Alceste (ahl-SEHST), an outspoken, rigidly honest young man disgusted with society. Protesting against injustice, self-interest, deceit, and roguery, he wants honesty, truthfulness, and sincerity. He hates all men because they are wicked, mischievous, hypocritical, and generally so odious to him that he has no desire to appear rational in their eyes. He would cheerfully lose a law case for the fun of seeing what people are and to have the right to rail against the iniquity of human nature. In love with a young widow, Célimène, he is not blind to her faults, but he feels that his sincere love will purify her heart. He controls his temper with her, for he deems her beneath his anger. Despite her coquetry, he will excuse her if she joins him in renouncing society and retiring into solitude. Seeing himself deceived on all sides and overwhelmed by injustice, he plans to flee from vice and seek a nook—with or without Célimène—where he may enjoy the freedom of being an honest man.
Célimène (say-lee-MEHN), a young widow loved by Alceste, though she embodies all qualities he detests. She is a flirt, a gossip with a satirical wit demonstrated in caustic sketches of her friends, and a woman eager for flattery. Not certain that she truly loves Alceste, she feels that he may be too jealous to deserve her love. In the end, she scornfully...
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