by Jean Baptiste Poquelin Moliere
English verse by Timothy Mooney

Comedy: Three Short "Acts" with Ballet interludes. Estimated Running Time 50 minutes (without intermission)

Cast: 12 Male, 3 Female, 5 Extras, 20 Total (doubling possible)
Setting: One exterior


Cast, Set Details

CAST:
12 Male, 3 Female, 5 Extras (in the Ballets between the acts)

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
SGANARELLE, father of Lucinde
LUCINDE, his daughter
CLITANDRE, her lover
AMINTE, a neighbor of Sganarelle
LUCRECE, niece to Sganarelle
LISETTE, servant to Lucinde
MONSIEUR GULLIAME, an upholsterer
MONSIEUR JOSSE, a jeweler
DOCTORS (TOMES, DES-FONADRES, MACROTIN, BAHRS, FILERIN)
NOTARY
CHAMPAGNE, Valet to Sganarelle

CHARACTERS IN THE BALLETS:
CHAMPAGNE, DOCTORS
COMEDY, MUSIC, BALLET, LAUGHTER, PLEASURES

SCENE:
The Scene is in Paris, in the home of Sganarelle


About the Adaptation

Moliere himself indicates that this play was commissioned, written, rehearsed and performed, at the request of the king, in just five days. In essence, he assures us that this is not an exaggeration, as if to say, “No, really, five days!” (“It is the most hurriedly written of all the works that His Majesty has commanded of me.”)[1]
 
He wants us to think of this as an “impromptu,” or a commedia sketch. While argument may be made about Moliere’s reasons for choosing prose over verse in other scripts, it is clear that with this one, verse was never an option for him. Not only would the construction of dialogue in verse add to the writing time that a script like this would demand, but it would also add significantly to the memorizing-time demanded of his actors. As long as they treated this work as a sort of commedia-style improvisation, they could work their way in and out of any rhetorical jam they might find themselves in, without damaging the tone or the rhythm which verse would impose upon each line.
 
Moliere goes on to insist that the play was much more effective in performance than it was on the page, and it is hardly surprising, given that his company, formed more than twenty years prior, had a long history of commedia-style improvisations, in which they could leap from the text into some well-honed bits of lazzi.
 
You can see this in the writing: When Sganarelle refuses to accept that his daughter is really looking for a husband, Moliere doesn’t even mention it in a stage direction. His actors simply knew the well-trod routine of the man-who-refuses-to-hear-the-obvious, and we, the readers, are left figuring it out from the context of the dialogue. Moliere insists that plays “are written to be acted,” and we may hear a bit of defensiveness in this, knowing that his company compensated for any perceived deficiencies in the script, which he probably resisted having published at all. (There were often rogue publishers who would transcribe the text from observation and from memory, in order to capitalize on a popular performance, and Moliere was probably dragged kicking and screaming to publication on several of his works.)
 
I choose to take the time that Moliere did not have available to him, building this dialogue in the same way I have fashioned all of my Moliere interpretations: in verse. I operate from the presumption that Moliere would have at least built this script in such a fashion, had he more time. I operate this way, not from a mountain of evidence proving Moliere’s intent, so much as from a personal preference that I can sometimes justify, at least to myself, with an anecdote.
 
Either way, the proof is in the performance. Moliere wished that this play might “always be seen with the embellishments which they enjoy when performed before His Majesty,” referring largely to the, costumes, settings, music and dance which the King’s court might easily provide. I present this interpretation as a further “embellishment” which Monsieur Moliere might have liked to have the opportunity to add.

[1] Quotes in this commentary are drawn from “To the Reader, Commentary by Moliere” in the translation of John Wood, first published in “Five Plays,” (1935), Reprinted as “The Miser and Other Plays,” Penguin Books, London, 1953.


Excerpt

Act I, Scene One

SGANARELLE, AMINTE, LUCRECE, GUILLAME, JOSSE

 

SGANARELLE

How strange life seems from in this head;

How right that great philosopher who said,

That with great having comes great grief

And woes come not alone, but in a sheaf.

I had but one wife, and now she is dead.

 

M. GUILLAME

And how many would you wish to have wed?

 

SGANARELLE

My friend, she's dead; I feel it as an ache;

The tears come when abed, or when awake.

And while, while she was still alive and strong,

There were times when we'd not quite get along,

And said some things one ought not quite pronounce,

She's dead now, and death settles all accounts.

