The Misanthrope | Study Guide

Molière

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The Misanthrope | Act 3, Scene 4 | Summary

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Summary

Once again Molière employs the run-in technique for a brief transitional scene that features the arrival of Arsinoé. She declares that she has come to tell Célimène "something [she] should know."

Analysis

One of Molière's most brilliant qualities as a comic playwright is to show ingenious, innovative variations on a familiar theme or technique. Even in a scene of just four lines, Molière finds a way to surprise us and engage our interest. Here, Molière varies the run-in technique so that it is Célimène herself who interrupts—and then completes—her own alexandrine. But this is not just any interruption. It amounts to a pair of diametrically opposed statements, beginning with a scathing condemnation ("vicious and arrogant in the last degree") and continuing with a professed warm welcome: "Ah! What happy chance has brought you here?" There could be no more compressed an example of court hypocrisy.

Molière also uses this brief transition scene to whet the audience's appetite and create suspense. What is the "something" that Arsinoé thinks Célimène ought to know? The following scene will rapidly provide a somewhat unexpected answer to this question.

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