The Misanthrope By Molière Summary and Analysis Act V: Scenes 4-6

Summary

Arsinoé, Acaste, and Clitandre enter "to clear up a little matter" with Célimène. It concerns all who are present, says Clitandre. Acaste first reads from a letter which Célimène had sent to Clitandre. In it she expressed her opinions of each of her suitors. The "little marquis" (Acaste) is a person of no significance; "the man with the green ribbons" (Alceste) is often the most bothersome bore in the world; Oronte is as dull as his verse. Then Clitandre reads Célimène's equally disparaging opinion of himself from a letter she sent to Acaste. Acaste and Clitandre exit with plans to "publish abroad this portrait" of Célimène's true nature.

Oronte quickly follows suit, by condemning Célimène for making the same specious promises of love to everyone. Arsinoé is indignant that Célimène has so thoughtlessly trod on the feelings of Alceste. Alceste says that he does not want any sympathy from Arsinoé and dismisses her by saying that if he were to seek vengeance by transferring his affections elsewhere, she would be the last person he would turn to. Arsinoé is highly insulted; she points to Célimène and says: "This lady's leavings are not a commodity I should prize as highly as all that!" She reproves Alceste's vanity and struts off the stage.

Analysis

Scene 4 brings together all the personages of the play as Molière once again uses the device of the discovered letters to bring about this confrontation scene.

Part of the purpose of the scene is to show how Célimène, the superb example of her society, is trapped by the very factors in society which she has encouraged.

By the end of Scene 6, the stage is cleared except for four main personages. The fops desert Célimène, promising to publish her behavior to all of society; Oronte gives up his pretensions to Célimène; Arsinoé is rapidly dismissed by Alceste and only the four main characters are left on the stage.

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