronouncements about the uses of comedy, the value of Molière’s work, his thoughts about audiences, and his disinterest in the opinions of critics. As a theatrical and biographical archive, the play also evidences the relationship between Molière and the members of his company. Through self-parody, it exposes something of the approach of Molière’s company to their work, their skill in physical and vocal characterization, and Molière’s role as playwright/manager and performer. Any consideration of Impromptu at Versailles must, of course, contend with the trap of biographical criticism—one cannot unconditionally accept what it seems to reveal about Molière, nor can it be unconditionally dismissed. A frustratingly unstable archive, Impromptu at Versailles nevertheless offers performance clues, insights about the work, and the abilities of his actors. Given that so little trustworthy information about the feelings and thoughts of Molière and his company has survived, this intriguing little play is invaluable testimony. Had Shakespeare similarly penned a piece about writing, acting, and rehearsing with the King’s Men, it certainly would not have been dismissed because of its questionable historicity.

Significant as Impromptu at Versailles may be to theatre historians, the play is largely illegible for contemporary U.S. audiences. The context in which it was created and the extent to which it references events and people of its day is central to its comprehension. That may explain why it is rarely performed. Molière’s one-act plays are not often produced in the United States, but even in France, where productions occur more frequently, one is more likely to see L’Impromptu de Versailles on special occasions such as Molière anniversary commemorations. It is fair to say that for most audiences today in the United States, the historical referentiality of the play is entirely obscure. How can we understand the context of Molière’s argument about his enemies? Who are these members of his company—Béjart, La Grange, Brécourt, and so on? Who are the rival actors that are being imitated by Molière in his off-the-cuff lampoon? Of course, such knowledge, on the part of audiences, is not a prerequisite for any production. If it were, we would never produce Shakespeare’s history plays or any of Aristophanes’s plays for that matter. Not surprisingly, plays with difficult legibility are often subjected to deep revision and recontextualization. While adaption is not required in these cases, it is often inspired by the challenges posed by lost context, obscured referentiality, and expired historical knowledge. As a theatre director, historian, and translator, I was intrigued by Impromptu at Versailles, despite its illegibility, for the possibilities it offered to illuminate Molière for U.S. audiences.

My adaption of Impromptu at Versailles, maintains the broad strokes of Molière’s play while introducing significant differences. “The Rehearsal” is set not in October 1663 but in February 1673. Molière and his company have gathered at Versailles for a premier command performance of a new play called “The Hypochondriac.” The play is not thoroughly prepared, and Molière hopes to use the few hours they have before the king’s arrival to conduct a rehearsal. They have barely begun rehearsing a scene when they are interrupted by a nosy marquis. Molière and the marquis argue about the value of Molière’s The School for Wives and about comedy and audiences in general. Upon the marquis’s departure, Molière and his company, stung by the insults of the marquis, launch into an improvisation in which they invent a play that takes place at Versailles. A host of familiar characters—precious ladies, marquises, a poet, a prude or two, a coquette, and a chevalier—are awaiting an audience with the king. They amuse themselves by ridiculing each other and Molière. The game continues until the announced entry of the king brings them back to the task at hand. The company frantically finishes preparing the stage and gathers to perform “The Hypochondriac.”

Reimagining the plot of Impromptu at Versailles as the occasion for a performance of Le Malade imaginaire involved important alterations to both plays, but particularly to Impromptu. Aligning the number of roles in “The Rehearsal” with the roles in “The Hypochondriac” required careful thought. This was a practical matter, of course, but it was also historical and dramaturgical. The characters of Impromptu at Versailles are named, historical actors of Molière’s company. The characters of The Imaginary Invalid were played by company actors, but not all the same ones that took part in the earlier play. Molière’s company had changed in the ten years between the two plays: some members had retired, defected to other companies, or died, and new actors had joined. To collapse these figures for the purpose of the combined plays meant ignoring historical facts about Molière’s company as well as changing character genders and adding characters. Dramaturgically, creating the fiction that the company was about to perform in “The Hypochondriac” also meant introducing deeply revised or newly invented dialogue. For example, there is a moment in which the character Molière coaches his actors on the roles they are to perform in his play. My adaptation rewrites the scene to accommodate the premise that he is describing for each member of his company their roles in “The Hypochondriac.” Although I invented this dialogue, I did it by drawing on descriptors of character types as found in Molière’s plays—either in Impromptu or other pieces.

A highlight of Impromptu at Versailles appears early in the play (Sc.1) in which the character Molière offers a brief improvised sketch of an idea for a play involving satiric portrayals of contemporary actors, playing all the parts himself. For sake of legibility, I eliminated this part of the scene. In its place, I provided a brief rehearsal of the very play they are about to perform. Madeleine and Armande expertly transform into Toinette and Angélique for a quick run of Act I, Scene 2. However, they are soon interrupted by a busybody marquis. Sparked by the appearance of this fop, Molière inspires his troupe to improvise on a new idea he has for a play based on the affected, criticizing catty chatter of the crowd in the king’s anti-chamber. This, of course, is the play being improvised in Impromptu at Versailles. Into both the scene between Molière and the marquis and throughout the improvisation, I grafted dialogue borrowed from La Critique de L’École des femmes (The School for Wives Criticized). My purpose in doing so was to use the valuable material in the Critique to more pointedly bring out opinions of his comedies and portrayals of his critics and defenders. This makes sense: Impromptu at Versailles is not a discretely contained object. It can be thought of as the third act in a longer dialogic self-defense that Molière began in his preface to the publication of L’École des femmes, followed by the Critique de L’École des femmes. The historical circumstances that tie all the texts of the quarrel together make for permeable boundaries between these works and an intertextuality. My borrowing from the Critique for “The Rehearsal” made use of this.

There is another small but important alteration inspired by the invented premise connecting Impromptu to Imaginary Invalid. Central to Impromptu is the conflict created by Molière’s obligation to present a play to the king and the company’s reluctance to do so, in part for fear of being under-rehearsed. This is expressed by the female characters and their repeated declarations that they do not know their lines. It was important to maintain this obstacle, but how, then, do they execute the performance of “The Hypochondriac” if they are so weak on their lines? My solution was to insert several instances throughout “The Hypochondriac,” in which an actor “goes up” on lines and must resort to calling on a character I created—the “Pastry-eating Prompter”—for their cues. Repeating this at intervals reminded the audience of the framing circumstances underlying the performance.

My purpose with this discussion is not to offer an analysis of similarities and differences between Molière’s play and my own, in the interests of conducting a kind of “fidelity criticism” between source text and derivative adaptation—instead, my free adaptation of Impromptu at Versailles should be taken, like Linda Hutcheon argues of all adaptations, as an original work in itself.[4] As such, it offers performance possibilities on its own merits that differ from Molière’s play. How does Molière at Versailles establish for audiences a new legibility about Molière and his company? With the performance of “The Hypochondriac” now interwoven within the premise of Molière at Versailles, how do these two plays work in tandem? Together, what kind of audience experience might they inspire?

In theory, almost any of Molière’s plays could have been paired with “The Rehearsal.” I chose The Imaginary Invalid because it contains disruptions of its fictional status that make the play especially suitable for the sort of offstage reveal that Molière at Versailles aims to achieve. This metatheatrical element is most apparent in the scene between Argan and his brother Béralde when they discuss Molière’s plays. However, it could be argued that all productions of The Imaginary Invalid might signify both real and fictional registers for audience members with knowledge of the circumstances of Molière’s health at the time of its writing and awareness that Molière, playing Argan, died shortly after its fourth performance. The Imaginary Invalid is thus persistently inflected by this biographical overlay, infused with levels of irony and poignancy, and endowed by historical events in a way that, for example, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme is not.[5] I deliberately avoided inscribing this history into the text of Molière at Versailles; it is a matter of interpretation for theatre-makers to decide how to use this information. Suffice to say, a stage director with a good eye for metatheatricality will find no shortage of moments to allow actors to draw together the biographical world of “The Rehearsal” and fictional world of “The Hypochondriac.”

The Imaginary Invalid has a complex structure. The play itself is three acts, to which are added a ballet prologue and three disjoined music and dance interludes following each act. The third interlude is described in the play as a “cérémonie burlesque d’un homme qu’on fait médecin, en récit, chante, et danse [burlesque ceremony about a man-turned-doctor, in word, song, and dance].” Like his other comédie-ballets, the piece today is often performed without these ornaments,[6] but it does pose the question of what to do with the third interlude. Instead of merely closing the play, the “burlesque ceremony” concludes the plot, and so is not easily dispensed with. At the same time, the third interlude is notoriously wicked to translate. The text is made up of recitation and song in a mashup of French, Italian, and dog Latin. If one attempts an English translation—and quite understandably not all translators do—how does one convey the playful use of language? And if translated, what to do with the music as it was provided by Marc-Antoine Charpentier? The finale I wrote for Molière at Versailles is quite novel. Starting from my loose translation of Molière’s linguistically parodic text (a literal translation is impossible), I then used this paraphrased material to invent a new version of the ceremony, which I set to original music. As readers can see, it is flagrantly anachronistic—a choice I justified in the recognition that Molière’s comédie-ballets often freely juxtapose the topical and fictional; for example, when a prologue extolling Louis XIV’s latest military exploits begins a play about a bourgeois Parisian family.

This matter of the anachronistic leads me finally to the question of the liberties taken throughout this piece with historical facts. Molière at Versailles collapses, condenses, or otherwise ignores factual elements about Molière and his company and introduces, well, some fake news. However, by reimagining Impromptu at Versailles and The Imaginary Invalid within the single and singular frame of Molière at Versailles, I hope to provide audiences with a different but equally valid history—namely, the impressionistic experience of seeing Molière’s company as his audiences might have seen them; i.e., as actors first and characters second. Here, I will remind readers again that the two parts of Molière at Versailles are meant to be mutually revealing, each reflecting on the other and together making transparent the relationship between Molière’s actors and their artistry in a way that, in contemporary performance of his plays, cannot but be lost. For his seventeenth-century audiences, Molière’s plays meant perceiving actor and role simultaneously. Molière’s company of actors, although not entirely consistent over his fourteen years in Paris, was familiar to his audiences (both city and court), who could observe them in different roles. In other words, Molière’s company performed in a semiotic frame in which the audience had familiarity with the actors in both their onstage and offstage personas, where the jeu of the company was transparent, exposed, enhanced, and read through a lens of comparison and juxtaposition by knowing audiences. The “peek behind the curtain” offered by “The Rehearsal” is my attempt—hopefully not vain—at dispelling some of the alienating distance that often results from the period styles in which we typically perform Molière. I hope it gives audiences a sense of this theatrical collective, and it does this while providing a production of one of the funniest plays in the canon of Western drama.

Combining Impromptu and Imaginary Invalid under the fictional premise of a single event required—no mincing words—some dramaturgical violence. However, I believe that whatever historical authority is compromised, it is compensated by the opportunity the piece gives its actors as well as its audiences. It offers the pleasure of witnessing the transformation his actors underwent, from their workaday obligations—with their fears, follies, and arguments—into expert comic performers. The pleasure of the double bill Molière at Versailles lays not in its efficacy as performed theatre history but as a vibrant comedy about extraordinary seventeenth-century actors, their playwright, and their work together.

Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, 1622–1673) was a French comic actor and playwright whose plays are judged in posterity to have modernized old French comedy and Italian commedia dell’arte into a unique and elevated form for the French neoclassical stage. Contemporaneous criticism was not so kind, and his work was attacked throughout his writing career by rival authors, critics, and clergy. Ranging from short farce and full-length comedies to comédie-ballets, his major plays include The School for Wives, Tartuffe, The Misanthrope, The Miser, The Would-Be Gentleman, and The Imaginary Invalid. Over his thirty years in the theatre, half was spent solely as an actor and leader of a successful troupe touring the French provinces. His career as a playwright began in earnest in 1658, when his company established a theatre in Paris under the patronage of Louis XIV. He died in 1673 due to pulmonary tuberculosis that afflicted him throughout his adulthood.

Mechele Leon is a theatre director, scholar, performer, and educator. She specializes in the history of French theatre with a focus on culture and national identity. Her book, Molière, The French Revolution and the Theatrical Afterlife (University of Iowa, 2009) is the winner of the 2009 Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History. She edited the anthology “A Cultural History of Theatre in the Enlightenment” (Bloomsbury, 2017), volume four of the series A Cultural History of Theatre. She is a director of classical and contemporary plays and musicals. She wrote and currently performs a solo autobiographical play about cancer, Bladder Interrupted, a Fringe Festival award winner.

 

Molière at Versailles

Translated and adapted from the plays of Molière
By Mechele Leon

Original Music by Michael Wysong and Ryan McCall

Originally produced February 2016 at the University Theatre, University of Kansas. Directed by Mechele Leon. Sandy Leppin, Scenic Design. Dennis Christilles, Lighting Design. Shannon Smith-Regnier, Costume Design. Leslie Bennett, Choreography.

SETTING

February 1673. A hall at the Palace of Versailles under the Reign of Louis XIV.

The actors of Molière’s company have gathered for the premiere performance of his play “The Hypochondriac.” The play will be presented for King Louis XIV and his guests in a hall within the palace that has been prepared with a temporary stage for such performances.

It is a few hours before they are to begin. The stage, which is to represent a parlor in the middle-class Parisian home of Argan, a hypochondriac, is far from ready. Costume trunks and prop boxes are strewn about on the stage and on the floor around it, costume pieces are everywhere, set pieces are not in their final positions and furniture is tossed about. In other words, it’s a typical stage on opening day a few hours before curtain—that is to say, a mess.

SCENES

Act I                The Rehearsal

Act II              The Hypochondriac

Prologue

Scene 1: Argan’s Chamber, Late morning

Scene 2: The next day

Act III             The Hypochondriac

Scene 1: Later that day

Scene 2: “The Ceremony”

Intermission takes places between Act II and Act III.

CHARACTERS (7m/6f)

Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin): Comic actor, playwright and manager of The King’s Players. Plays Argan, in “The Hypochondriac.”

La Grange (Charles Varlet): Leading actor for romantic roles in Molière’s plays and devoted member of Molière’s troupe. Managed many of the business affairs for the company. Plays “Cléante,” Angelique’s suitor, in “The Hypochondriac.”

Du Croisy (Philibert Gassot): Leading comic actor for Molière’s company, which he joined in 1659. Married to Marie Claveau. Plays Dr. Purgon, Argan’s Doctor.

Brécourt (Guillaume Marcoureau): A versatile actor and accomplished playwright. Plays Dr. Thomas Diafoirus, son of Dr. Diafoirus and suitor to Angelique.

Louis Béjart: Brother to Madeleine Béjart and long-time member of Molière’s troupe. Typically played a variety of secondary roles. Plays Argan’s sensible brother “Béralde.”

Madeleine Béjart: A celebrated actress of the period and reputed to be a great beauty. Leading member of the Béjart theatre family. Plays “Toinette,” servant to Argan.

Mademoiselle de Brie (Catherine Leclerc): Key member of Molière’s company, wife of the actor Edme Villequin, known as de Brie. She performs the role of Béline, Argan’s second wife and stepmother to Angelique and Louise.

Mademoiselle Molière (Armande Béjart): Probably the daughter of Madeleine Béjart. Grew up with the troupe and eventually married Molière. An excellent actress, she played leading roles for the company. In “The Hypochondriac” she plays Angelique, Argan’s daughter.

Mademoiselle Du Parc (Marquise-Therese La Goria): A dancer of Spanish origins, she joined Molière’s company in its years before returning to Paris. Disguised in male garb, plays Bonnefoy, the notary.

Mademoiselle Hervé (Genevieve Béjart): A founding member of Molière’s company. Played smaller roles throughout her lifetime. In “The Hypochondriac,” she plays Louise, Argan’s youngest daughter.

Mademoiselle Du Croisy (Marie Claveau): Married to Du Croisy, she was known to be not much of an actress. She serves as the company’s “pastry-eating prompter.”

Marquis: Also plays Dr. Diafoirus in “The Hypochondriac.”

A King’s Page: Also plays Mr. Fleurant, an apothecary.

PRODUCTION NOTE

This piece is a play within a play and thus requires stage design and acting skills that depict a fluid movement between onstage and offstage worlds. Scenic and lighting design must of course support this, but acting technique is key. Actors should make clear the difference between the everyday behavior of Molière’s company members and the heightened acting styles they assume when playing their roles.

