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The Misanthrope and Other Plays (Signet classics) [Mass Market Paperback]

Jean-Baptiste Moliere
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book by Moliere, Jean-Baptiste

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A verse comedy in five acts, first performed June 4, 1666, at the Theatre du Palais-Royal in Paris by Moliere's company, the Troupe du Roi. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Moliere seems closer to us than Shakespeare. Jan. 25 2001
Format:Paperback
Although Moliere is only half a century younger than Shakespeare, he is less hard work - there is no elaborate rhetoric or difficult, metaphysical poetry. dialogue is plain and functional. This, of course, brings him nearer to us, and we are far more likely to meet a Tartuffe, say, in everyday life than a Lear or Hamlet.
However, I don't think he's supposed to be this plain. Wood's translation is a nimble, enjoyable read, but in the two translations, from French to English, from metre to prose, something has been lost; maybe not poetry, but certainly language. What we are left with are breezily amusing farces - this is more than enough for me, but makes me wonder why Bloom had him in his canon.
'Tartuffe' is the most famous play in this collection. Subject to censorship and interdiction in its time, Wood introduces the play with a preface and two petitions to the King from Moliere. Although they are revealing about Moliere's absolute dependency on the monarch, and the need to flatter culminating in the play's preposterous deus ex machina, they necessarily caricature the play's complexity.
Tartuffe the religious hypocrite who tries to bring down the social order, who reveals the aristocracy's own hypocrisy (look at the amount of two-facedness needed to expose him), forces them down to his level, makes blatant the fundamental desires high society would prefer not to acknowledge - sex, food, wealth etc. The true horror of Tartuffe's marriage with Marianne is not that he is a repulsive bigot, but because he is trying to wrest power and means from the nobility (a job already started by the Figaro-like maid). I bet it wasn't really the Tartuffes who hated this play.
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Format:Paperback
Moliere's "The Misanthrope" is the most humorous play written in any language. It centers around the character Alceste, who has a firm beleif in being brutally honest all the time. The habit of others to speak harshly behind other's backs and hypocritically praise them to their faces drives him to the brink of insanity. It irks him so much that his only wish would be to become a hermit in the mountains. If it weren't for his love of the beautiful Celimene. However, to make things more complicated, she happens to be the queen of duplicitous thought. Alceste hates himself for loving a woman who behaves in the manner that irritates him the most, but cannot bring himself to confront what troubles him. That, paired with the remarkably written exchanges between Alceste, his friend Philinte, the pompous Oronte, and the many social courtiers and French aristocracy make this the ideal story to bring you to tears with laughter. I highly recommend this book to all lovers of theater, humor, and excellent writing. It truly deserves all 5 stars.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent version of the "Shakespeare of France" April 13 1997
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Donald M. Frame's translations of fourteen Moliere comedies (seven in this volume and another seven in *Tartuffe and Other Plays*) are delightful. Not that Moliere's plays have lacked for translators; some versions have made the comedies leaden and dull, while others have added their own luster to the text in a way that distorts Moliere's intentions. Frame is more faithful to the original text than some earlier translators, while his verse does an admirable job of conveying the comic "thrust" that Moliere must have envisioned.
Any translation of this playwright must be compared against the sparkling verse renditions of Richard Wilbur. I personally find Frame to more than hold his own here, and in fact in *The Misanthrope* to do better in giving us the sense of the author stylishly, but without the translator "stealing the spotlight" as much as happens in Wilbur's brilliant version. Frame's version is excellent throughout and augmented by informative introductions and notes
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3.0 out of 5 stars Less than I expected Aug. 4 2000
Format:Paperback
The Misanthrope is a play about the principled Alceste, a regular Don Quixote of honesty and speaking one's mind. Despite the advice of his "friend" Philinte (apparently the playwright's voice), he never pulls any punches in revealing the vanity and superficiality of the court and the nobles (the Misanthrope was written during the reign of Louis XIV). While exposing the shallow flatterers for what they are, the play also points out the vain-glorious and quite ridiculous aspects of pursuing an ideal at any cost. As is known, Moliere is considered one of the greatest playwrights and a master of comedy. Partly because of this elevated status, I was a little disappointed by the Misanthrope. It does not reach the comic heights of the Greek comedies or Shakespeare, and as a comment on principled people it is certainly inferior to Ibsen's Brand. It is quite possible that it is more engaging when performed on stage, but as a read it is less than I expected.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brief but pointed Aug. 3 2001
Format:Paperback
Moliere deals with numerous common themes in his short five-act play. The play follows the throes of passion of the main character (Alceste), obsessed with his love for Celimene while being plagued by his need for truth, often at the unsociable expense of bluntness. His friend (Philinte) attempts to dissuade Alceste both in his love for Celimene and his brusque honesty, but fails in both. Aleceste finally ends up retiring to a hermit-esque fate after ironically forgiving Celemine for courting the favor and advances of a number of other admirers, all of whom end up enraged with her flattery and lack of direction. In a brief 52 pages, Moliere pointed debates the virtues of "niceness" and "truth," two seemingly mutually exclusive virtues, leaving the reader with a provoking but conclusionless sense of indecision.
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