Here is an author who knows how to write a play. When it comes to comedy, none amuses me the way he does. His wit and social satire brought forward through humorous dialogues and dramatic actions are so entertaining. His plays transport you to a theatre, and though you read it, you almost feel like watching it performed.
Moliere was a social critique who displayed his views through his satirical plays. Quite often he got into trouble for his bold presentation of society in its truthful light. In The Misanthrope, too, Moliere keeps true to his social criticism. But here, he goes one step further. In addition to his usual social critique, The Misanthrope questions the motives of those critics of society. Are they criticizing their fellow men out of a pure motive to rectify them, or are those criticisms the outcome of their egotism? I enjoyed this exposition into the human mind, which I’ve not encountered in-depth in other Moliere plays I’ve read.
The Misanthrope is a character-driven play which was another difference from other Moliere plays. We have a strong set of characters in this play, and they are quite interesting as well. The most interesting and dominant one is Alceste, the misguided misanthrope. His misanthropy is curiously compelling, and it binds and unites the acts and scenes of the play. Through Alceste, Moliere exposes the inner and outer contradictions of the human mind and shows that even the critics are sometimes driven by impure motives and that they too can be erroneous in their judgment.
Moliere’s plays have a curiously uplifting effect. They are not deep in their stories, yet quite thought-provoking. He keeps to a lighter tone while creating something quite deep. I find this style of his very appealing.
I read Richard Wilbur’s translation as always. I personally think that he brings out the essence of Moliere’s plays brilliantly. Also, the fact that the translation was in verse doubled my enjoyment. Rhyming dialogues, wit, and humour! What more do you need? 🙂