“The Rehearsal” leads directly into “The Hypochondriac,” reserving the intermission to follow Act II of “The Hypochondriac.” In practical terms, “The Rehearsal” is not long enough to require an intermission following it. More importantly, the audience should witness the transformation from chaos to order, from disorganized rehearsal room to disciplined stage performance, from unruly actors to comic virtuosos. Effecting a set change in full view of the audience, this transformation from the rehearsal to the performance itself should be done with whatever theatrical magic is necessary.

In the interest of preserving the “Frenchness” of the piece, the names of characters have not been anglicized. English pronunciation of the French names is a good option for Molière. Where names exist in both English and French, I have omitted diacritics.

 

ACT I

THE REHEARSAL

Lights up on MOLIÈRE, alone and seated in an armchair. The effect is eerie. He begins to conjure his company members by calling to them, tentatively at first, then more boldly. He calls offstage, toward the darkened audience, toward the balcony, perhaps to the fly space.

MOLIÈRE: Come now, Ladies and Gentlemen! You’re wasting time. Will you not come? (Calling out.) Brécourt!

BRÉCOURT (offstage, from somewhere): What?

MOLIÈRE: La Grange!

LA GRANGE (off): What is it?

MOLIÈRE: Du Croisy!

DU CROISY (off): What do you want?

MOLIÈRE: Therese!

THERESE (off): Well?

MOLIÈRE: Madeleine!

MADELEINE (off): What do you want?

MOLIÈRE: Catherine!

CATHERINE (off): Who’s there?

MOLIÈRE: Béjart!

BÉJART (off): What’s the matter?

MOLIÈRE: Marie!

MARIE (off): What now?

MOLIÈRE: Armande!

ARMANDE (off): You called?

MOLIÈRE: Genevieve!

GENEVIEVE (off): I’m coming.

MOLIÈRE: Come now, everyone. You’ll drive me out of my mind!

(Singly and in pairs the actors arrive from all parts of the theatre—from wings, orchestra, balcony. As they enter, they gather around him. They are in various stages of dress as if caught in the transformation to stage costume. Many carry their costume pieces or will retrieve pieces from the trunks on stage. All have pages from the script of a new play: The Hypochondriac.)

BRÉCOURT: What do you want from us, Molière? We don’t know our parts. You’ll drive us out of our minds if you make us perform.

MOLIÈRE: Actors! What unruly beasts to command!

MADELEINE: Well, we’re here. What do you want us to do?

THERESE: What’s your plan?

CATHERINE: What’s to be done?

MOLIÈRE: Now, everyone, stay close by. Since the king won’t be arriving for at least two hours, let’s use this time to rehearse our play.

LA GRANGE: How can we rehearse what we haven’t yet learned?

THERESE: I haven’t memorized a word my character says.

CATHERINE: I’ll need my lines prompted from beginning to end.

MADELEINE: I’m preparing to go on with my script.

ARMANDE: So am I.

GENEVIEVE: As for me, I don’t have a lot to say.

MARIE: Neither do I. Even so, I’m planning to forget my lines.

DU CROISY: Frankly, I would be out of this business if I could. Ho! I’ll pay a penalty! How much?

BRÉCOURT: Me too. I’ll take a whipping!

MOLIÈRE: Well, well. So, you’re all unhappy at having such terrible roles to play, are you? What would you do if you were in my place?

MADELEINE: Who, you? You have nothing to complain about because, having written the play, you don’t have to worry about remembering your lines.

MOLIÈRE: So, I have nothing to fear except a lapse in memory? Do you think it’s nothing to have to worry about a success or failure that reflects on me alone? Do you think it’s nothing to present a comedy before such an audience? It’s difficult business, to make people laugh. What author doesn’t tremble when he faces that task? I’m the one who should be saying I want out of this business, and more than anything in the world!

MADELEINE: If it makes you tremble, then you should have taken better care and not promised to present a play in eight days.

MOLIÈRE: How could I have avoided it? It was his majesty’s request!

MADELEINE: How? With a respectful apology based on the impossibility of doing the task in such a short time. Anyone else in your position would have managed his reputation better and avoided committing himself as you have done. Where will you be, Jean-Baptiste, if this performance goes badly? Can you imagine what your enemies will say?

CATHERINE: Indeed, Molière, one must excuse themselves with respect when it comes to the king or ask for more time.

MOLIÈRE: Oh, for heaven’s sake, ladies. Don’t you know that monarchs like nothing better than prompt obedience and are not happy to hear about obstacles? It’s not for us to question what they want from us. We exist only for their pleasure. When they command something, it’s up to us to quickly make good on their desires. Better to deliver something poorly, then to fail to deliver it at all. But we’re wasting time. Let’s begin rehearsing.

THERESE: How do you expect us to do that, if we don’t know our parts?

MOLIÈRE: You will know them, I’m sure. If you don’t know the lines perfectly, fill them in, since it’s in prose and you know the plot.

GENEVIEVE: Excuse me for saying so, but prose is more difficult than verse.

ARMANDE: Do you know what I think? I think you would have done better to write a comedy that you could play all by yourself.

MOLIÈRE: Quiet, my wife, you’re being foolish.

ARMANDE: Thank you, my husband. Here’s how it is: marriage changes people. You wouldn’t have said that to me before we were married.

MOLIÈRE: Be quiet, Armande. I’m begging you.

ARMANDE: It’s a scandal that a little ceremony can erase all our good qualities and that a suitor and a husband can look at the same woman with such different eyes.

MOLIÈRE: What nonsense!

ARMANDE: Truly, if I wrote a comedy, I would do it on the subject of marriage. I would vindicate wives for the many things of which they are wrongly accused, and I would make husbands see the contrast between their surly manners and the tenderness of suitors.

MOLIÈRE: Leave it there, Armande. Let’s put our minds on our work, everyone, and stop amusing ourselves with nonsense. All right, then. Act One. The scene is at the home of Argan, a hypochondriac. (MOLIÈRE threads his way through his troupe of actors, instructing each on their role.) Du Croisy, take care how you play the role of Doctor Purgon —

MADELEINE (scoffing): More doctors!

MOLIÈRE: Yes, more doctors. Why not? They’re amusing characters in the theatre.

ARMANDE: It’s true. He wouldn’t know how to do without them.

MOLIÈRE: As for you, my wife —

ARMANDE: As for me, my husband, I don’t know why you gave me the role of Angelique, Argan’s lovesick daughter. I’ll be terrible in the part.

MOLIÈRE: For heaven’s sake, Armande, that’s what you said about playing Elmire in Tartuffe, but you were wonderful in that role and everyone agreed you performed it to perfection. Believe me, this will be the same and you will be better than you think.

ARMANDE: How could that be? There’s no one in the world who is less lovesick than I am.

MOLIÈRE: That’s true, my wife. And that should make it all the more clear to you that you are an excellent actress, to carry out a role so contrary to your nature. (To all the company members.) Immerse yourselves in your characters and imagine that you are what you represent. Béjart, you play the hypochondriac’s brother, Béralde, an honest man of good sense — what we call a raisonneur. That is to say, you must be poised, with a natural tone of voice and no exaggerated gestures. Brécourt, you play Angelique’s fiancé, Dr. Thomas Diafoirus. You must fill that character with a pedantic air, an exactitude of pronunciation without missing a syllable. As for you, La Grange, you are Angelique’s lover, Cléante. You know what to do there. Catherine, remember when you portray Béline, the hypochondriac’s wife, that you are one of those women who pretend to be loving and virtuous while quietly carrying on intrigues. Put yourself into that character. Genevieve, you are Louise, Angelique’s little sister. And of course, Madeleine, you are Argan’s servant, Toinette, who sticks her nose in everywhere. There we are, everyone! You know your characters, now imprint them in your minds! (MOLIÈRE claps twice. It’s the signal to begin.) Let’s rehearse and see how it goes.

(ARMANDE and MADELEINE, carrying their scripts, expertly transform into their characters ANGELIQUE and TOINETTE and take on the elevated performance style they will use in The Hypochondriac. The rest of the company pays little attention to the rehearsal as they quietly move around, putting on costumes pieces, searching for props, memorizing lines, etc. In other words, they occupy themselves like actors do preparing for a performance.)

ANGELIQUE: Toinette.

TOINETTE: Well.

ANGELIQUE: Look at me, Toinette.

TOINETTE: I’m looking.

ANGELIQUE: Toinette.

TOINETTE: Well, what would you have with Toinette?

ANGELIQUE: Do not you know what I would speak of?

TOINETTE: I suspect of your young lover, for it’s around him that our conversations have turned these past six days, and you’re not happy unless you’re talking about him every moment.

ANGELIQUE: Since you know that, why are you not the first to bring him up, and spare me the pains of forcing you to this discourse?

TOINETTE: You don’t give me time to do it. You’re so eager, it’s difficult to get ahead of you.

ANGELIQUE: I admit that I am never weary of talking of him, and that my heart takes advantage of every moment to speak to you of him. But tell me, Toinette, do you–

MOLIÈRE (interrupting her as he sees the MARQUIS, who has entered the hall, making his way toward their stage): Oh no! Here comes a bore, right on cue. That’s all we need.

(The rehearsal is paused. Everyone in the company stops what they are doing and bows to the MARQUIS.)

MARQUIS: Good morrow, Monsieur Molière!

MOLIÈRE: To you as well, Marquis. (Aside) Dammit!

MARQUIS: How goes it?

MOLIÈRE: Very well.

MARQUIS: I come from a place where people have been talking about one of your plays.

MOLIÈRE: Which play, Sir?

MARQUIS: The School for Wives.

MOLIÈRE: Well, Sir. How did you find it?

MARQUIS: I found it detestable! Egad! Detestable! One need only listen to the continual laughter from the cheap seats. There is nothing better than that to tell us that a play is worthless.

MOLIÈRE: I suppose, Marquis, that you are one of those men of quality who don’t believe that the common people have any taste, and who wouldn’t laugh along with them, even if it were the best comedy in the world. You should know, Marquis, that good taste isn’t determined by where you sit in the theatre or how much you pay for your ticket. In any case, I’m happy to trust in the approval of those people in the “cheap seats.” For although they can’t judge a play by the ancient rules of drama, they judge it by the way it should be judged: which is to enjoy it, without prejudice, smiling indulgence, or mock sensitivity.

MARQUIS: Hmm! What an argument! I would have expected it from you.

(Throughout the next beat, the MARQUIS moves around the stage, eyeing the set pieces, costumes, prop boxes, etc. MOLIÈRE replies to him politely but tries to continue instructing his company.)

MARQUIS: You play a new piece today?

MOLIÈRE (to the MARQUIS): Yes, Sir. (Turning to his actors.) Now, gentlemen, don’t—

MARQUIS: The king commanded it?

MOLIÈRE: Yes. Ladies, remember —

MARQUIS: What do you call it?

MOLIÈRE: The Hypochondriac. Now, everyone, you must —

MARQUIS: How will you be dressed?

MOLIÈRE: As you see us. Remember, I beg you, don’t –

MARQUIS: When do you begin?

MOLIÈRE: When the king arrives. (Aside.) To the Devil with these questions!

MARQUIS: When will come?

MOLIÈRE: Damned if I know!

MARQUIS: Do you know, Sir —

MOLIÈRE (to the MARQUIS): Look, Sir. I don’t know anything about anything. (To his actors, confidentially.) This is maddening. Doesn’t he see we have business to attend to?

MARQUIS (turning his attention to the actresses, seductively): Well, ladies, how do you do?

MOLIÈRE (aside): I’m ruined now.

MARQUIS: You are as pretty as angels. Do you play, both of you, today?

ARMANDE: Yes, Sir.

MARQUIS: Without you two, the comedy would not be worth much.

MOLIÈRE (to Catherine): Can’t you get rid of him?

CATHERINE: Sir, we have to rehearse.

MARQUIS: Oh! Of course, I will not hinder you. Pray, proceed!

MARIE: But —

MARQUIS: No, no. It would pain me to incommode anyone, you are at liberty to do whatever you have to do.

THERESE: Yes, but —

MARQUIS: I am a man of no ceremony, I say! You may rehearse as you please.

MOLIÈRE: Sir, what the ladies are trying to tell you is that they would prefer that no one be present during rehearsal.

MARQUIS: But why? There is no danger to me!

MOLIÈRE: It’s a custom they observe, and you will have more pleasure when the play surprises you.

MARQUIS: I take my leave then . . . and shall inform the king that you are ready!

(Exit MARQUIS.)

MOLIÈRE (calling after him): Not at all, Marquis! Don’t be in such a hurry, if you please!

(MARQUIS is gone.)

MOLIÈRE: Well, good riddance, Marquis. What a bore!

(MOLIÈRE gets lost in thought while the company watches to see if he will resume the rehearsal.)

MOLIÈRE: Can’t you just imagine the scene right now in the king’s anti-chamber—that foyer where these dandies pass their days waiting for a word with his majesty? Surely something amusing happens there every day . . . I should compose a comedy about that! I could fill that setting with all kinds of amusing characters, men and women. Yes! The play would open with two marquises. (He points to LA GRANGE and DU CROISY, who jump up and grab props from the trunks nearby, feathered hats, canes, etc.) The marquis is the new clown in comedy, you know. In the old days, there was always a buffoon servant to make the audience laugh, now there is a ridiculous marquis for diversion. (To LA GRANGE and DU CROISY, who have transformed themselves into the characters.) Yes, yes, come into the king’s foyer with that attitude one calls “bel air.” Perhaps one is adjusting his wig. The other is mumbling a little song between his teeth: la, la, la, la, la, la. (To the rest of the company, who arrange themselves as an audience for the improvisation. They can’t resist the amusement.) Move out of the way everyone, these marquises take up the room of two people.

LA GRANGE (taking stage. To DU CROISY): “Good morrow, Marquis”

MOLIÈRE: No, no, that is not how a marquis sounds. You must elevate the tone. These gentlemen affect a style of speaking that distinguishes them from commoners. (Speaking in a highly affected tone.) “Good Morrow, Marquis” — like that. Give it a try.

LA GRANGE: “Good morrow, Marquis.”

DU CROISY: “Ah! Marquis. Your humble servant.”

LA GRANGE: “What are you doing here?”

DU CROISY: “As you see. I am waiting for these persons to clear the door, that I might present myself to his majesty.”

LA GRANGE: “Egad! What a crowd! I do not care to push myself through. I had rather wait till the end.”

DU CROISY: “There are twenty or more here who have no chance of getting in, but they press forward, and hinder all approaches to the door.”

LA GRANGE: “Let us call out our names to the door-keeper, so that he may summon us.”

DU CROISY: “As you like. But if you do so, you may find yourself ridiculed in Molière’s next play!”

LA GRANGE: “Me? I think, Sir, that you were the model for that ridiculous Marquis de Mascarille in The Affected Ladies.”

DU CROISY: “Me? Well, it was surely you as Clitander, that foolish marquis in The Misanthrope.”

LA GRANGE: “Ha, ha, ha, ha! How entertaining you were!”

DU CROISY: “Ha, ha, ha, ha! How comical were you!”

LA GRANGE: “What! Do you mean to say that it was not you who was portrayed as the Marquis in The School for Wives Criticized?”

DU CROISY: “Just so, it was I. ‘Detestable! Egad! Detestable!’ Oh, it was I. Most certainly it was!”

LA GRANGE: “Yes, it was you. You need not jest. (Pointing to MOLIÈRE.) Here comes an honest gentleman who shall decide this quarrel. What ho! Chevalier!”

MOLIÈRE (takes a prop, joins the improvisation, assuming the attitude of a chevalier, a man of sober authority and good sense): “What is it?”

LA GRANGE: “We cannot agree who is the model for the marquis we see portrayed in Molière’s plays. I say that it is he, and he says that it is I.”

MOLIÈRE: “Well, I say that it is neither the one nor the other. You are fools, both of you. This is just what I heard Molière complaining about the other day. He said that nothing annoyed him so much as to be accused of portraying anyone specifically in the plays he writes. His desire is to show human behavior, not strike out at individuals. He creates characters according to his fancy and for the delight of his audience. His enemies maliciously start quarrels with rumors that he is portraying so-and-so, when in fact these ridiculous traits are shared by a hundred people. Since the business of comedy is to paint the follies of men, then it follows that there is no character Molière could create that you will not find in the world.”