Good Heaven gave us children, yet, what's more,

A single daughter's all I've left in store;

One daughter, who's the source of all vexation,

For some disturbance, some preoccupation,

Some melancholic source I can't quite factor,

Holds her in bonds from which I can't extract her.

And all my efforts to conceive the cause

But further hides the source as 'neath a gauze.

And, as I've come up empty, on these questions,

I've brought you here, my friends, for your suggestions.

Lucrece, my niece, Aminte, my thoughtful neighbor;

(To GUILLIAME and JOSSE:)

You, sirs, are both my friends in trade and labor:

I ask you, please, to frankly share your view:

Advise me what you think I ought to do.

 

MONSIEUR JOSSE

I find young women long for finer things

Like necklaces, or bracelets or for rings;

It's this stuff with which you ought to surprise her:

She'll lighten up if you accessorize her.

 

MONSIEUR GULLIAME

It's her environment you must address;

Her very walls should stir her beating breast;

Give her some tapestries; give her a grand drape,

Adorned with figures, or perhaps a landscape.

 

AMINTE

Well, I'd take neither of these routes to please her,

I think it's time that marriage ought to seize her,

And you could change her churlishness to cheer:

Give her that man that asked for her, last year.

 

LUCRECE

To bear a child in her most fragile state

Would make her prey to some most fatal fate;

It's death that waits a wedding to some suitor,

And I believe a convent better suits her.

 

SGANARELLE

All this advice suggests such earnest wishes,

And yet I can't help be somewhat suspicious.

Such wary thoughts, we find, one quickly quells,

Were it not your advice so suits yourselves!

You are, yourself, a goldsmith, Monsieur Josse,

And your prescription seems a precious dose,

And yet your tone takes just a slightish ring

Of one with too much backstock of such ... bling.

And Monsieur Gulliame, your tapestries

Are well designed to decorate and please;

All tell of how they're stitched and draped and painted,

Although, I sense they leave your counsel tainted.

The lenses that you wear, neighbor Aminte,

I fear are likewise touched with selfish tint,

The man you sought now seems to want my daughter

And you'd prefer to see some other caught her.

And as you know, my niece, I haven't planned

That anyone should win my daughter's hand,

My reasons are but mine, and mine alone,

And yet your motives, if we'd have them known,

Are not so purely drawn from convent's prayer,

As how that might leave you my only heir!

And so, dear ladies, and kind gentlemen,

I'll hesitate to take advice you've sent till when

It doesn't seem to so befit yourself,

And so, for now, I'll keep it on the shelf.

(Alone.) So much for "good advice."

 

Act I, Scene Two

SGANARELLE, LUCINDE

 

SGANARELLE

                                                    My little pet!

She comes to take the air! Ah, so upset!

She hasn't seen me: Oh! Such heavy sighs!

What is it that she seeks out in the skies?

Good morning, daughter; heaven keep thee, dear;

What is it that so troubles you now here?

What fell disease so forced you feel so sad?

Can you not share your heart here with your dad?

Don't worry; come, give your old man a kiss;

 (Aside.) It drives me crazy seeing her like this!

(To LUCINDE.) You'll kill me with this helpless fell vexation;

Can you not spill the source, the instigation?

Just tell me from whence all this woe proceeds

And I swear I'll provide what my girl needs.

Just say it; yes, just give me the reason why,

And I will make it right, or, trying, die!

There's nothing I won't do, There's nothing ... naught!

And as it goes, you know, that says a lot!

Is there something you're jealous of? Hmm? Yes?

Does some companion have a nicer dress?

Is there some silk you've seen, or some brocade

From which you'd like to have an outfit made?

No? Well, then is your bedroom all too bare?

No? How about a jewel box from the fair?

It's not that either? Well, would you desire

To learn something? The harpsichord, the lyre?

It can't be love that makes you so contrary?

There isn't someone you might want to marry?

[LUCINDA nods affirmatively.]

 

Act I, Scene Three

SGANARELLE, LUCINDE, LISETTE

 

LISETTE

Well, Sir, know you the source of your girl's rut?

 

SGANARELLE

No, she won't say a thing, the little slut.


Order Love's the Best Doctor

Title of Play
Your email address
Your Name
Mailing Address
Purpose: Study, Production, Moliere Fan, Other
Theater Affiliation