The Misanthrope By Molière Summary and Analysis Act V: Scenes 2-3

Summary

Oronte and Célimène arrive and Oronte requests Célimène to make a choice between him or Alceste; if she chooses him, he does not want her to see Alceste any more. Célimène does not understand, since recently Oronte had praised Alceste. As Oronte is awaiting Célimène's decision, Alceste steps forward and affirms that he wants a similar decision in his favor. The two men agree that Célimène must choose and each is shocked that she seems to hesitate in making her decision.

Célimène thinks it would be rude to openly express her preference. Both men avow that her silence indicates that she likes the other; both demand a decision.

At this point Eliante and Philinte arrive, and Célimène appeals to Eliante for help. Eliante, however, says that she is "on the side of those who speak their mind." Again both men demand an answer from Célimène.

Analysis

The comedy of this scene is based upon the fact that Alceste and Oronte — two archenemies in the play — are both demanding the same thing. They are in a sense allied. The comedy also lies in the rapid delivery of the repetitive lines. One character makes part of a statement, the other picks it up and finishes or modifies it; then the other goes on with the modification, and so on.

Throughout the scene, Célimène is adeptly able to avoid giving an answer. It is also ironic that Célimène refuses to answer because she claims the requests are "unreasonable," whereas the two suitors are for once making a reasonable request. Again, throughout the play, almost every character's actions are motivated by what he considers to be reasonable. The repetition of this word becomes comic in view of all the unreasonable actions committed by almost every character.

Eliante is seen in direct contrast to Célimène; Célimène is embarrassed to have to make a choice, but Eliante is on the side "of those who speak their minds."

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