by Jean Baptiste Molière
English verse by Timothy Mooney

Comedy: Full Length 5 Acts; Estimated Running Time 90 minutes (without intermission).
40-minute version available.

Cast: 8 Male, 5 Female, 13 Total.

Setting: Single Interior Setting.

Congratulations to Pomperaug High School on their three Halo awards (Best Play/Best Original Artwork - Program/Best Costume Design) for their production of "The Learned Ladies"

Cast, Set Details

CAST:
8 Male, 5 Female, 13 Total.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
CHRYSALE, a bourgeois man in good standing
PHILAMINTE, Chrysale’s wife
ARMANDE, elder daughter of Chrysale and Philaminte
HENRIETTE, younger daughter of Chrysale and Philaminte
ARISTE, brother of Chrysale
BELISE, sister of Chrysale
CLITANDRE, in love with Henriette
TRISSOTIN, a wit
VADIUS, a learned man
MARTINE, a kitchen servant
L’EPINE, a lackey
JULIEN, Vadius’ valet
THE NOTARY

SCENE:
Single Interior: Paris, in the home of Chrysale.


About the Adaptation

Moliere did not hesitate to indulge his humor wherever he found it. And while his The School for Wives might have pointed the way towards the woman's movement, his The Learned Ladies (also known as The Learned Ladies) would argue the opposite side. Here we find Philaminte and her female confidantes clearly overreaching the limits of their wit and expecting the world to cater to the whim of their wisdom. In the course of doing such, she endangers the future of her daughter, Henriette, by attempting to marry her off to a flattering, dull pedant whom she imagines to be a philosopher, leaving Henriette's true love, Clitandre, out in the cold. In the course of doing so, she usurps the then-customary right of the husband to determine the daughter's spouse, and it is clear that, on this occasion at least, Moliere has sided with the patriarchy.

I chose to translate the title in a manner that is actually closer to Moliere's orignial, La Femme Savants, as the sarcasm Moliere clearly suggests in the title picks up some less-flattering echoes of another much-used phrase.

In this scene, Belise, one of the feminine savants and Henriette's aunt, is approached by Clitandre, who wants to enlist her support in his petition for Henriette's hand. In it, Moliere explores one of his favorite themes: the power of ignorance when the ignorant is determined to remain in such a state.


Excerpt

Bourgeois Gentleman

The Learned Ladies

Act One, Scene Four

CLITANDRE, BELISE

 

CLITANDRE

Madame, allow a lover, if you would

To take this chance to try to win some good,

For I must tell you of my love, and how –

 

BELISE

Oh, sir! You mustn’t tell me all this now!

If you have joined the ranks of all my swain,

Just tell me with your eyes, but don’t explain!

Your eyes alone must be heart’s emissary,

And coarse displays are hardly necessary,

Yes, love me, pine and burn; that is expected,

But don’t allow me know how you’re affected.

As long as you keep how you feel inside

Then I don’t need to censor you or chide,

But if you speak of love, so free and wild,

Then from my sight you’ll need to be exiled!

 

CLITANDRE

My passions, Ma’am, are naught to worry of

It’s Henriette’s the object of my love,

And I am asking, here, for your support,

In winning her as I should pay my court.

 

BELISE

Oh, that’s a tricky dodge, and very witty!

I don’t believe I’ve heard a turn so pretty!

He spoke a different name, while she well knew it, see;

That strikes me as the height of ingenuity!

 

CLITANDRE

Madame, I did not mean to speak with wit,

But rather, tell you true my sense of it,

By all the grace a man might hope to get,

I am in love and loved by Henriette.

It’s Henriette that I do so desire,

And marriage with her to which I aspire,

And in establishment of this connection,

I only ask you favor my affection.

 

BELISE

I spy the art behind your elocution

And see your clever trick of substitution,

I’ll speak with you, here, in this selfsame code,

And answer you within your witty mode,

Your “Henriette” does not desire a mate,

And those who sue for her are doomed to wait.

 

CLITANDRE

Enough, Madame! It seems you’re fully bound

To turn each thing I say here upside-down!

 

BELISE

Oh, Sir! Have you not had enough of games?

You think your eyes can hide your heart’s fond flames?

Suffice that I’m content, here, with the art

Which manages to shroud devoted heart.

If you are humble in this, and not proud,

Your kind of worship may well be allowed.

As long as you are pure in your petition,

You may approach my shrine with my permission.

 

CLITANDRE

But –

 

BELISE

        No. I really ought to go. Yes. Good.

I’ve spoken more, here, really, than I should.

 

CLITANDRE

You’re wrong –

 

BELISE

                       Don’t talk like I’m a goddess, see,

When you go on, it hurts my modesty.

 

CLITANDRE

I’m damned if it is you that I adore!

 

BELISE

No, silent, please. I can’t hear any more. (SHE exits.)

 

CLITANDRE

The devil take her fantasies and visions!

Has any truth received more stark revisions?

I didn’t think such foolishness existed!

I’ll seek support from someone not so twisted.