DU CROISY: “So be it. But tell me, Chevalier, do you not think that Molière has exhausted his topics, and that he will find no more subjects for comedy?”

MOLIÈRE (still playing a CHEVALIER. Although there are moments when the mask drops): “No more subjects for comedy? My dear Marquis, do you imagine that he has depicted in his plays all the possible follies of men? Are there not at least a dozen characters which he has not yet touched upon? For instance, there are those who profess the greatest friendship possible, and who, when they turn their backs, think it clever to tear each other to pieces. Could he not write about those unmitigated sycophants, those vapid flatterers, whose words nauseate anyone who hears them? What about those fair-weather friends, who praise you in prosperity, and run you down in adversity? And those who fawn on all the world, who hand out polite phrases left and right, saying ‘Sir, your most obedient’ and ‘Sir, I am entirely at your service’ and Count me, Sir, as the warmest of your friends’ and ‘Sir, I am enchanted to embrace you.’ Oh, Marquis, Molière will always have more subjects than he needs. All he has written is but a trifle compared to the treasures within his reach.”

LA GRANGE (bringing CATHERINE and ARMANDE into the game): “But here come two pretentious ladies, Climene and Elise.”

MOLIÈRE (to the women, as they pick up fans and other props and take their roles): Don’t forget to sway your hips, ladies. (To ARMANDE) You must assume a haughty tone. (Teasing). It’s unnatural for you know, but it must be so.

CATHERINE: “I have come for a little matter of business with his majesty.”

ARMANDE: “That is my situation as well. Heavens, Madame, I do think your complexion dazzling, and your lips of a marvelous color.”

CATHERINE: “Ah! What is that you say, Madame? Do not look at me, I am frightfully ugly today.”

ARMANDE: “Do, Madame, just raise your hood.”

CATHERINE: “Oh no! I am frightful, I tell you. I shock even myself.”

ARMANDE: “You are so lovely.”

CATHERINE: “No, no.”

ARMANDE: “Show your face.”

CATHERINE: “Oh, pray no.”

ARMANDE: “Pray, do.”

CATHERINE: “How troublesome you are!”

ARMANDE: “You positively will show yourself. We cannot do without seeing you.”

CATHERINE: “Good gracious, what an odd creature you are! What you wish you wish so desperately.” (Raises her veil.)

ARMANDE: “Ah, Madame, you need not dread the broad daylight. How wicked people are to say such a thing! I shall certainly be able to contradict them now.”

CATHERINE: “Heavens, I do not know what you mean by that! (Pointing to THERESE and MARIE.) But here come two learned women.”

(The actors have taken hold of the premise of the improvisation and run with it. They gang up on Molière, imitating the social types of the day and repeating the hackneyed criticisms against him. It’s all in fun and they know it.)

THERESE: “Permit us, ladies, to give you the most agreeable news conceivable. (Pointing to BÉJART and drawing him into the improvisation.) Here is Mr. Lysidias, who knows of a play just written against that monster, Molière, and which the company of rival actors across town are going to perform.”

BÉJART (as LYSIDAS): “It is true. But many people have contributed to this piece, since we all look on Molière as our greatest enemy. We all unite against him to do him an ill turn. Each of us has added a pen stroke to the portrait of this—what do they call him? Oh, yes. The ‘Painter of the Follies of Men’ — ha! ha!”

MARIE: “For my part, I confess that I am glad to hear it.”

BÉJART: “So am I. Finally, the mocker himself shall be mocked.”

THERESE: “That will teach him to make fun of everybody. That Molière believes women have no wit. He condemns all our lofty modes of expression and expects that we should speak in a humdrum way.”

MARIE: “He faults all our intimate friendships however harmless they may be.”

THERESE: “He ridicules even virtuous women. The wicked buffoon calls us ‘respectable she-devils.’”

MARIE: “Molière is an impertinent wretch. He deserves all he gets.”

THERESE: “Why does he write these wicked plays that all of Paris goes to see, and in which he portrays real people so well that everybody recognizes himself? Why does he not make plays like those of Mr. Lysidas here? He has no one against him. It is true that his plays do not draw large audiences, but on the other hand, all who see them are desperately anxious to think them well written.”

BÉJART: “It is true that I have the advantage of making no enemies, and my plays are appreciated by the learned.”

THERESE: “You are justified in being satisfied with yourself. That is worth more than all the applause of the public. What does it matter whether people come to see your plays, so long as they are praised by your professional friends?”

LA GRANGE: “But when will this play about Molière be acted?”

BRÉCOURT (joining the improvisation): “I do not know, but I intend to appear in the front seat, and cry, ‘This is a good play!’”

LA GRANGE: “Egad! And I too.”

ARMANDE: “For my part, I shall show myself there. I shall answer with a round of applause that will drown out all adverse opinion. It is really the least we can do.”

THERESE: “Well said!”

CATHERINE: “That is what we must all do.”

MARIE: “Assuredly.”

THERESE: “Undoubtedly.”

GENEVIEVE (joining the improvisation): “Give no quarter to this clown Molière!”

DU CROISY: “Upon my word, Chevalier, your Molière must hide his head!”

MOLIÈRE: “Who? He? I promise you, Marquis, that he intends to laugh with the rest of them at the portrait they paint of him.”

LA GRANGE: “Well, then, he will laugh out of the wrong side of his face.”

MOLIÈRE: “Perhaps he will find more reason for laughter than you think. Since anything amusing in it is taken from Molière, it will not offend him. As to the parts that blacken his reputation, I doubt they will be applauded by anyone.”

DU CROISY: “The actors told me they expected a rejoinder from Molière, and that—”

MOLIÈRE: “A rejoinder? He is a great fool if he takes the trouble to reply to their insults. Everyone knows well enough their motives. The best response he can have is to write a comedy that will succeed beyond all the others. I’m sure that a new play will annoy those actors much more than any rejoinder written against them.”

LA GRANGE: “But, Chevalier—”

MADELEINE (angerly): I must interrupt this nonsense. Listen, Jean-Baptiste, since your enemies have written about you, they’ve opened the door for you to write about them. After the way you’ve been treated in their satires, you are justified in taking revenge.

MOLIÈRE: I disagree. You would have me get fired up against them, and follow their example by rushing into invectives and insults.

MADELEINE: Why not? They did the same to you when you wrote The Affected Ladies. They scorned you for your poetry in The School for Wives, in which they heard nothing but rude insinuations and none of its beauty. You were called a heretic for Don Juan, not to mention those religious hypocrites who gathered against your Tartuffe. Your enemies call you a plagiarist, a bad poet, and a clown who can only imitate better models like our friend Scaramouche. In my opinion, you should not to spare any of them.

MOLIÈRE: The greatest harm I’ve done them is that I’ve been fortunate enough to please my audiences a little more than they would have liked. Their whole conduct since we came to Paris has too clearly shown what bothers them. But let them do what they will. All their efforts can’t disturb me. They criticize my plays? So much the better. The success of my comedies is vengeance enough for me.

MADELEINE: There’s not much pleasure in seeing one’s work pulled to pieces.

MOLIÈRE: What does it matter to me? Haven’t I gotten from my comedies all I could wish for? Haven’t I reason to be content with my lot, and aren’t their censures a little too late? It doesn’t bother me. When they attack a play that has been successful, they merely attack the judgment of those who have praised it and not skill of him who wrote it.

MADELEINE: But, in a word—

MOLIÈRE: In a word, Madeleine, you’ll drive me mad. Let’s say no more about this. We amuse ourselves in talking when we ought to be rehearsing our comedy. Where were we? I can’t remember.

CATHERINE: You were at the place where Angelique . . .

(Suddenly, music signals the imminent arrival of the king. General panic erupts among the company.)

MOLIÈRE: Good lord, what do I hear? The king is coming! It’s plain to see we have no more time to rehearse. That’s what comes of playing. Well, you must all do the best you can.

MADELEINE: I’m in such a fright, I won’t be able to play my part unless I rehearse it!

MOLIÈRE: What?! You cannot play your part?

MADELEINE: No!

THERESE: Nor I mine!

CATHERINE: No more can I!

ARMANDE: Nor I!

GENEVIEVE: Nor I!

MARIE: Nor I!

MOLIÈRE: What on earth do you mean? Are you serious?

(Enter the king’s PAGE.)

PAGE: Ladies and gentlemen, I come to inform you that his majesty King Louis XIV is arriving and waits for you to begin.

MOLIÈRE: Ah, Sir. You see us in terrible straits. These ladies are frightened. We beg the favor of another moment.

(Disapprovingly, the PAGE exits.)

MOLIÈRE (to his company): Try and pull yourselves together, everyone. Take courage, I beg you.

(MOLIÈRE claps his hands twice to signal his company to get back to work. The stage becomes a frenzy of motion. The company rushes to put the set of The Hypochondriac in order, placing stage furniture, hastily packing up and clearing costume and prop trunks, etc. The actors help each other make the finishing touches on their costumes and make-up. Marie, who will be the prompter for the show, rushes around gathering everyone’s script pages and takes them to her prompter’s booth, trying to put them in order.)

(Once everything is ready, the actors arrange themselves in formation and await the entrance of the king. They whisper here and there, make last minute adjustments to their costumes, wipe sweat off their palms, clear their throats, etc. Maximum moment of anticipation.)

(Finally, a blast of trumpets brings the entrance of the king. The actors offer him a low and reverent bow, which they hold until the king is seated. As they complete the bow and the music ends, the Prompter steps forward to present the Prologue while the other actors leave the stage and Molière takes his place as Argan at his desk.)

Production Note: The king can be represented by an effect of light (he was the “Sun King” after all), or music, or some other bit of theatrical magic. It’s the actors’ reaction to the effect that will make the king’s presence a reality for the audience. Of course, if production allows, one could have the physical presence of a Louis XIV to attend the production.

 

ACT II.

THE HYPOCHONDRIAC

PROLOGUE (spoken by the Prompter).

Hear ye Hear ye! Doctors:
It’s you I address:
You fakers and quacks, you fail to impress.
Fancy words and concoctions
Move bowels, that’s sure,
Yet you pretend these enemas cure.

Alas! Alas! In love, I’m abused.
And doctors, doctors, here’s the news:
No pill is going to cure my ill—
Yet you pretend your medicines will!

You pretend to know what makes a heart ache
And you seek to fix it with potions of snake.
Only a fool seeks comfort from a quack—
So, here’s your man: THE HYPOCHONDRIAC!

(Lights and other shifts to signal the start of the performance.)

Scene 1

Argan’s Chamber. Late Morning

ARGAN (alone, sitting at his table with a stack of bills, adding up his doctor bills and counting out coins): Three and two make five, and five makes ten, and ten makes twenty. (Reading the next bill:) Next item, from the twenty-fourth of February: “A little preparation to moisten and refresh His Worship’s Bowels—” Ah! What pleases me about Mr. Fleurant, my Apothecary, is that his bills are always so polite. “—His Worship’s Bowels. Thirty francs.” Thirty francs!? Being polite isn’t enough, Mr. Fleurant, you must be reasonable too, and not fleece your patients! I will pay ten francs. (Adding one coin to the pot.) There! (Reading next bill:) “Item, a good cleaning enema composed of double catholicum, rhubarb, rosatum, et cetera, according to prescription, to scour, scrub, and cleanse His Honor’s abdomen. Thirty francs.” Excuse me, Sir, let’s make that ten francs. “Item, the same day, at night, an hepatic, soporific, and somniferous Julep, composed to make his Honor sleep. Thirty-five francs.” I won’t complain about that, since I slept well. “Item, on the twenty fifth, a good purgative composed of cinnamon and senna, according to the prescription of Dr. Purgon, to expel and evacuate His Honor’s choler. Forty francs.” You jest, Mr. Fleurant! I’ll pay thirty, if you please. “Item, the twenty sixth, an enema to expel His Honor’s wind. Thirty francs.” Twenty, Mr. Fleurant. “Item, His Honor’s enema repeated at night as before. Thirty francs.” Ten! Mr. Fleurant, Ten! “Item, the twenty seventh, a good medicine composed to dissipate and drive out His Honor’s bad temper, three francs.” That’s reasonable. “Item, the twenty eighth, a dose of clarified milk, to sweeten, temper and refresh His Honor’s blood. Twenty francs.” Oh! Mr. Fleurant, be careful. If you keep charging these prices, no one will want to be ill. (Adding aloud:) Three and two make five, and five makes ten, and ten makes twenty. Sixty-three francs. So, in this month I have taken (counting in his ledger) one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight purges, and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve enemas. Last month it was twelve purges, and twenty enemas. No wonder I’m not feeling well this month! I’ll tell Dr. Purgon about this, and he will set it right. I’m done, take away all these things. (Noticing he is alone). There’s nobody here. I’m always left alone. (He rings his bell.) They don’t hear, my bell’s not loud enough. (Rings.) No one. (Rings again.) They are deaf. (Calling out.) Toinette! Toinette! (Making as much noise with his bell as possible.) Just as if I did not ring at all. (Ringing the bell again.) Ring, ring, ring! To the devil with the wench. Is it possible she should leave a poor sick creature in this manner! (Gives up on the bell and yells.) Ring Ring! Ring Ring! Ding Dong! Ding Dong! They’ll let me die here. Clang, Clang, Clang!

TOINETTE (entering): Here I am.

ARGAN: Carrion! What took you so long?

TOINETTE (pretending to have hurt her head): The devil with your impatience, Sir. You hurried me so much that I’ve knocked my head.

ARGAN: Ah! Baggage—

TOINETTE (interrupting him, pretending to be in pain.): Oh!

ARGAN: It is a—

TOINETTE: Oh!

ARGAN: It is an hour—

TOINETTE: Oh! Oh!

ARGAN: Since you have left me—

TOINETTE (still pretending pain): Oh!

ARGAN: Hold your tongue, you harlot, that I may scold you.

TOINETTE: Very well, truly. I like that, after what I’ve done to myself.

ARGAN: You have made me yell my throat sore, Gypsy.

TOINETTE: And you have made me hit my head, Sir. One’s as good as the other, so we’re even.

ARGAN: How is that, hussy?!

TOINETTE: If you scold me, I’ll cry.

ARGAN: How dare you ignore me, you Jade—

TOINETTE (crying): Oh! Oh! Oh!

ARGAN: Impudence! Would you—

TOINETTE (crying): Oh! Oh! Oh!

ARGAN: What, cannot I have the pleasure of scolding?

TOINETTE: Go ahead. Scold with all your heart.

ARGAN: You hinder me from it, hussy, by interrupting me at every turn.

TOINETTE: If you have the pleasure of scolding, I must for my part, have the pleasure of crying: To each his own. (Crying.) Oh! Oh! Oh!

ARGAN: Come now, enough of this. Take away my chamber pot.

(TOINETTE moves to do so but realizes the chamber pot is not on stage. MADELEINE gestures apologetically to the audience and then whispers angrily toward the prompter booth.)

MADELEINE: Psst! Marie!

(MARIE pops her head out of the prompter booth, with a pastry box and pastry in hand. MADELEINE gestures angrily to the stage. MARIE understands, pops backstage for a second and runs back on stage with a chamber pot. MADELEINE takes it, shoos Marie off stage and reassumes the play.)

ARGAN: Well, has my enema worked to day?

TOINETTE: Your enema!

ARGAN: Yes. Have I voided much bilious matter?

TOINETTE: It’s not my business. Let your apothecary, Mr. Fleurant, put his nose in it, since he makes the profit by it.

ARGAN: Take care to get me some broth ready, for the other I am to take by and by.

TOINETTE: This Mr. Fleurant and Dr. Purgon are having a fine time with your carcass. They have a fine milk-cow in you. I would ask them what disease you have, that you must take so much medicine.

ARGAN: Hold your tongue, ignorance. It is not for you to question the doctor’s orders. Give me my cane. I will return again presently. Have my daughter Angelique ready for me, I have something to say to her.

(ARGAN exits, to his privy.)

ANGELIQUE (entering, speaking confidentially): Toinette.

TOINETTE: Well.

ANGELIQUE: Look at me, Toinette.

