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4.2 out of 5 stars
The Misanthrope and Other Plays: A New Selection
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Showing 1-3 of 3 reviews(4 star)show all reviews
on January 25, 2001
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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on April 13, 1997
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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on November 5, 2000
A tale that, at first, appears to be rather didactic and poorly composed yet a genius of the theater makes this work a tour-de-force by the play's close. A misanthrope applies his philosophic treatsie to life, no holes barred, remaining consistant to the end and, forseeibly, is condemned (by himself) to move into a Zarathrustrian/Thoreauian hertiage atop a mountain. This work not only fully expounds logically consistancy in the face of a hypocritical society, but it casts an engenious veil of dark humor over all five acts. Recommended.
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