Argan (ahr-GAH[N]), a hypochondriac, though he does not have the melancholia frequently associated with his state. His associates keep things too lively in his house to permit it, and he revels in his poor health. He gauges his health by the number of purges and clysters he has had this month compared to last. If the number is fewer, it is obvious that his condition is worse. He is glad he has only two children; more would leave him with no time for his illnesses. Although he enjoys the attention of two physicians and an apothecary, he is suspicious of their bills and checks them carefully, cutting the amount he intends to pay because “20 sous in the language of an apothecary is as much as to say 10 sous.” To have a physician in the family to attend to him at all times is his wish; therefore, he refuses to consider any other as a son-in-law. His temper is revealed in his shouting at his servant when she is not prompt in answering the bell, and he calls her names, including “jade,” “carrion,” and “impudent.” That he is extremely foolish is shown by his worry about orders of the physician to walk in his room: Should it be the long or the broad way? When his brother orders the physician out of the house, Argan is convinced that without his doctor’s attention he will die. He is completely taken in by his second wife and her affectionate manner until her true feelings for him are revealed by the maid’s trick. This also shows him his daughter’s real love, and he permits the marriage to Cléante, provided he will become a physician, or at least an apothecary.
Toinette (twah-NEHT), Argan’s servant, a sensible, amusing, and clever young woman. She loves Argan’s daughter Angélique, shares her confidences, and aids her love affair. She is also aware of Argan’s wife’s true feelings toward her hypochondriac husband, and she proposes a test that convinces Argan that his wife is interested only in his money. Toinette gets along with her master very well, though she speaks up against his plan to marry Angélique to a physician and argues with him. She ridicules the young physician Argan has chosen as Angélique’s husband, then apes the young man’s speeches for those who missed hearing them. In an attempt to cure the hypochondriac of his fear of and respect for physicians, she disguises herself as a physician and ridicules the profession by making absurd diagnoses and diet suggestions. Her final clever plan for Argan to feign death to test the true feelings of his wife and daughter results in a happy close to the play.
Béline (bay-LEEN), Argan’s second wife. Her relations with her husband seem calm and affectionate, but her true nature is revealed when she begs Argan not to talk about making his will, though she has the notary at hand to consult with him on this matter. She says she is not interested in his money, then checks on where he has hidden it and on the amount...
(The entire section is 1257 words.)