The Misanthrope | Study Guide

Molière

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Course Hero. "The Misanthrope Study Guide." October 25, 2017. Accessed November 17, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Misanthrope/.

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Course Hero, "The Misanthrope Study Guide," October 25, 2017, accessed November 17, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Misanthrope/.

The Misanthrope | Act 3, Scene 3 | Summary

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Summary

Basque plays his familiar role of announcing a new visitor. Arsinoé has arrived to see Célimène. Even before Acaste can react to the news, Célimène unleashes a lengthy, damning portrait of the new arrival in a speech fully twice as long as any of the satirical sketches she delivered in Act 2, Scene 5. Arsinoé, she declares, is a fraud. Her ostensible piety and virtue are merely masks for romantic failures and jealousy. Arsinoé is particularly hostile toward Célimène, whom she regards as a rival for the affections of Alceste. She, the older woman whose day has likely passed, is spiteful and envious, vicious and arrogant.

Analysis

Because Arsinoé is the leading character in Act 3 of the play, Célimène's scathing portrayal of her in this scene is especially noteworthy. Célimène's description implies that Arsinoé is, at least in part, a curious mirror image of Alceste—with the crucial difference that Arsinoé's pretense to virtue is hypocritical. For example, Célimène emphasizes that Arsinoé is "always in a jealous rage / Against the faulty standards of the age." The truth, according to Célimène, is that Arsinoé fumes simply because she cannot attract and retain a lover. Ironically, the lover she would most prefer is none other than Alceste—a preference which, of course, puts Arsinoé in direct conflict with Célimène!

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