TOINETTE: I’m looking.

ANGELIQUE: Toinette.

TOINETTE: Well, what would you have with Toinette?

ANGELIQUE: Do not you know what I would speak of?

TOINETTE: I suspect of your young lover, for it’s around him that our conversations have turned these past six days, and you’re not happy unless you’re talking about him every moment.

ANGELIQUE: Since you know that, why are not you the first to bring him up, and spare me the pains of forcing you to this discourse?

TOINETTE: You don’t give me time to do it. You’re so eager it’s difficult to get ahead of you.

ANGELIQUE: I admit that I am never weary of talking of him, and that my heart takes advantage of every moment to speak to you of him. But tell me, Toinette, do you condemn the feelings I have for him?

TOINETTE: Far from it.

ANGELIQUE: Am I wrong to abandon myself to these sweet sentiments?

TOINETTE: I didn’t say that.

ANGELIQUE: And would you have me ignore the tender protestations of love that he declares for me?

TOINETTE: Heaven forbid!

ANGELIQUE: Tell me, do you not think, as well as I, that there is something of providence, some act of destiny, in the unexpected adventure of our acquaintance?

TOINETTE: Yes.

ANGELIQUE: Do you not think that the action of his rushing to my defense, without knowing me, was perfectly gallant?

TOINETTE: Oh, aye.

ANGELIQUE: That it could not have been more honorable?

TOINETTE: Agreed.

ANGELIQUE: And that he did it with all the grace in the world?

TOINETTE: Oh, yes.

ANGELIQUE: Do you not think, Toinette, that he is well made in his person?

TOINETTE: Certainly.

ANGELIQUE: That he has the best air in the world?

TOINETTE: Undoubtedly.

ANGELIQUE: That his discourse, as well as actions, has something noble in it?

TOINETTE: Truly.

ANGELIQUE: That never anything was heard more affectionate than all he says to me?

TOINETTE: That’s sure.

ANGELIQUE: And that there is nothing more horrible than the restraints I am kept under, which hinder all communication of those sweet transports of mutual ardor with which heaven inspires us both?

TOINETTE: You’re right about that.

ANGELIQUE: But, my dear Toinette, do you think he loves me as much as he says?

TOINETTE: Those kinds of things are sometimes not to be trusted. His show of love is very much like the reality, but I have seen good actors in that part.

ANGELIQUE: Ah! Toinette! What are you saying? Alas, in his manner of speaking, is it really possible that he is not telling me the truth?

TOINETTE: Be it as it may, all will be clear on that point soon. The letter he wrote to you yesterday, declaring his intention to ask your father for your hand in marriage, is the sure way to discover if he’s speaking the truth or not. That’ll be the proof.

ANGELIQUE: Ah! Toinette, if this man deceives me, I will never believe another man as long as I live.

TOINETTE: Shhh! Here’s your father returned.

(Reenter ARGAN.)

ARGAN: So, daughter, I am going to tell you a piece of news, which you little expect perhaps. You are asked in marriage. (ANGELIQUE reacts.) How is this? You rejoice? It is pleasant, eh? That word “marriage.” There is nothing so merry to young girls. Ah, Nature! Nature! From what I can see, my child, I do not have to ask you if you are willing to be married.

ANGELIQUE: It is my duty, Sir, to do whatever will please you to enjoin me.

ARGAN: I am glad to have such a dutiful daughter. The thing is fixed then, and I have promised you.

ANGELIQUE: It is for me, Sir, to blindly follow all your resolutions.

ARGAN: My wife, your stepmother, desired that I should make a nun of you, and your little sister Louise as well. She is always insisting on it.

TOINETTE (aside): That sly beast has her reasons for it.

ARGAN: She will not like this match, but I am decided and my word is given.

ANGELIQUE: Oh! Father, how much am I obliged to you for all your goodness!

TOINETTE: In truth, I take this well of you. This is a wise action.

ARGAN: I have not yet seen the young man, but they tell me I will be satisfied with him, and you too.

ANGELIQUE: Most certainly.

ARGAN: How! Have you seen him?

ANGELIQUE: Since your consent allows me to open my heart to you, I will not hesitate to tell you that chance brought us acquainted about six days ago, and that the request which has been made to you is the effect of an inclination which we conceived for each other at first sight.

ARGAN: I was not told of that, but I am very glad of it. It is so much the better that things go in this manner. They say that he is a jolly, well-made young fellow.

ANGELIQUE: Yes, Father.

ARGAN: Well shaped.

ANGELIQUE: Without doubt.

ARGAN: Agreeable in his person.

ANGELIQUE: Most certainly.

ARGAN: Of a good countenance.

ANGELIQUE: Extremely good.

ARGAN: Discreet, and well born.

ANGELIQUE: Perfectly.

ARGAN: Very genteel.

ANGELIQUE: The most genteel man in the world.

ARGAN: And speaks Latin and Greek.

ANGELIQUE (impressed): I didn’t know that!

ARGAN: And will be granted the title of “Doctor” in three days’ time.

ANGELIQUE: Doctor, Father?

ARGAN: Yes. Has he not told you?

ANGELIQUE: No indeed. Who told you so?

ARGAN: Dr. Purgon.

ANGELIQUE: Does Dr. Purgon know him?

ARGAN: A fine question! Of course, he knows him — he is his nephew.

ANGELIQUE: Cléante is Dr. Purgon’s nephew?

ARGAN: What “Cléante”? We are speaking of the person you are asked for in marriage.

ANGELIQUE: Well, yes.

ARGAN: Very well, and he is the nephew of Dr. Purgon, the son of the physician Dr. Diafoirus, and this son’s name is Thomas Diafoirus, not Cléante. I have concluded the match, and tomorrow this intended son is to be brought to me by his father. What is the matter? You look quite astonished.

ANGELIQUE: It is because I find, Father, that you have been speaking of one person, and I understood another.

TOINETTE: What, Sir, would you entertain so absurd a design? And with so much wealth as you have, would you marry your daughter to a doctor?

ARGAN: Yes. What business is it of yours, Wench? Such impudence!

TOINETTE: Calm now, softly, Sir, you fly immediately to insults. Can’t we reason together without falling into a passion? Come, let’s talk calmly. What is your reason, pray, for such a marriage?

ARGAN: My reason is, that seeing myself infirm and sick as I am, I would procure me a medical son-in-law to have access to such remedies which are necessary to me, and to have as many consultations and prescriptions as I want.

TOINETTE: Very well, that’s giving a reason, and there’s a pleasure in answering one another calmly, is there not? But, Sir, lay your hand on your heart. Now, tell me, are you really sick?

ARGAN: How, Jade, am I really sick?! Am I really sick, impertinent wench?!

TOINETTE: Well, yes, Sir, you are sick, let us have no quarrel about that. You are very sick, I agree—and more sick than you know. But your daughter must marry a husband for herself, and she, not being sick, doesn’t need a doctor.

ARGAN: It’s for my sake that I give her a physician, and a girl of good nature should be overjoyed to marry for the benefit of her father’s health.

TOINETTE: Look here, Sir. Will you let me as a friend give you a piece of advice?

ARGAN: What’s that advice?

TOINETTE: Forget this match.

ARGAN: And the reason, I pray?

TOINETTE: The reason is this: your daughter won’t consent to it.

ARGAN: She won’t consent to it?

TOINETTE: No.

ARGAN: My daughter?

TOINETTE: Your daughter. She’ll tell you that she will have nothing to do with Dr. Diafoirus, nor with his son Thomas Diafoirus, nor all the Diafoiri in the world.

ARGAN: But I’ll have something to do with them. Besides, the match is more advantageous than you think. His father Dr. Diafoirus has only one son to inherit all he has, and moreover, his uncle Dr. Purgon has neither wife nor children and gives him all his estate in favor of this marriage. Dr. Purgon is a man worth a good eight thousand a year.

TOINETTE: He must have killed a world of people to become that rich.

ARGAN: Eight thousand a year is nothing to sneeze at.

TOINETTE: All this, Sir, is fair and fine: But I still return to the same point. I advise you to choose another husband for your daughter, for she’s not made to be Madame Diafoirus.

ARGAN: But I’ll have it be so.

TOINETTE: Oh, fie, don’t say that.

ARGAN: And why not say it?

TOINETTE: They’ll say you don’t know what you’re talking about.

ARGAN: They may say what they please, but I tell you, I’ll have her make good on the promise I have given.

TOINETTE: No, I am sure that she’ll not do it.

ARGAN: I’ll force her to it then.

TOINETTE: She’ll not do it, I tell you.

ARGAN: She’ll do it, or I’ll put her into a convent.

TOINETTE: You?

ARGAN: Me.

TOINETTE: You will not put her into a convent.

ARGAN: I will not put her into a convent?

TOINETTE: No.

ARGAN: No?

TOINETTE: No.

ARGAN: I will not put my daughter into a convent, if I please?

TOINETTE: No, I tell you.

ARGAN: Who will stop me?

TOINETTE: Yourself.

ARGAN: Myself?

TOINETTE: Yes, you’ll not have the heart.

ARGAN: I will.

TOINETTE: You jest.

ARGAN: I don’t jest!

TOINETTE: Fatherly tenderness will hinder you.

ARGAN: It won’t hinder me!

TOINETTE: A little tear or two, her arms thrown about your neck, a “dear little Papa” pronounced tenderly, will be enough to move you.

ARGAN: All that will do nothing!

TOINETTE: Yes, yes.

ARGAN: I tell you that I won’t give an inch!

TOINETTE: You’re not serious.

ARGAN: Don’t say I’m not serious!

TOINETTE: By heaven, I know you, you’re good-natured.

ARGAN: I am not good-natured! I am not good-natured! I am ill-natured!

TOINETTE: Take it easy, Sir, remember that you are sick.

ARGAN: I command her absolutely to prepare to take the husband I have chosen.

TOINETTE: And I absolutely forbid her to do it.

ARGAN: Ah! Insolence. I’ll knock you down. (Raises an arm to strike her.)

TOINETTE (running from him): It’s my duty to oppose anything that would disgrace you.

ARGAN (running after her): Come hither, that I may teach you how to speak.

TOINETTE (running from him): I involve myself as I should, to hinder you from doing such a foolish thing.

ARGAN: Jade!

TOINETTE: I’ll never consent to this match.

ARGAN: Baggage!

TOINETTE: I’ll not have her marry your Thomas Diafoirus!

ARGAN: Carrion!

TOINETTE: And she’ll obey me sooner than you.

ARGAN: Angelique, won’t you lay hold of that slut for me?

ANGELIQUE: Oh, Father, don’t make yourself sick.

ARGAN: If you do not stop her for me, I’ll refuse you my blessing. (ANGELIQUE runs out, crying.)

TOINETTE (following her out): And I’ll disinherit her, if she does obey you.

ARGAN (falling into his chair, exhausted): Oh! Oh! I can bear it no longer. This is enough to kill me.

(Enter BÉLINE.)

ARGAN: Ah! My dear wife, come hither.

BÉLINE: What’s the matter, my poor husband?

ARGAN: I am beside myself.

BÉLINE: Alas! my poor little one!

ARGAN: Your wicked Toinette is grown more insolent than ever.

BÉLINE: Don’t put yourself into a passion.

ARGAN: She has made me mad, my love.

BÉLINE: There, there, my child.

ARGAN: She has been thwarting me this hour in things that I’m resolved to do.

BÉLINE: Calm yourself, my dear.

ARGAN: She has had the impudence to tell me that I’m not sick.

BÉLINE: What an impertinent gypsy.

ARGAN: You know, my dear, how sick I am.

BÉLINE: Yes, my darling, she’s in the wrong.

ARGAN: My love, that hussy will kill me yet.

BÉLINE: Tsk, Tsk, Tsk.

ARGAN: She’s the cause of all the choler I breed.

BÉLINE: Don’t fret yourself so much.

ARGAN: I have begged you, I know not how many times, to turn her away from here.

BÉLINE: Alas, there are no servants, men or women . . . Alas, there are no servants, men or women . . .

(CATHERINE has gone up on the line. She inches her way over to the prompter’s booth to catch MARIE’s attention.)

CATHERINE (loudly, for MARIE’S benefit): Alas, there are no servants, men or women—

(MARIE pops out of her prompter’s booth. She has a script page in hand but has been eating pastry and fumbles to find the right page).

MARIE (mumbling through a mouthful of pastry too big to swallow): “Alas, there are no mmmm, no, mmmm…women….who do not have their fffffffffs….”

(MARIE gives up. Shrugs a half-hearted apology to the audience and disappears again into prompter’s booth.)

BÉLINE (she’s heard enough): Alas, there are no servants, men or women, who do not have their faults. We are sometimes forced to bear their bad qualities for the sake of their good ones. The girl is capable, careful, diligent, and above all honest. (Calling:) Toinette!

TOINETTE (entering): Madame?

BÉLINE: What’s the reason that you put my dear husband in this passion?

TOINETTE: I, Madame? Alas! I don’t know what you mean, I think of nothing but to please my master in everything.

ARGAN: Oh, the traitor!

TOINETTE: He told us that he intended to give his daughter in marriage to the son of Dr. Diafoirus. I answered him that I thought the match was very advantageous for her but believed he would do better to put her into a convent.

BÉLINE: There’s no great harm in that, and I think she’s in the right.

ARGAN: Ah! my love, do you believe her? She’s a rascal! She said a hundred insolent things to me.

BÉLINE: Very well, I believe you, my dear. Come, recover yourself. Hear me, Toinette, if you vex my husband ever again, I’ll turn you out of doors. So, give me his fur and the pillows that I may set him easy in his chair. There you are. Pull your night cap well over your ears, there’s nothing gives people so much cold, as letting air in between their ears.

ARGAN: Ah! my life, How I’m obliged to you for all the care you take of me.

BÉLINE (adjusting pillows which she puts round him): Raise yourself up that I may put this under you. Let us put this one here to keep you up, and this on the other side. Let’s place this one behind your back, and this other to support your head.

TOINETTE (clapping a pillow on his face): And this to keep you from the damp.

ARGAN (getting up in a rage and throwing the pillows after TOINETTE as she runs off): Ah! Jade! You’re trying to smother me.

BÉLINE: Why do you fly into such a passion? She meant to do well.

ARGAN: You don’t know, my love, the malice of that wench. She has put me beside myself, and there’ll be need of more than eight doses of physic and twelve enemas to set me right again.

BÉLINE: My dear, calm yourself a little.

ARGAN: My life, you are all my comfort. So that I may endeavor to return the love you have for me, my heart, I’ll revise my will as I promised.

BÉLINE: Ah! My soul, don’t talk of that, pray, I can’t bear the thought of it. The very words “Last Will and Testament” make me leap for grief.

ARGAN: I want you to speak of it to your notary.

BÉLINE: The notary is waiting in the parlor.

ARGAN: Let him come hither then, my love.

(BÉLINE exits and reenters with BONNEFOY.)

ARGAN: Come hither, good man, come hither. Take a chair. My wife has told me that you are very honest and altogether one of her friends. I have asked her to speak to you about notarizing my last will and testament.

BONNEFOY: She has revealed your intentions to me, Sir, and what you plan to give her, and I have to tell you upon that subject that you cannot leave your wife anything in your will.

ARGAN: But why so?

BONNEFOY: Custom is against it. If we were a country of statute law, it could done, but as we are a country governed by common law, it is not allowed. All that a man and woman joined by wedlock can give each to the other is by mutual gift in their lifetimes, moreover there must be no children of the deceased.

ARGAN: What an affront! A husband can’t leave anything to a wife, by whom he’s tenderly beloved, and who takes such good care of him? I should desire to consult my lawyer to see what can be done.

(TOINETTE enters quietly, pretending to clean up, eavesdropping.)

BONNEFOY: It is not to lawyers that you must apply, for they are usually picky about these things and imagine it a great crime to do anything contrary to law. Ha, ha! Such sticklers they are! There are other persons to consult who are much fitter to accommodate you, who have a way of passing gently over the law and making legal that which is not allowed. Without them, where would we be? There must be a flexibility in such things. Business depends on it.

ARGAN: Indeed. My wife told me, that you are very skillful and very honest. What can I do, I ask you, to give her my estate, and to deprive my children of it?

