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The Misanthrope | Study Guide


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The Misanthrope | Quotes


Sometimes, I swear, I'm moved to flee and find / Some desert land unfouled by humankind.

Alceste, Act 1, Scene 1

Here, the misanthrope Alceste introduces a threat he will make several times in the course of the play: self-exile from the human race.


Good sense views all extremes with detestation, / And bids us to be noble in moderation.

Philinte, Act 1, Scene 1

In this couplet, Philinte crystallizes the philosophy of rational good sense and sociality.


True, true: each day my reason tells me so; / But reason doesn't rule in love, you know.

Alceste, Act 1, Scene 1

Alceste stresses the role of irrationality in romantic love.


This artificial style, that's all the fashion, / Has neither taste, nor honesty, nor passion.

Alceste, Act 1, Scene 2

Alceste's literary critique, like his social code, is opposed to pretension and artificial expression.


[He] has the power / To tell you nothing hour after hour; / If ... he ever came to the point, / The shock would put his jawbone out of joint.

Célimène, Act 2, Scene 5

Célimène displays her verbal agility and considerable power of satire.


Till I am ordered by my lord the King / To praise that poem, I shall say ... the poet / Ought to be hanged for having the nerve to show it.

Alceste, Act 2, Scene 7

Alceste seems incapable of offering a moderate or restrained statement. Here, he uses typically extreme language to stress the inferiority of Oronte's sonnet and to emphasize his own lofty principles. The quotation also points up the egotistical need that many authors have for praise.


By Jove, when I survey myself, I find / No cause whatever for distress of mind.

Acaste, Act 3, Scene 1

This couplet epitomizes Acaste's smugness and self-satisfaction.


I have ventured to your door / To bring you, as your friend, some information / About the status of your reputation.

Arsinoé, Act 3, Scene 5

Arsinoé politely cloaks her backstabbing nature with a veneer of courtesy. Here, she pretends to respect the "flame of friendship." Actually, she has come to intimidate Célimène with reports of nasty gossip.


This fawning age has praise for everyone, / And all distinctions, Madam, are undone.

Alceste, Act 3, Scene 7

Alceste deflects Arsinoé's overtures of flattery with a bleak assessment of the meaninglessness of praise in corrupt times.


Sir, I believe in frankness, and I'm inclined, / In matters of the heart, to speak my mind.

Éliante, Act 4, Scene 1

In one respect, Éliante is the counterpart of Alceste in her dedication to honesty and candor. She never criticizes, however, and is far more restrained and sensible. These qualities make her the counterpart of Philinte.


I mean that sins which cause the blood to freeze / Look innocent beside your treacheries.

Alceste, Act 4, Scene 3

In this quotation, Alceste addresses Célimène. He describes her "treachery" in typically extreme terms.


But need you rage, and need I blush for shame, / If this was written to a woman friend?

Célimène, Act 4, Scene 3

Quick-witted Célimène tries to convince Alceste that her apparently treacherous letters were written to a woman rather than to her gentleman admirers.


Pretend, pretend, that you are just and true, / And I shall make myself believe in you.

Alceste, Act 4, Scene 3

Alceste reaches the low point in his courtship of Célimène. Frustration obliges him to forsake candor completely and to sink to the level of desperate hypocrisy.


This age is vile, and I've made up my mind / To have no further commerce with mankind.

Alceste, Act 5, Scene 1

Alceste announces—not for the first time—his determination to withdraw from human society.


How strange the human heart is, and how far / From rational we sorry creatures are.

Alceste, Act 5, Scene 7

This couplet of Alceste might serve as a tagline or epigraph for the play as a whole. Molière exploits the comic implications of human irrationality, even as he soberly underlines how erratic human behavior can be.

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