The Misanthrope | Study Guide

Molière

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The Misanthrope | Act 5, Scene 7 | Summary

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Summary

Alceste now asks Célimène if he can finally be allowed to have his say. Apparently contrite, she admits that she has wronged him, giving him permission to berate her with the blame she deserves. He does not hesitate to comply, addressing her as a "traitress." Nevertheless, he is willing to overlook her "youthful errors." All he asks is that she agree to share his "chosen fate," fleeing to a solitary place where they will both be able to escape from, and exclude, the rest of humanity.

Célimène is shocked. She declares that the thought of solitude, at her age of 20, is terrifying. Nevertheless, the two of them might be able to negotiate a practical marriage arrangement. But Alceste breaks in to accuse her of less than total love. He now detests her, he declares, and he definitively rejects her hand.

Analysis

This is the final encounter between Alceste and Célimène. A major challenge for the audience or reader is to assess its tone. Molière includes elements of reproach and regret, infatuation and chagrin, aggression and apprehension. Possibly the most poignant moment in the scene is Alceste's remark on the human condition: "How strange the human heart is, and how far / From rational we sorry creatures are."

Typically, however, Alceste almost immediately undercuts his own plaintive assessment with a totalizing stance on the issue of marriage with Célimène. Either she will agree to exile herself from humanity, or he wants nothing to do with her. As the audience might predict from all they have seen of Célimène so far, she refuses.

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