BONNEFOY: What can you do? You must secretly choose an intimate friend of your wife to whom you may bequeath all that you can in due form by your will, and this friend will afterwards give up all back to her. You may likewise in this lifetime put into her hands all money and bonds which you may have.

BÉLINE: Alas you must not torment yourself with all these things. If I should lose you, my dearest, I’ll stay no longer in the world.

ARGAN: My soul!

BÉLINE: Life will be no longer anything to me.

ARGAN: My love!

BÉLINE: And I’ll follow you, so you will know the tenderness I have for you.

ARGAN: My life, you break my heart, be comforted I beg you.

BONNEFOY: These tears are unnecessary. Things are not yet come to that.

BÉLINE (to BONNEFOY): Ah! Sir. You don’t know what it is to have a husband that one tenderly loves.

ARGAN: I’ll make this will and testament, my love, after the manner this notary says, and I’ll put into your hands twenty thousand in gold, which I have in the ceiling of my alcove, and two bonds which are due to me.

BÉLINE: No, no, I’ll have none of it. Ah!— how much do you say that there is in your alcove?

ARGAN: Twenty thousand, my love.

BÉLINE: Don’t speak to me of riches, I beg you. Ah!—how much are the two bonds for?

ARGAN: One for four thousand, and the other for six, my love.

BÉLINE: All the wealth in the world, my soul, is nothing to me in comparison to you.

BONNEFOY (to ARGAN): Would you have us proceed to make the will?

ARGAN: Yes, Sir, but we will be better in my little chamber. My love, lead me, pray.

BÉLINE: Come, my poor dear child.

(Exit ARGAN, BÉLINE, BONNEFOY. Enter ANGELIQUE, running to TOINETTE.)

TOINETTE: They are with some notary, and I heard them talk of a will. Your stepmother is planning some contrivance against your interest.

ANGELIQUE: Let my father dispose of his money as he pleases, provided he does not dispose of my heart. You hear, Toinette, the violent designs he has against it. Don’t abandon me in this dire situation, I beg you.

TOINETTE: I abandon you? I’d sooner die. Your stepmother makes me her confidante. I never had any Inclination for her. I’ll make use of everything to serve you, but to serve you more effectively I’ll conceal the sympathy I have for you and pretend to agree with your father and stepmother.

ANGELIQUE: Try, dear Toinette I beg you, to give Cléante notice of the marriage they are planning.

TOINETTE: It’s too late for that today, but first thing tomorrow, I will—

BÉLINE (calling from within): Toinette!

TOINETTE: She’s calling. Good night. Rely upon me.

 Scene 2

Same. The next day.

(At rise, TOINETTE is busying herself dusting. Enter CLÉANTE, disguised as a music teacher.)

TOINETTE (surprised and not recognizing CLÉANTE): What do you want, Sir?

CLÉANTE: What do I want?

TOINETTE: Ah, It’s you, Sir! What a surprise! (Alarmed.) Why are you come?

CLÉANTE: To know my destiny, Toinette. I must speak to the amiable Angelique, consult the sentiments of her heart, and demand of her what are her resolutions in respect to the fatal marriage which you have revealed to me.

TOINETTE: Yes, but Angelique cannot be seen. You have been told how she is kept under strict guard. She is not allowed to stir abroad, or to speak to anybody.

CLÉANTE: Just so. I come not as Cléante, and as her lover, but as a friend of her music teacher, who has come in his absence.

TOINETTE: Here’s her father. Stay back, and I’ll let him know you are here.

(Enter ARGAN.)

ARGAN (pacing, not seeing them): Dr. Purgon told me I should walk around my chamber every morning twelve times to and fro. But I forgot to ask him, whether it should be length-wise or broad-ways.

TOINETTE: Sir, there is one—

ARGAN: Lower your voice, Hussy, you just split my ears. You never consider that sick people should not be spoken to loudly.

TOINETTE: I would tell you, Sir—

ARGAN: Lower, I say.

TOINETTE (whispering): Sir—

ARGAN: Hey?

TOINETTE (mouthing the words): I tell you that—

ARGAN: What is it you tell me?

TOINETTE (aloud): I tell you here is a man wants to speak with you.

ARGAN: Let him come.

(TOINETTE signals to CLÉANTE to come near.)

CLÉANTE: Sir, I am exceeding glad to find you up and about, and to see that you are feeling better.

TOINETTE: How better? Not true. My master is always ill.

CLÉANTE: I had heard the gentleman was better, and I perceive he looks well.

TOINETTE: What do you mean by “looks well”? He looks very ill, and they are impertinent people who told you he was well. He was never so ill in his life.

ARGAN: She’s right about that.

TOINETTE: He walks, sleeps, eats, and drinks just like other people, but that doesn’t mean he’s not sick.

ARGAN: That’s true.

CLÉANTE: Sir, I am heartily sorry for it. I come from your daughter’s music teacher. He was obliged to leave the city for a few days, and as I am one of his friends, he sent me in his place, for fear that if she discontinues her lessons, she might forget what she has already learned.

ARGAN: Very well. (To TOINETTE.) Call for Angelique.

TOINETTE: I believe, Sir, it would be better to show the gentleman to her chamber.

ARGAN: No.

TOINETTE: He can’t teach her the lesson as he should do, if they are not by themselves.

ARGAN: No matter.

TOINETTE: Sir, it will only bother you, and you should have nothing disturb you in the condition you are.

ARGAN: No, no, I love music, and I will be glad to—

(Enter ANGELIQUE.)

ARGAN: Ah! here she comes. (To TOINETTE.) Go see if my wife is dressed.

(Exit TOINETTE.)

ARGAN: Come, daughter. Your music teacher has left town, and here’s a person he has sent to teach you in his place.

ANGELIQUE (recognizing CLÉANTE): Oh, Heavens!

ARGAN: What’s the matter? Why this surprise?

ANGELIQUE: It is—

ARGAN: What? What disturbs you in this manner?

ANGELIQUE: It is a surprising accident, Sir, that I meet with here.

ARGAN: How?

ANGELIQUE: I dreamt last night that I was in the greatest distress in the world, and that a person exactly like this gentleman freed me from the trouble I was in. My surprise is very great to see unexpectedly, upon coming in here, the very thing I had in mind all night.

CLÉANTE: It is no small happiness to have a place in your thoughts, whether sleeping or waking. My good fortune would be very great, were you in any trouble from which I would be worthy to deliver you, and there is nothing I would not do to—

(TOINETTE returns.)

TOINETTE (to ARGAN): Sir, Dr. Diafoirus and his son Thomas Diafoirus have come to visit. Let’s forget my insolence yesterday. I see now what a good son-in-law you will have! He spoke only two words to me, but I’m enthralled. Your daughter will be so charmed.

ARGAN (to CLÉANTE, who starts to leave): Don’t go, Sir, I plan to marry off my daughter, and the person coming is her intended husband, whom she has not yet seen.

CLÉANTE: It will be a great honor, Sir, to be witness to so agreeable an interview.

ARGAN: He is the son of an eminent physician, and the marriage will be performed in four days.

CLÉANTE: Very well.

ARGAN: I invite you and her music master to the wedding.

CLÉANTE: You do me a great deal of honor.

ARGAN: Come, place yourselves in order, here they come.

(Enter DR. DIAFOIRUS and THOMAS.)

ARGAN and DR. DIAFOIRUS (speaking over each other):

DR. DIAFOIRUS

We are here, Sir, my son Thomas, and I, to declare to you, Sir, the pleasure we receive, from the favor you do us, so kindly to admit us, to the honor, Sir, of your alliance, and to assure you that in affairs depending on our faculty, as also in all others, we shall ever be ready, Sir, to testify our zeal for you.

 

ARGAN

With a great deal of joy, you do me honor, Sir, and I could have wished, to have been able to have gone to you, to assure you, but you know, Sir, what it is to be a poor sick creature, who can do no more, than to tell you here, that he will seek all opportunities, To make you sensible, Sir, that he is entirely at your Service

 

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Come, Thomas, step forward and pay your compliments.

THOMAS: Should I begin with the father?

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Yes.

THOMAS: Sir, I come to salute, recognize, cherish, and revere in you a second father to whom, I’ll be bold to say, I am more indebted than to my first. The first begat me, but you have adopted me. He received me by necessity, but you accepted me by choice. What I have from him, is of the body, what I have from you of the will, and by how much the mental faculties are superior to the corporeal, by that much am I more indebted to you, and by so much do I hold, as more precious, this future filiation, for which I on this day come to pay you beforehand, the most humble and most respectful homage.

TOINETTE: Hooray for college, they turn out such clever people.

THOMAS: Was that well done, Father?

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Excellent.

ARGAN: Angelique, come pay your respects to the gentleman.

THOMAS: Shall I greet her, Father?

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Yes, yes.

THOMAS: Madame, it is with justice that heaven has granted you to be my mother-in-law, since one—

ARGAN: That’s not my wife, that’s my daughter you are speaking to.

THOMAS: Where is she then?

ARGAN: She’s coming.

THOMAS: Shall I wait, Father, until she comes?

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Pay your compliments to the young lady, Thomas.

THOMAS: Madame, just in the same manner as the Statue of Memnon gave a harmonious sound when it was illuminated by the rays of the sun: So, in like manner, do I feel myself animated with a sweet transport at the appearance of the sun of your beauty. As we remark that the flower named the Heliotrope, always turns towards that star of day, so shall my heart, henceforth forever turn towards the resplendent stars of your adorable eyes. Permit me then, Madame, now to pay, at the altar of your charms, the offering of that heart which seeks no other Glory than that of being, until death, Madame, your most humble, most obedient, and most faithful husband.

TOINETTE: See what it is to study, one learns to say fine things.

CLÉANTE: The gentleman speaks wonders, and if he is as good a physician as he is an orator, it would be a great pleasure to be one of his patients.

ARGAN: Here, my chair quickly, and chairs for everybody. (To DR. DIAFOIRUS.) You see, Sir, that all the world admires your son, and I think you must very happy with such a fine young man.

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Sir, it is not because I am his father, but I can say I have reason to be satisfied with him. He never had a very lively Imagination, nor that sparkling wit which one observes in some others. They had all the difficulty in the world to teach him to read, and he was nine years old before he knew his letters. Never mind, thought I, trees slow of growth are those which bear the best fruit. Anyway, when I sent him to college he was hard put to it, but he bore up against all difficulties, and his tutors always praised his perseverance and effort. In short, by mere dint of hammering away at it, he graduated, and I can say that, from the time he took his Bachelor of Physics Degree, there is no candidate that has made more noise. He is firm in a dispute and pursues an argument to the furthest recesses of logic. But what pleases me above all things in him, is that he is blindly attached to the opinions of the Greeks, and pays no heed to reason and experiment, and the so-called “discoveries” of our age concerning the circulation of the blood, and other such nonsense.

THOMAS (presenting a rolled-up document to ANGELIQUE): I have supported a thesis against the proponents of circulation, which, with the Gentleman’s permission— (bowing to ARGAN) — I make bold to present to you, and I … and I…. and I…. (BRÉCOURT has forgotten his line. MARIE, ready this time, pops quickly out of the prompter booth with script in hand, but when she sees his ridiculous costume, she starts laughing uncontrollably. BRÉCOURT loses his temper and shoos her away. MARIE, still laughing, disappears into her prompter’s box). — I make bold to present to you, and I … (remembering) . . . invite you to come and see, for your diversion, the dissection of a woman, upon which I am to present lectures.

TOINETTE: There are some gentlemen who give their mistresses a play, but to give a dissection, there is something new.

DR. DIAFOIRUS: As to the rest, for what concerns the requisite qualities for marriage and propagation, I do assure you he is all one could wish for and is of a temperament proper to beget and procreate well-conditioned children.

ARGAN: Is it not your intention, Sir, to purse his interest at Court, and procure for him a physician’s place there?

DR. DIAFOIRUS: To speak frankly to you, I always found it much better for us to continue amongst the common folk. We are accountable to nobody for our actions. When the nobility is ill, they absolutely expect their physicians to cure them.

TOINETTE: How dare they expect that you should cure them!

ARGAN (to CLÉANTE): Sir, pray let my daughter sing before the company.

CLÉANTE: I anticipated these orders, Sir, and propose to sing along with mademoiselle a scene from a little opera lately composed. (To ANGELIQUE, giving her a sheet of paper.) There’s your part.

ANGELIQUE: I?

CLÉANTE (confidentially to ANGELIQUE): Pray don’t refuse. (Aloud.) I have no voice for singing. It is properly an ex tempore opera, and what you are about to hear is no more than a kind of irregular verse, such as passion and necessity might cause two persons to speak in haste.

ARGAN: Very well. Let’s hear.

CLÉANTE: The subject of the scene is this. A shepherd was attending a public entertainment, which had just begun, when his attention was interrupted by a noise. He turned to look and saw a brute with foul language abusing a shepherdess. Immediately he reprimanded the beast for his insolence. Then he turns to the shepherdess and finds a young creature, who, from two of the finest eyes he has ever seen, was shedding tears, which he thought the most beautiful in the world. The lovely shepherdess took care to thank him for the service he had done, and in a manner so charming, so tender, so passionate, that the shepherd could not resist it. Every word, every look is a flaming shaft, which pierces him to the heart. The conclusion of the entertainment separated him from his adorable shepherdess. He immediately suffered all the miseries of absence. He does everything possible to regain her, but the great constraint under which his shepherdess is kept by her dominating father deprives him of all opportunity. The violence of his passion makes him resolve to demand the adorable beauty in marriage and he obtained her permission for this by a letter secretly delivered. But then he heard that the father of this fair one has promised her in marriage to another man. Imagine what a cruel stroke this is to the heart of the melancholy Shepherd. See him overwhelmed with sorrow. He cannot support the horrible Idea of seeing the woman he loves in the arms of another. His desperate passion drives him to insinuate himself into the house of the shepherdess to learn her true feelings. He there meets with the very thing he fears, he sees the unworthy rival. He sees this ridiculous fool near the lovely shepherdess and the sight fills him with indignation, which he has the utmost difficulty to control. He casts a mournful look on her that he adores, and both his respect for her, and the presence of her father , prevents his saying anything to her but with his eyes. At last, he breaks through all restraint, and the transport of his passion makes him express himself in this manner:

CLÉANTE:

Fair Phyllis, it is too much to bear,
Break cruel silence, and your thoughts declare.
Tell me at once my destiny,
Shall I live, or must I die?

ANGELIQUE:

With sad, dejected looks, Oh Tierces, see
Poor Phyllis dreads the ill-fated wedding day,
Sighing, she lifts her eyes to heaven and thee.

ARGAN: Well, well! I didn’t know my daughter was such a mistress of song, to sing at sight without hesitating!

CLÉANTE:

Alas! My Phyllis fair,
Can the enamored Tierces be so blessed,
Your Favor in the least to share,
And find a Place within that lovely Breast?

ANGELIQUE:

In this extreme, if I confess my Love,
Not Modesty itself can disapprove,
Yes, Tierces, ‘tis thee I love.

CLÉANTE:

Oh! Words enchanting to the ear!
Repeat it, Phyllis, and all doubt remove.

ANGELIQUE:

Yes, Tierces, ‘tis thee I love.

CLÉANTE:

Once more, my Phyllis.

ANGELIQUE:

‘Tis Thee I love.

CLÉANTE:

A thousand times repeat, nor ever weary prove.

ANGELIQUE:

I love, I love, I love, I love, I love . . . Yes, Tierces ‘tis thee I love.

CLÉANTE:

But, Phyllis, here’s a thought
Does my transporting joy abate,
A rival—

ANGELIQUE:

I, more than Death, that Monster hate.
And if his presence tortures you,
It does no less to Phyllis too.

CLÉANTE:

If with the match a father’s power,
Would force you to comply?

ANGELIQUE:

I’d rather, rather die than give consent,
Much rather, rather die.

ARGAN: And what says the father to all this?

CLÉANTE: He says nothing. (Continuing the song.) Ah! my Love—

ARGAN (interrupting): No, no, enough of it. This play is very bad. The shepherd Tierces is an impertinent puppy, and the shepherdess Phyllis, an impudent daughter, to speak in this manner before a father (To CLÉANTE.) We could very well have spared your opera.

CLÉANTE: I thought to amuse you.

