by Jean Baptiste Molière English verse by Timothy Mooney
Comedy:
Three Acts. Estimated Running Time 70 Minutes (without intermission).
40-minute version available.
Cast
: 6 Male, 3 Female, 9 Total. Setting: Single Exterior Setting.


Cast, Set Details

CAST:
6 Male, 3 Female, 9 Total.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
SGANARELLE, brother to Ariste
ARISTE, brother to Sganarelle
ISABELLE, sister to Leonor, plighted to Sganarelle
LEONOR, sister to Isabelle, plighted to Ariste
LISETTE, waiting maid to Leonor
VALERE, suitor of Isabelle
ERGASTE, valet to Valere
MAGISTRATE
NOTARY

SCENE:
Single Exterior Setting featuring the facades of the Paris homes of Sganarelle, Ariste, Valere and the Magistrate.


About the Adaptation

The School For Husbands (1661) was the third play I did, not one of Moliere's most popular works, though it is a fun (and brief) alternative to the more elaborately constructed School For Wives. In School For Husbands, he does create one of his most brilliant female characters, Isabelle, who completely fakes out her captor-guardian-fiancee, getting him to carry encoded messages to her lover, under the pretense of going to upbraid the man for being too forward with her.


Excerpt

The School for Wives

The School For Husbands
Act IV, Scenes 5-6
SGANARELLE, ISABELLE

 

ISABELLE

My honor calls for this to be returned;

Both box and letter must be quickly spurned.

But such an errand begs for some assistance

I can’t ask you ...

 

SGANARELLE

                        You must! At my insistence!

With such a demonstration of your love

There’s not the meanest task I’d rise above.

I take great joy, however mean or trite ...

 

ISABELLE

Then here, take this.

 

SGANARELLE

                               Let’s see; what does he write?

 

ISABELLE

My Lord! Don’t open it!

 

SGANARELLE

                                      Oh no? Why not?

 

ISABELLE

He’d think that I had fallen for his plot.

A decent girl must never even glance

At aught that’s sent by someone wearing pants!

A hint of curiosity reveals

A heart that listens to the man’s appeals.

And thereby to protect my maidenhood

Rejections must be firmly understood.

We must defeat the plans which he is hopin’

By giving it to him as yet unopen,

And we can’t send that message with much zeal

If it appears we’ve tampered with the seal.

Thus will he give up hope in his fond chase,

When you should throw this box back in his face.

 

SGANARELLE (Aside:)

Has ever woman reasoned so forthrightly?

My love for her increases almost nightly!

(To her:) The discipline I’ve taught has taken hold,

And as my wife you’re worth your weight in gold!

 

ISABELLE

Forgive me if I speak from intuition;

Go on and open it; it’s your decision.

 

SGANARELLE

Oh no! I follow your hypothesis,

And I can’t see a single flaw to this.

I’ll throw this in his face, just as you please,

And come back home to set your mind at ease.

 

Act Two, Scene Four

SGANARELLE, ERGASTE

 

SGANARELLE (Alone:)

It fills my heart with joy and exultation

To find the girl immune to provocation!

The girl’s a jewel of keen-eyed consequence!

To treat a look as scandalous offense!

And when she gets an innocent love letter

She sets me after he who hoped to get her!

I wonder if my brother’s boorish ward

Would act as well as she I’ve so adored.

A woman’s but the canvas for my paint ...

Hello!

 

ERGASTE

          Who’s there?

 

SGANARELLE

                               I carry a complaint.

My ward sends to your master this foul item,

Unopened, to convey how she does spite him.

She will receive no letters in gold boxes,

And thus it is himself that he outfoxes.

You see, his actions have her so annoyed,

His hopes of love are surely now destroyed.

 

Act Two, Scene Five

VALERE, ERGASTE

 

VALERE

Why was that oaf back raising such a din?

 

ERGASTE

He brought a box, with letter tucked within.

He claims you sent the girl this fervent note

And with disdain incessantly did gloat,

That she returned it with unbroken seal.

Come, let us find just what it may reveal.

 

VALERE (Reading:)

“This letter surely comes as a surprise,

And I regret conveying it with lies,

I know it must seem bold and even brazen,

But blame it, if you must, upon my raising.

Forgive me if I overstep the bounds,

But threatened marriage, six days hence, confounds.

And rather than give over to despair,

I hold the hope that you might choose to care.

You mustn’t think it is my current straits

That lead me thus to intertwine our fates.

But rather it’s the feelings you inspire

That make my situation much more dire.

And so I leave decorum due a maid,

That your intentions might yet be conveyed.

I wait but for the word your heart agrees

That I might hope you might my heart appease.

But be aware, our time is running out;

Few words need fondest hearts to ease their doubt.

 

ERGASTE

A brilliant trick! The girl is a magician!

How simply she turns stalemate to fruition!

Would anyone suspect her of such ploys?

 

VALERE

A life with her will be but loving joys!

This note reveals a mind both smart and shrewd,

‘Til now, ‘twas but her beauty had I viewed.

My love is multiplied again by two ...

 

ERGASTE

The dupe returns; now get a message through.

 

Act Two, Scene Six

SGANARELLE, VALERE, ERGASTE

 

SGANARELLE (To the Audience:)

Oh, I do call that edict ten times fair,

That limits what extravagance we wear!

No more will woman, dressed in fancy clothes,

Be leading her poor husband by the nose!

Oh this decree speaks volumes of our King,

And would he would append but one small thing,

Beyond the frills and lace he’s newly banned,

To coquetry the law might yet expand!

I’ve bought a copy to give as a gift

That Isabelle might understand its drift

Some evening after chores, and at her leisure

We’ll read it for an evening’s well-earned pleasure.

(Seeing VALERE:)

Well, there you are! Sir, do you now know better?

Or do you still stuff boxes with your letter?

You thought that some coquette had been discovered,

And so you slyly intrigued and you hovered.

But now you spill your powder on the ground,

Your aim has spun your musket all around.

It’s time that you went elsewhere for the hunt;

You’ve shot your load off this time, to be blunt.


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