ARGAN: Impertinence never amuses. Good-day, Sir. Ah! here’s my Wife.

(Enter BÉLINE as exits CLÉANTE.)

ARGAN: My love, here is Thomas, the intended fiancé.

THOMAS: Madame, it is with justice that Heaven has granted you the name of mother-in law, since one sees in your face—

BÉLINE: Sir, I am very glad I came here, that I might have the honor of meeting you.

THOMAS: Since one sees in your face— Since one sees in your face— Madame, you interrupted me and that has disturbed my memory.

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Reserve it, Thomas, for another time.

ARGAN: I wish you had been here just now, Dearest—

TOINETTE: Oh, Madame, you missed a great deal by not being here at the “Second Father,” at the “Statue of Memnon” and the “Flower named the Heliotrope.”

ARGAN: Come, daughter, join hands with the gentleman, and make your promise.

ANGELIQUE: Oh, Father!

ARGAN: “Oh, Father” what?

ANGELIQUE: I beg you, don’t hurry things too fast. Give us time at least to get to know one another, and to find the growth of that inclination for each other, which is so necessary to form a perfect union.

THOMAS: As for me, Madame, mine is grown already, I have no need to wait.

ANGELIQUE: If you are so forward, Sir, it is not so with me, and I confess to you that your merit has not as yet made impression enough upon my mind.

ARGAN: Hoh! well, well, there will be time enough for that, when you are married.

ANGELIQUE: Ah! Father, pray give me time. Marriage is a chain that should never be imposed by force upon a heart, and if the gentleman is a man of honor, he should never accept a person by constraint.

THOMAS: Madame, I am a man of honor, and yet accept you from the hands of your father.

ANGELIQUE: To offer violence is but a very ill way to make you beloved by anyone.

THOMAS: We read in the Ancients, Madame, that their custom was to carry off the young women they were going to marry by force from their father’s house.

ANGELIQUE: The ancients, Sir, are the ancients, and we are moderns. Such actions are not necessary in our age, and when a marriage pleases us, we know very well how to go about it, without anybody dragging us off. Have patience, if you love me, Sir, you ought to want what I want.

TOINETTE: It’s useless to reason. The gentleman has come fresh from college, and he’ll always have the last word.

BÉLINE: She has perhaps some other inclination in her head.

ANGELIQUE: If I had, Stepmother, it should be such as reason and honor might allow me.

BÉLINE (to ARGAN): If I were as you, dear, I would not force her to marry. I know very well what I would do.

ANGELIQUE: I know, Madame, what you mean, and the kindness you have for me. But perhaps your good plans will lead to nothing.

BÉLINE: That’s because children like you, refuse to be obedient and submissive to the will of their fathers.

ANGELIQUE: The duty of a daughter has its limits, Madame.

BÉLINE: That’s as much as to say you have no aversion to matrimony, but you’ve a mind to choose a husband of your own liking.

ANGELIQUE: If my father won’t give me a husband to my liking, I will beg him, at least, not to force me to marry one I can’t love.

ARGAN (to THOMAS and DR. DIAFOIRUS): Gentlemen, I beg your pardon for all this.

ANGELIQUE: Everybody marries for their own reasons. As for me, who would not marry except for love, and who intends to be attached for life, I admit I am being cautious in the affair. There are some persons who take husbands only to set themselves free from their parents, and to put themselves in a position to do whatever they please. There are other persons, Madame, who make of marriage a commerce of pure self-interest, who run without scruple from husband to husband, only to enrich themselves with each widowhood. Those persons in good truth do not stand much upon ceremony and have little regard who they marry.

BÉLINE: I find you are quite the philosopher today, Angelique, and I would like know what you mean by it.

ANGELIQUE: You would be glad, Madame, if you forced me to some impertinent answer, but I tell you that you will not have that advantage.

BÉLINE: Your insolence has no equal.

ANGELIQUE: No, Madame, your arguments are in vain.

BÉLINE: Your arrogance is amazing, you would scorn the world with your impudence.

ANGELIQUE: All this will do no good, Madame: I will be discreet in spite of you, and to take from you all hope of succeeding in provoking me, I will quit your sight.

ARGAN (to ANGELIQUE): Listen to me: you have four days to make your choice. Marry this gentleman or go to a convent.

(Exit ANGELIQUE.)

ARGAN (to BÉLINE): Don’t worry. I will bring her to heel.

BÉLINE: I am sorry to leave you, my love, but I have an affair in the city, which cannot be missed. I will return presently.

ARGAN: Go, dear. Call upon your notary and bid him to hasten you know what.

BÉLINE: Adieu, my heart.

ARGAN: Adieu, my buttercup.

(Exit BÉLINE.)

ARGAN: How that woman loves me— it is not to be believed.

DR. DIAFOIRUS: We shall take our leave of you, Sir.

ARGAN: Stay, Sir. Tell me a little how I am.

DR. DIAFOIRUS (feeling his pulse): Here, Thomas, take the Gentleman’s other arm, to see whether you can form a good judgment of his pulse.

THOMAS: The gentleman’s pulse, is the pulse of a man who is not well.

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Good.

THOMAS: That it is hard-ish, if not to say hard.

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Very well.

THOMAS: Recoiling.

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Bene.

THOMAS: And even a little erratic.

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Optimè.

THOMAS: And shows a temperature in the parenchyma splenicum, that is to say, the spleen.

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Very good.

ARGAN: Dr. Purgon says it’s my liver that’s bad.

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Why yes, he who says parenchyma, means both one and the other, because of the strict sympathy they have together, by means of the vas breve of the Pylorus, and sometimes the Meatus Cholidici. He orders you, doubtless, to eat roasted meat.

ARGAN: No, nothing but boiled meat.

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Ah, yes, roasted, boiled, it’s all the same thing. He orders you very prudently, and you couldn’t be in better hands.

ARGAN: Sir, your very humble servant.

(Exit THOMAS and DIAFOIRUS. Enter BÉLINE.)

BÉLINE: I come, my darling, before leaving, to warn you of something. As I passed by Angelique’s chamber just door just now, I saw a young fellow with her, who immediately made his escape as soon as he saw me.

ARGAN: A young fellow with my daughter?

BÉLINE: Yes. Your little daughter Louise was with them too, who can tell you what she heard.

ARGAN: Send her here, love, send her here. (BÉLINE exits.) Oh! the audacity! I am no longer astonished by her obstinacy.

(Enter LOUISE.)

LOUISE: What do you want, Papa?— (GENEVIEVE realizes she forgot her prop doll. She inches her way over to the prompter booth.) Pssst! Marie! (She gestures to indicate she needs a doll in her arms.)

(MARIE makes a disapproving face and disappears for a moment to the prompter’s booth and returns with a doll. Throwing it angrily onstage at GENEVIEVE.)

LOUISE: What do you want, Papa? Mama told me that you want to speak with me?

ARGAN: Yes, come. Come nearer. Turn you. Look up. Look at me. So?

LOUISE: What, Papa?

ARGAN: What?

LOUISE: What?

ARGAN: Have you nothing to tell me?

LOUISE: To divert you, I’ll tell you, if you like, the Story of the Donkey Skin, or the Fable of the Crow and the Fox, which I learned the other day.

ARGAN: That’s not what I want.

LOUISE: What then?

ARGAN: Oh, you clever girl, you know very well what I mean.

LOUISE: Pardon me, Papa. I don’t.

ARGAN: Is that how you obey me?

LOUISE: How?

ARGAN: Did not I order you to come to me immediately and tell me all that you see?

LOUISE: Yes, Papa.

ARGAN: And have you seen nothing today?

LOUISE: No, Papa.

ARGAN: No, Papa?

LOUISE: No, Papa.

ARGAN: Indeed?

LOUISE: Indeed.

ARGAN (taking his cane): Very well, I’ll make you see something.

LOUISE (running away from him): Oh! Papa!

ARGAN (chasing her): Hah! You little liar. You didn’t tell me you saw a man in your sister’s chamber.

LOUISE (still running): Oh! Papa.

ARGAN (threating her with his cane): Here’s something will teach you to lie.

LOUISE (stops and falls on her knees to him): Oh, Papa, forgive me. My sister told me not to tell it you, but I’ll tell you all.

ARGAN: You must first have the rod for lying to me. After that we will consider of the rest.

(LOUISE reluctantly extends the palms of her hands to him. ARGAN raises his cane.)

LOUISE (snapping back her hands just as he lowers the cane): Oh, forgive me, Papa.

ARGAN: No, no.

(LOUISE again extends the palms of her hands. ARGAN raises his cane.)

LOUISE (snapping back her hands just as he lowers the cane): My dear, Papa, don’t whip me.

ARGAN: You will be whipped.

(LOUISE again extends the palms of her hands. ARGAN raises his cane.)

LOUISE (snapping back her hands. Whimpering): For heaven’s sake, Papa, don’t.

ARGAN: Come, come.

(LOUISE again puts out palms of her hands. ARGAN raises his cane.)

LOUISE (snapping back her hands just as he lowers the cane): Oh! Papa, you have hurt me. Wait, I’m dead. (She falls over.)

ARGAN: Lackaday, what’s the meaning of this? Louise? Louise? Oh! Bless me! Louise! Ah! my child. Oh! wretched me! My poor child’s dead. What have I done? Oh! my dear child, my poor little Louise.

LOUISE (getting up): There, there, Papa, don’t cry. I’m not dead yet.

ARGAN: Do you see this little trickster? Well, come, come. I pardon you this time, provided you tell me all.

LOUISE: Papa, don’t tell my sister that I told you.

ARGAN: No, no.

LOUISE: Why, Papa, there came a man into my sister’s chamber when I was there!

ARGAN: Well?

LOUISE: I asked him what he wanted, and he told me he was her music teacher.

ARGAN (to himself): Ah ha! There’s the business. (To LOUISE.) And then?

LOUISE: Then my sister came.

ARGAN: And then?

LOUISE: And then said to him “Be gone, be gone, be gone, for goodness sake! Be gone. You’ll drive me to despair.”

ARGAN: And then?

LOUISE: And then he wouldn’t go.

ARGAN: What did he say to her?

LOUISE: He said I don’t know how many things.

ARGAN: But what?

LOUISE: He told her this, and that. How he loved her dearly, and that she was the prettiest creature in the world.

ARGAN: And then?

LOUISE: And then he fell down on his knees to her.

ARGAN: And then?

LOUISE: And then he kissed her hand.

ARGAN: And then?

LOUISE: And then stepmother came to the door, and he ran away.

ARGAN: Was there nothing else?

LOUISE: No, Papa.

ARGAN: Very well, we will see. Go on your way, and be sure you observe everything, go.

(Exit LOUISE.)

ARGAN: Well! What perplexity of affairs! I am so busy I forget my illness! I can hold out no longer. Falls down exhausted into his chair.

 

Intermission

 

Act III

THE HYPOCHONDRIAC

Scene 1

Same. Later the same day

(Enter TOINETTE and BÉRALDE.)

TOINETTE: Pray, Sir, don’t abandon the interests of your niece.

BÉRALDE: I’ll try every way to obtain for her what she wishes.

TOINETTE: We must absolutely prevent this wild idea of marriage, which he has got into his head. I’ve thought to myself that it would be a good plan if we could come up with a doctor of our own, one who would turn him against his Dr. Purgon and expose his conduct. But as we have nobody at hand to do it, I have resolved to employ an idea of my own.

BÉRALDE: What’s that?

TOINETTE: Oh, it’s just an idea. It may be more successful than prudent. Let me work on it. Just act your part. Here’s our man.

(Exit TOINETTE as ARGAN enters.)

BÉRALDE: Well, Brother, what’s the matter, how do you do?

ARGAN: Ah, very ill.

BÉRALDE: How, very ill?

ARGAN: Yes. I’m so very feeble.

BÉRALDE: That’s a sad thing indeed.

ARGAN: I haven’t even the strength to speak.

BÉRALDE: I came here, Brother, to propose a match for my niece Angelique.

ARGAN: Brother, don’t speak to me about that spoiled brat. She’s idle, impertinent, and impudent. I’ll put her in a convent before she’s two days older.

BÉRALDE: Ho, there! I’m glad your strength returns to you, and that my visit does you good. Now, will you allow me, brother, to ask that you not put yourself into a fury at our conversation?

ARGAN: Already done.

BÉRALDE: That you’ll answer without snapping at the things I may say to you.

ARGAN: Yes.

BÉRALDE: And that we may reason together upon the business we have to talk of, with a mind free from all emotion.

ARGAN: For heaven’s sake! Yes. What a great deal of preamble!

BÉRALDE: How is it, Brother, that having the wealth which you have, and having no children but one daughter—not counting the little one—How is it, I ask, that you talk of sending her to a convent?

ARGAN: How is it, Brother, that I am master of my family and can do what I think fit.

BÉRALDE: Your wife does not miss a chance to advise you to get rid of your daughters, and I don’t doubt that she would be overjoyed to see them both locked away.

ARGAN: Ah! Here comes the old complaint! My poor wife is at fault. It is she who does all the mischief and everyone believes it so!

BÉRALDE: No, Brother. Let’s let that alone. She’s a woman who has the best intentions in the world for your family, a woman who is free of all self-interest, who has an amazing tenderness for you, and shows an affection and kindness for your children that is unbelievable, that’s for certain. We’ll not talk of that but return to your daughter. With what intention, Brother, would you give her in marriage to the son of a doctor?

ARGAN: With the intention to give myself the son-in-law I want.

BÉRALDE: That’s showing no concern for your daughter. There’s a more suitable match for her.

ARGAN: Yes, but Thomas Diafoirus is more suitable for me.

BÉRALDE: But the husband she takes, it he for you, or for her?

ARGAN: He should be both for her, and for me. I’ll bring into my family those people that I have need of.

BÉRALDE: By the same reasoning, if your little Louise was old enough, you’d marry her to an apothecary?

ARGAN: Why not?

BÉRALDE: Is it possible that you can be infatuated with your apothecaries and doctors, and insist that you’re sick in spite of man and nature?

ARGAN: What do you mean, Brother?

BÉRALDE: I mean, that I don’t see any man who’s less sick than you. I wish I had your constitution. The best evidence that you are well, and have a body in fine health is that, despite all your efforts, you’ve not yet spoiled your good constitution and dropped dead from all the medicines you take.

ARGAN: But these medicines preserve me, Brother. Dr. Purgon says that without his care, I would die within three days.

BÉRALDE: If you don’t watch it, he’ll take so much care of you that he’ll send you into the next world.

ARGAN: You have no faith then in medicine, Brother?

BÉRALDE: No, and I don’t find it a necessary faith for my salvation.

ARGAN: What? You don’t trust something that is established throughout the world, and which has been practiced for centuries?

BÉRALDE: Far from trusting it, I look on it as one of the greatest follies of man. To consider it philosophically, I don’t know of a more pleasant piece of theatre, of anything more ridiculous, than the idea that one man should undertake to cure the illness of another.

ARGAN: Why won’t you believe that one man may cure another?

BÉRALDE: For this reason, Brother: because the workings of this machine are a mystery that men can scarcely understand. Nature has thrown before our eyes too thick a veil to know anything about it.

ARGAN: The physicians know nothing then, in your opinion?

BÉRALDE: They have an education, they know how to talk good Latin, how to name all the diseases in Greek, to define, and to distinguish them. But as for curing them? They don’t know anything at all.

ARGAN: But nevertheless, you must agree, Brother, that in this matter doctors know more than other people.

BÉRALDE: They know what I have said. All their art consists in pompous nonsense, in specious babbling, which gives you words instead of reasons, and promises instead of effects.

ARGAN: But, Brother, in sickness all the world relies on physicians.

BÉRALDE: That’s a mark of human weakness, not evidence of the truth of their art.

ARGAN: But physicians themselves must believe in the truth of their art, since they make use of it themselves.

BÉRALDE: That’s because there are some among them who believe in the errors by which they profit. Your Dr. Purgon, for example, is not pretending. He’s a physician, through and through. He believes in his practices and would think it a crime to question them. He sees nothing unknown in medicine, nothing questionable. With an impetuosity of action, an obstinacy of assurance, and a brutality void of common sense and reason, he bleeds and purges men haphazardly, stopping at nothing. He means no harm in all his treatments for you. It is with the best intentions in the world that he will send you to your grave.

ARGAN: What must we do then, when we are sick?

BÉRALDE: Nothing, Brother.

ARGAN: Nothing?

BÉRALDE: Nothing. We must let nature run her course. Nature herself, when we’ll let her alone, will gently deliver herself from the disorder she’s fallen into. It’s our worry, our impatience, that spoils all. Almost all men die of their doctors, not of their diseases.

ARGAN: But you must allow, Brother, that we may assist nature by certain things.

BÉRALDE: Come now, Brother. These are mere fantasies we love to feed ourselves. When a physician talks to you of assisting, succoring and supporting nature, of removing from her what’s hurtful and defective, of re-establishing her, and restoring her to a full exercise of her functions, when he talks to you of rectifying the blood, refreshing the bowels, and the brain, correcting the spleen, restoring the lungs, fortifying the heart, re-establishing and preserving the natural state, and of having secrets to lengthen out life for a long term of years, he is reciting to you precisely the fairytale of medicine. But when you come to the truth and experience of it, you find nothing of all it. It is like those fine dreams which leave you nothing upon waking but the regret of having believed them.

ARGAN: Well, well! You think you are a great doctor yourself. I heartily wish that one of those gentlemen were here now to answer your arguments, and quiet your prating.

BÉRALDE: I don’t make it my business to attack the faculty of medicine. Everyone at their perils and fortune may believe whatever they please. What I say is only for ourselves. I wish I could save you from your errors and divert you, could take you to see one of Molière’s comedies on this subject.

ARGAN: Bah! Your Molière with his comedies is a fine impertinent fellow, to pretend to bring on the stage such worthy persons as doctors.

BÉRALDE: It isn’t the foolishness of doctors that he exposes, but the ridiculousness of medicine.

ARGAN: It’s mighty proper for him to believe he can question medicine. He’s a fine simpleton, an impertinent creature, to make a jest of consultations and prescriptions, to attack the faculty of physicians, and to bring on his stage such venerable persons as those gentlemen.

BÉRALDE: What would you have him bring to the stage, if not the follies of men?

ARGAN: To the Devil with him! If I were a doctor I would be revenged on him for his impertinence, and when he was sick, I would let him die without relief. He would cry and beg in vain, but I would not prescribe him the least bleeding or enema, and would say to him, “Die! Die! Molière!” that will teach you to make fun of doctors.

BÉRALDE: This Molière has you riled up.

ARGAN: Yes, he’s a foolish fellow, and if the physicians are wise, they’ll do what I say.

BÉRALDE: He’s wiser than your physicians, because he doesn’t ask them for any assistance.

ARGAN: So much the worse for him, if he has no recourse to remedies.

BÉRALDE: He has his reasons for not seeking medicine. He thinks that it’s for vigorous and robust people, for those who have strength left to bear the medicine with the disease, but for him, he has but just strength enough to bear his illness.

ARGAN: Very foolish reasons, those! Enough, Brother, let us talk no more of that man, for it raises my choler, and you’ll bring distemper on me.

BÉRALDE: With all my heart, Brother. To change the subject, I must tell you, you should not to take the violent resolution of putting your daughter into a convent. In the choice of a son-in-law, you should not blindly follow a passion that transports you. You should in this matter accommodate yourself to the inclination of your child, since marriage is for the rest of her life, and the happiness of the married state depends on it.

(Enter the apothecary MR. FLEURANT with a huge enema syringe.)

ARGAN: Oh! Now, Brother, excuse me.

BÉRALDE: How? What would you do?

ARGAN: (Getting into “enema ready” position.) I’ll take this little enema here. It won’t be but a minute.

BÉRALDE: You jest, surely. Can’t you be one moment without a purge? Send it back until some other time and take a little rest.

ARGAN (reluctantly): Come back this evening, Mr. Fleurant, or tomorrow morning.

FLEURANT (to BÉRALDE): For what reason do you oppose this prescription by his doctor, and hinder the gentleman from taking my enema? How dare you be so bold!

BÉRALDE: Be gone, Sir. I see well enough that you are not accustomed to speaking to people’s faces.

FLEURANT: You should not make a joke of medicine in this manner and make me waste my time. I have come with a good prescription. I now go tell Dr. Purgon how I’ve been hindered from executing his orders, and from performing my function. You’ll see, you’ll see—

(Exit FLEURANT.)

ARGAN: Brother, you’ll be the cause here of some misfortune.

BÉRALDE: The great misfortune of not taking a clyster which Dr. Purgon prescribed? Once more, Brother, is it possible that there should be no way of curing you of the disease of the doctor, and all your life will you be enslaved by their remedies?

ARGAN: You talk like a man who’s in good health, but if you were in my place, you’d soon change your tune. It’s easy to speak against medicine when one is in full health.

BÉRALDE: But what illness have you?

ARGAN: You’ll make me mad. I wish that you had my illness. Then see if you would rattle on like this. Ah! here’s Dr. Purgon .

(Enter DR. PURGON and FLEURANT, still carrying the syringe, followed by TOINETTE.)

PURGON: I have just now heard some very disturbing news: that you make a jest of my prescriptions here and refuse to take the remedy which I ordered.

ARGAN: Sir, it was not—

PURGON: A clyster which I had taken the pleasure to compose myself—

ARGAN: It was not I—

PURGON: —invented, and made up according to all the rules of art—

ARGAN: My Brother—

PURGON: —and you send it back with contempt!

ARGAN (pointing to BÉRALDE): It was he—

PURGON: It is an enormous outrage —.

ARGAN: —he is the cause.

PURGON: —a crime of high treason against the faculty of medicine, which can’t be punished enough!

ARGAN: High treason?!

PURGON: I declare to you that I break off all commerce with you.

ARGAN: My Brother—

PURGON: That I’ll have no more alliance with you and end all union with you. Here is the Deed of Gift which I made to my nephew in favor of the marriage to your daughter. (He rips up the agreement.)

ARGAN: —has done all the mischief.

PURGON: To condemn my enema?!

ARGAN (getting into “enema ready” position again): Let it be brought now—

PURGON: I could have delivered you from your illness before very long.

ARGAN: — I’ll take it directly.

PURGON: I was going to cleanse your body, and to have discharged it entirely of all its ill humors.

ARGAN: Ah, Brother!

PURGON: But since you were not willing to be cured by my hands—

ARGAN: It isn’t my fault.

PURGON: —and since you have forsaken the obedience which a man owes to his physician, and declared yourself rebellious to the remedies I’ve prescribed you—

ARGAN: Ah, not at all.

PURGON: —I must tell you that I now abandon you to your evil constitution, to your intemperate bowels, the corruption of your blood, the acrimony of your bile, and the feculence of your humors.

ARGAN: Oh! Heavens!

PURGON: And it is my will that, within four days’ time, you enter into an incurable state.

ARGAN: Ah! Mercy!

PURGON: That you fall into a Bradypepsia .

ARGAN: Dr. Purgon!

PURGON: From a Bradypepsia into a Dyspepsia.

ARGAN: Dr. Purgon!

PURGON: From a Dyspepsia into an Apepsia.

ARGAN: Dr. Purgon!

PURGON: From an Apepsia into a Lienteria.

ARGAN: Dr. Purgon!

PURGON: From a Lienteria into a Dissenteria.

ARGAN: Dr. Purgon!

PURGON: From a Dissenteria into a dropsy.

ARGAN: Dr. Purgon!

PURGON: And from a dropsy into a death where your folly will end you!

(Exit DR. PURGON and FLEURANT. TOINETTE follows.)

ARGAN: Ah Heavens, I’m dead! I can hold out no longer. I feel already that the doctor’s curse is taking its revenge.

BÉRALDE: What a simple man you are!

ARGAN: He said I should become incurable within four days’ time.

BÉRALDE: And what does it matter what he said? Is it an oracle that has spoken to you? To hear you one would think that Dr. Purgon held in his hands the number of your days, and by supreme authority could prolong them or cut them short as he pleases. Consider that the principles of your life are in yourself, and that the anger of Dr. Purgon is as incapable of killing you as his remedies are of keeping you alive. Here’s an opportunity, if you have a mind to do it, to get rid of doctors.

(Renter TOINETTE quietly, signaling confidentially to BÉRALDE.)

BÉRALDE: Or, if you can’t live without them, find a different doctor, Brother, from whom you run less risk of harm.

ARGAN: Ah! Brother, he knew all my constitution, and the way to govern me.

TOINETTE (to ARGAN): Sir, there’s a doctor that desires to see you.

ARGAN: What doctor?

TOINETTE: A doctor of medicine.

ARGAN: I ask you who he is.

TOINETTE: I don’t know him, Sir.

ARGAN: Let him come in.

(Exit TOINETTE.)

BÉRALDE: You get what you wish for. One doctor leaves you, and another arrives at your door.

ARGAN: I very much fear that you’ll be the cause of some misfortune.

BÉRALDE: Again! You always harp on that.

ARGAN: See how I have at heart all these diseases unknown, these—

(Enter TOINETTE, disguised as a doctor. She speaks in a broadly fake Italian accent.)

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Permit me, most distinguished Sir, to occasion this visit, and offer you my humble services for all the bleedings and purgation you have need for.

ARGAN: Sir, I am very much obliged to you.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: I beg you to excuse me, Sir. I forgot to give my servant a message, I will return promptly.

(Exit TOINETTE-AS-DOCTOR.)

ARGAN: Ha! Would not you say that the doctor looks very much like Toinette?

BÉRALDE: It’s true that the resemblance is striking. But this is not the first time we’ve seen this sort of thing. History is full of these tricks of nature.

ARGAN: Well, for my part, I’m astonished at it, and will—

(Enter TOINETTE as herself.)

TOINETTE: What do you want, Sir?

ARGAN: What?

TOINETTE: Did you not call me?

ARGAN: I? No.

TOINETTE: My ears must have fooled me then. (She turns to go.)

ARGAN: Stay here a little while and see how much this doctor looks like you.

TOINETTE: Truly, Sir, I have other business below. Besides, I have seen enough of him already.

(Exit TOINETTE.)

ARGAN: Amazing! If I hadn’t just seen them both together, I would have believed they were the same person.

BÉRALDE: I’ve read surprising things about these kinds of resemblances, and we’ve heard of cases like this in our own time, where all the world was deceived.

ARGAN: For my part, I could’ve been deceived by this, and would have sworn it was the same person.

(Reenter TOINETTE, disguised as a doctor.)

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Sir, I beg your pardon with all my heart.

ARGAN (aside to BÉRALDE): This is wondrous!

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Pray, Sir. You must excuse the liberty I have taken to visit you. I had to see such an illustrious patient as yourself. Your reputation is known the world over.

ARGAN: Sir, I am at your service.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: I see, Sir, that you look intently at me. What age do you think I am?

ARGAN: I think that you may be twenty-six, or twenty-seven at most.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! I am fourscore and ten.

ARGAN: Fourscore and ten!

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Yes. You see an effect of the secrets of my art, to preserve me so fresh and vigorous.

ARGAN: My word! You are fine youthful fellow for someone of 90.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: I am a traveling physician who goes from town to town, province to province, kingdom to kingdom, to find patients worthy of me, patients who are capable of receiving the great secrets I have discovered in medicine. I disdain to amuse myself with common diseases, with rheumatisms, fluxions, and melancholia. I would have diseases of great importance! Good continual fevers with a disordered brain, plagues, dropsies, pleurisies with inflammations of the lungs—this is what pleases me! This is what excites me! I hope, Sir, that I might demonstrate to you the excellency of my remedies.

ARGAN: I’m obliged to you, Sir, for the kind wishes you have for me.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR (taking his wrist): Let me feel your pulse. (Slapping his wrist.) Come then, beat as you should. (Slapping his wrist a few more times, more vigorously.) I will make you go as you should. (Shaking his whole arm.) Ho, this pulse is very rude. I perceive you do not know me yet. (She gives up on the pulse business.) Who is your physician?

ARGAN: Dr. Purgon.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: That man is not among the great physicians. What does he say you are ill of?

ARGAN: He says that it is my liver, but other doctors say that it is my spleen.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: They are all blockheads, it is your lungs that you are ill of.

ARGAN: My lungs?

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Yes. What are your symptoms?

ARGAN: I feel from time to time pains in my head.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: The lungs, yes.

ARGAN: I seem sometimes to have a mist before my eyes.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: The lungs.

ARGAN: Sometimes a pain at the heart.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: The lungs.

ARGAN: Sometimes a weariness in my limbs.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: The lungs.

ARGAN: And sometimes I am taken with pains in my belly, as if it was the colic.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: The lungs. Do you have an appetite for what you eat?

ARGAN: Yes, Sir.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: The lungs. You love to drink the wine?

ARGAN: Yes, Sir.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: The lungs. You take a little nap after meals and are glad to sleep.

ARGAN: Yes, Sir.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: The lungs, the lungs I tell you! What does your physician order you for your food?

ARGAN: He orders me soup.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Ignorant!

ARGAN: Poultry.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Ignorant!

ARGAN: Veal.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Ignorant!

ARGAN: Broth.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Ignorant!

ARGAN: Fresh eggs.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Ignorant!

ARGAN: And a few prunes at night to relax the belly.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Ignorant!

ARGAN: And above all to drink my wine well diluted.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Ignorantus, ignoranta, ignorantum. You must drink your wine unmixed. to thicken your blood which is too thin. You must eat good fat beef, good fat pork, good Dutch cheese, to thicken your blood. Your doctor is an ass. I will send you one of my own choosing.

ARGAN: You will very much oblige me.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: What the devil do you do with this arm?

ARGAN: How?

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Here is an arm I would have removed immediately, if I were you.

ARGAN: Why?

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Don’t you see that it attracts all the nourishment to itself, and hinders the other side from growing?

ARGAN: Yes, but I have need of my arm.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: You’ve a right eye there too that I would have plucked out, if I were in you.

ARGAN: Pluck out an eye?

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: It disturbs the other and robs it of all its nourishment! Believe me, have it plucked out as soon as possible, you’ll see the clearer with the left eye.

ARGAN: There need be no hurry in this affair.

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Farewell. I am sorry to quit you so soon, but I must attend a consultation about a man who died yesterday.

ARGAN: About a man who died yesterday?

TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR: Yes, to consider how we will cure him!

(Exit TOINETTE-as-DOCTOR.)

BÉRALDE: Most truly, this doctor seems to be a very skillful man.

ARGAN: Yes, but he goes a little fast.

BÉRALDE: All your great physicians do so.

ARGAN: To cut off my arm, and pluck out my eye, that the other may be better? A pretty operation, truly, to make me at once both blind and lame.

(Enter TOINETTE.)

TOINETTE (pretending to speak to somebody in the corridor): Come, come, I’m your humble servant for that. I’m not in a merry humor, Sir.

ARGAN: What’s the matter?

TOINETTE: Your physician wants to feel my pulse.

BÉRALDE: Come, Brother. Since Dr. Purgon has annulled your agreement with Thomas Diafoirus, won’t you allow me to speak of another marriage which is proposed for my niece?

ARGAN: No, Brother. She will go to a convent, since she has opposed my wishes. I see plainly there’s some sneaky business in this, and I’ve discovered a certain secret liaison.

BÉRALDE: Well, Brother, allowing that there was some little liaison, would that be so criminal when it is honest and leads to matrimony?

ARGAN: Be that as it may, Brother, she will be a nun, of that I’m resolved.

BÉRALDE: That will very much please a certain person.

ARGAN: I understand what you are getting at. You’re always harping on that string. My wife sticks in your throat.

BÉRALDE: Well, yes, Brother, since I must speak frankly, it is your wife I refer to.

TOINETTE: Ah, Sir, don’t talk of Madame, she’s a woman of whom there’s nothing to be said, a woman without artifice, who loves my master.

ARGAN: Ask her how fond she is of me.

TOINETTE: It’s true.

ARGAN: What uneasiness my illness gives her.

TOINETTE: Most assuredly.

ARGAN: And the care, and the pains she takes for me.

TOINETTE: This is certain. (To BÉRALDE.) Would you like me to convince you, and show you right now how much Madame loves my master? (To ARGAN.) Sir, let me show him, and correct his mistake.

ARGAN: How?

TOINETTE: My mistress is just returned. Lay yourself down here, stretched out, and pretend you’re dead. He’ll see the sorrow she’ll be in, when I tell her the news.

ARGAN: I’ll do it.

TOINETTE: Yes, but don’t let her continue too long in despair, for she may perhaps die from it.

ARGAN: Let me do it.

(ARGAN lays down. TOINETTE covers him up with a blanket.)

TOINETTE (to BÉRALDE): Hide yourself.

ARGAN (poking his head out from the blanket): Is there not some danger in counterfeiting death?

TOINETTE: No, no. What danger can there be? Stay down. Here’s my mistress. Don’t move.

(Enter BÉLINE.)

TOINETTE (pretending not to see BÉLINE): Oh! Heavens! Oh! Wretched me! What a strange accident!

BÉLINE: What ails you, Toinette?

TOINETTE: Ah, Madame!

BÉLINE: What’s the matter?

TOINETTE: Your husband’s dead.

BÉLINE: My husband’s dead?

TOINETTE: Alas! Yes. The poor soul is defunct.

BÉLINE: Are you sure?

TOINETTE: Certainly. Nobody knows yet. I was here all alone with him. He just now departed in my arms. Here, see him laid at his full length in this chair.

BÉLINE: Heaven be praised! I am delivered from that great burden. What a fool you are, Toinette, to be so afflicted at his death!

TOINETTE: I thought, Madame, that we should cry.

BÉLINE: It’s not worth it. What loss is there? What good did he ever do upon earth? A wretch troublesome to all the world, a filthy, nauseous fellow, never without a enema, or a dose of physic in his guts, always sniveling, coughing, or spitting, a stupid, tedious, ill-natured creature, forever fatiguing people, and scolding, night and day, his maids and footmen.

TOINETTE: That’s a fine eulogy!

BÉLINE: You must help me, Toinette, to execute my design, and you may be sure that in serving me you will be rewarded. By good luck, nobody yet knows of the affair. Let’s carry him up to his bed and keep his death a secret until I have accomplished my business. There are some papers, and there is some money, that I have a mind to seize. I have spent the prime years of my life with him and I will take my reward. Come, Toinette, first of all take his keys.

ARGAN (starting up hastily): Hold it right there!

BÉLINE: Ah!

ARGAN: Ah, Wife! Is this how you love me?

TOINETTE: Ah! The defunct is not dead!

ARGAN (to BÉLINE as she runs off): So that’s your love for me, and that’s the tribute you pay me? I’ll take it as a warning. It will make me wiser in the future.

BÉRALDE (coming out from his hiding place): Well, Brother, you see how it is.

TOINETTE: In truth, I never would have believed it. But I hear your daughter coming. Place yourself as you were, and let’s see in what manner she will receive news your death.

(BÉRALDE conceals himself again. Enter ANGELIQUE.)

TOINETTE (pretending not to see ANGELIQUE): Oh Heaven! Ah! Sad accident! Unhappy day!

ANGELIQUE: What ails you, Toinette, why do you cry?

TOINETTE: Alas! I’ve melancholy news to tell you. Your father is dead.

ANGELIQUE: My father dead, Toinette?

TOINETTE: Yes, you see him there, he died just this moment of a fainting fit that took him.

ANGELIQUE: Oh Heavens! What misfortune! What a cruel stroke! Alas! Must I lose my father, the only thing I have left in the world! And must I also, to increase my despair, lose him at a time when he was angry with me! What will become of me? What consolation can I find after so great a loss?

(Enter CLÉANTE.)

CLÉANTE: What ‘s the matter, fair Angelique? What misfortune do you weep for?

ANGELIQUE: I weep for the most dear and precious in life. I weep for the death of my father.

CLÉANTE: Heavens! What an accident! I was coming to present myself to him, in the hope that my respect and pleas would soften his heart and he would grant you to me.

ANGELIQUE: Ah! Cléante, let us forget all thoughts of marriage. After the death of my father, I can have nothing more to do with the world. I renounce it forever. Yes, my dear Father, if I have opposed your wishes, I will make amends by following your desire and go to convent. (Kneeling.) Permit me, Father, now to give you my promise of it, and to embrace you.

ARGAN (rising and embracing ANGELIQUE): Oh! my child!

ANGELIQUE: Aaaah!

ARGAN: Come, don’t be frightened. I’m not dead yet. Come, you are truly my flesh and blood, my daughter, and I am pleased that I have seen your good nature.

ANGELIQUE: Ah! What an agreeable surprise! Since, by extreme good fortune, heaven restores you, Father, permit me to implore you. If you are not favorable to the inclination of my heart, if you refuse Cléante for my husband, I beg you at least, not to force me to marry another man. That’s all I ask.

CLÉANTE (throwing himself at ARGAN’S Feet): Ah! Sir, allow yourself to be moved by her entreaties and by mine. Accept the mutual ardors of so agreeable a passion.

BÉRALDE: Brother, can you resist this?

TOINETTE: Can you ignore, Sir, so much love?

ARGAN: Let him become a doctor, and I’ll consent to the marriage. (To CLÉANTE.) Yes! Become a physician, and I give you my daughter.

CLÉANTE: Most willingly. If it only takes that, Sir, to become your son-in-law, I’ll be a physician and an apothecary too, if you’d like. That’s not too much. I would do much more to obtain the fair Angelique.

BÉRALDE: But, my Brother, an idea has just come to me. Why not become a doctor yourself? It will be much more convenient to have all that you want within yourself.

TOINETTE: That’s true. That’s the best way to cure yourself. There’s no disease so bold as to infect a physician.

ARGAN: My Brother, you are flattering me. I’m too old to study medicine.

BÉRALDE: Who said anything about study? Why, you know enough already. There are a great many men among them who have no better skills than yourself.

ARGAN: But one should know all the diseases, and the remedies proper to apply to them.

BÉRALDE: You’ll learn all that by simply putting on the cap and robe of a physician. Afterwards, you’ll be as skillful as you wish to be.

ARGAN: What! Do people understand how to discourse upon illness, simply by wearing the habit?

BÉRALDE: Yes. You have nothing to do but to talk. With a cap and gown, wit becomes wisdom, and nonsense becomes sense. Do you want to do it immediately?

ARGAN: Immediately?

BÉRALDE: Yes, and right here in your own house?

ARGAN: In my own house?

BÉRALDE: Yes. I know a body of physicians who will come instantly and perform the ceremony here. It will cost you nothing.

ARGAN: But what will I say, what will I answer?

BÉRALDE: They’ll instruct you in a few words, and they’ll give you in writing, what you are to say. Go prepare yourself. I’ll go send for them.

ARGAN: With all my heart.

(Exit ARGAN.)

CLÉANTE: What ‘s your intention, and what do you mean by this “body of physicians”?

TOINETTE: What’s your plan?

BÉRALDE: Let’s have a little fun this evening and make a diversion of it together, that my brother may act the principal character in this comedy.

ANGELIQUE: But, Uncle, I think you mock my father a little too much.

BÉRALDE: Niece, this is not so much playing on him, as giving in to his fancies. We may each of us take a part in it ourselves. It’s Carnival time, let the Mardi Gras begin! Let’s go quickly to get everything ready.

Exit BÉRALDE, CLÉANTE, TOINETTE, ANGELIQUE. MARIE appears from her prompter box, makes a sign that the audience should not give away the joke, and runs after them.

Scene 2

The Ceremony

After a pause, reenter ARGAN, who sits in his chair and waits with great anticipation for the ceremony to begin. Music. Enter BÉRALDE, CLÉANTE, TOINETTE, ANGELIQUE, MARIE, and LOUISE, all disguised as doctors in robe and hats and with medical props —some historical and some anachronistic. They will conduct the “ceremony” to make ARGAN a doctor, and they do this as a parody of an academic examination, as best they can figure what that is.

Two fake doctors trail them, in similar disguising robes. We will discover that these are BÉLINE and BONNEFOY. These eight comprise the “Chorus of Doctors.”

The following text is chanted and sung. Sung portions are in italics.

DEAN of the FACULTY OF MEDECINE (BÉRALDE):

Molto learnéd professorés
Très distinguishéd doctorés
Oh, faithful executioners—
Eh …I mean practitioners,
Of our esteemed profession,
that honorable invention,
Medicine, medicina, medicinum!
Nosotros gathered here today,
To welcome our new protegé.

CHORUS OF DOCTORS:

Ic Ic hoc hoc
Nosotros gathered here today,
Ic Ic hoc hoc
We welcome our new protegé.

FIRST DOCTOR (CLÉANTE):

Who today could live without us?
Our remedies are so sensible,
Lyrica, Humera, Viagra, unite us!
Sans prescriptus, no dispensable.

CHORUS of DOCTORS:

Sans prescriptus no dispensable
Sans prescriptus no dispensable

SECOND DOCTOR (TOINETTE):

This gentleman here, hopeful doctor-(ish)
To join our company, that’s his wish.
We must now examine him,
Test his knowledge and acumen,
To see if his Abilify is worthy-(ish)!

CHORUS of DOCTORS:

To see if his Abilify is worthy-(ish!)
To see if his Abilify is worthy-(ish!)

DEAN:

Let’s begin the proceedings, but first,

Our motto Kansiensis with me Chantix:

Ad Astra per Aspirin-a.

(Production Note: Some lyrics in this finale were designed with audience of the original production at the University of Kansas in mind. Subsequent productions have permission to substitute local references.)

CHORUS of DOCTORS:

Ad Astra Per Aspirin-a.

DEAN:

Et notre motto universitatis

(intoning) Zocor…Plavix…Xanax…Tamiflu

CHORUS of DOCTORS (chanting):

Zocor, Plavix, Xanax, Tamiflu!
Zocor, Plavix, Xanax, Tamiflu!
Zocor, Plavix, Xanax, Tamiflu!

(Louder and faster until it sounds like the KU chant.)

(Singing and Dancing, everyone except Argan, who is watching the proceedings around him with awe):

Ad Astra Per Aspirin-a.
Lyrica, Humera, Viagra
Ad Astra Per Aspirin-a.
Chantix, Plavix, Celebrex, Nasonex!.

(During this dance, the four real medical men of the play DIAFOIRUS, THOMAS, PURGON and FLEURANT enter and regard the proceedings with alarm.)

DEAN:

Let’s begin the doctoral examination!

SECOND DOCTOR:

Molto learnéd professorés
Très distinguishéd doctorés
Here’s the question for our student:
When one has dropsy, what cure is prudent?

ARGAN (reading from a slip of paper):

Try some Ex-Lax to the max
Then a little senna.
Let him bleed, but not too much
That’s sure to make him betta!

CHORUS OF DOCTORS:

Betta, Betta what a student!
Give that man an “A” — “A”!
Doctor, Doctor, what a doctor!
You’ll be one today!

SECOND DOCTOR:

Molto learnéd professorés
Très distinguishéd doctorés
I ask a question problematic:
Tell me, how to treat the asthmatic?

ARGAN (now with confidence):

Try some Ex-Lax to the max
Then a little senna.
Let him bleed, but not too much
That’s sure to make him betta!

CHORUS of DOCTORS:

Betta, Betta what a student!
Give that man an “A” — “A”!
Doctor, Doctor, what a doctor!
You’ll be one today!

DR. DIAFOIRUS (stepping in on the ceremony. Challenging):

I have a question for this . . . (spitting out the word) . . . doctor. This sick man here (grabs THOMAS), who has fallen into my hands, has high fever that is increasing—

(DIAFOIRUS whacks THOMAS on the head.)

THOMAS: —great pain in the head—

(DIAFOIRUS pokes THOMAS on his side with his cane.)

THOMAS: —great discomfort in the side—

(DIAFOIRUS choking THOMAS.)

THOMAS: (coughing, barely audible.) —with great difficulty to breathe.

DR. DIAFOIRUS: Tell me, what you would do?

(The four medical men crowd in on ARGAN. Challenging him.)

ARGAN (tentatively):

Try some Ex-Lax to the max
Then a little senna.
Let him bleed, but not too much
That’s sure to make him betta!

(Chorus begins to sing and dance “Betta, Betta . . . ”! PURGON stops them cold.)

PURGON: What would you do with a rheumatic?

ARGAN: I’d make him asymptomatic.

DR. DIAFOIRUS: What if he had diphtheria?

ARGAN: I’d send him to Siberia.

THOMAS: Supposing you found tuberculosis.

ARGAN: I’d kick it right in the ass-mosis!

PURGON: And if he had a relapse?

ARGAN (triumphantly): Rinse and repeat!!!!

(Music. DIAFOIRUS and the other doctors give in and now everyone except Argan, who is still in his chair, sings and dances:)

ALL (except Argan):

Ad Astra Per Aspirin-a.
Lyrica, Humera, Viagra
Ad Astra Per Aspirin-a.
Chantix, Plavix, Celebrex, Nasonex!

DEAN (with mortarboard for ARGAN. Takes Argan from the chair and positions him for the capping): Do you swear to uphold our statutes, as the faculty has prescribed, with good sense and judgment?

ARGAN: I swear

FIRST DOCTOR: To follow, in all consultations, received ideas, whether they are good or bad?

ARGAN: I swear.

SECOND DOCTOR: To never take any remedy that does not come from us, even if the sick man falls low and dies of his illness?

ARGAN: I swear.

DR. DIAFOIRUS (puts the mortarboard on Argan’s head, ceremoniously): And now, The Oath of Hypocrisy (sings):

I solemnly uphold this statement:
First do nothing without payment.

ALL:

We solemnly uphold this statement:
First do nothing without payment.

DEAN:

Then as Dean of the Faculty of Doctors,
In the county and the land of . . . Douglas
I welcome you most regally—

DR. DIAFOIRUS (interrupting, giving the Dean a diploma): —But you have to do it legally.

DEAN: Yes. There’s one thing they have that you haven’t got: a diploma. By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universitatis Medicinus Kansiensus, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of Q.Ed. (Gives ARGAN the diploma.)

ARGAN: Q.Ed?

DEAN: Doctor of Quack-ology!

ARGAN: Oh joy, rapture! Today I am a DOCTOR!

(Music strikes up. ARGAN tosses his cane and does a crazy solo dance. Then all join in. During this dance, all is resolved. ANGELIQUE and CLÉANTE embrace with ARGAN’s blessing. THE DOCTORS get paid by BÉRALDE and are delighted. A reveal that two of the “doctors” are really BÉLINE and BONNEFOY: BONNEYFOY pulls off “his” hat and reveals “herself.” BÉLINE and BONNEFOY embrace, ARGAN makes a gesture of forgiveness, and the two women run off, hand in hand. Dance continues. Everyone dances off except ARGAN and MARIE the prompter, who has been nibbling on her cream puffs. Realizing they have all left the stage, MARIE throws box of pastry in the air and runs off to catch up.)

(MOLIÈRE is now on stage alone. He sits in his chair, as in the opening of the play. Music fades, lights start to dim, the voices of the actors off stage lessens and silence descends on MOLIÈRE as his company of players have disappeared again into the theatrical afterlife. His revels have now ended.)

BLACKOUT

 

[1] For its initial production, I billed this piece as The Rehearsal & The Hypochondriac. This revision presents the preferred Molière at Versailles, which contains two parts: (1) “The Rehearsal” and (2) “The Hypochondriac.” For the purposes of clarity throughout this introduction, when I speak of Molière’s two plays, I will refer to them as Impromptu at Versailles and The Imaginary Invalid. When I speak of my two-part adaptation, I will refer to Molière at Versailles and/or its constituent parts, i.e., “The Rehearsal” and “The Hypochondriac.”

[2] Henry Baker and James Miller, “The Impromptu of Versailles.” The Works of Molière, French and English 3 (1755).

[3] Susan Bassnett, Reflections on Translation (Bristol: Channel View Publications, 2010), 40.

[4] Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Adaptation (London & New York: Routledge, 2012).

[5] See Mechele Leon, “Corpsing Molière: History as Fiasco.” Theatre Historiography: Critical Questions, ed. Henry Bial and Scott Magelssen (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010).

[6] This typically means the curtain rises on Argan. There exists an alternative prologue from the period, from which I created a freely adapted version to aid the transition between “The Rehearsal” and “The Hypochondriac.” See Molière. Œuvres complètes. Sous la direction de Georges Forestier (Paris: Gallimard, 2010).

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