Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Valère, the steward of Harpagon’s house, is in love with his employer’s daughter, Élise. Valère is sure that he is of a good family, but until he can find his relatives he has little hope that Harpagon will give his consent to a marriage between his daughter and his steward. Harpagon is a miser of such great avarice and stinginess that he loves nothing but money. He lives in constant fear that someone will rob him of the large sum he has buried in his garden. Valère knows that his only hope lies in gaining Harpagon’s affection by flattering the old man shamelessly.
Harpagon’s son, Cléante, is also in love. The object of his love is Mariane, a poor girl who lives with her widowed mother. Cléante’s love is as hopeless as that between his sister, Élise, and Valère. Since Mariane has no money, Harpagon will not consent to a marriage, and Cléante keeps his love for the girl from his father. What he does not know is that his father has seen Mariane and wants her for himself. He has been a widower for many years, and the young girl’s beauty makes him desire her. He must first, however, secure a dowry for her; his miserliness is stronger than his love.
Élise learns from her father that, against her wishes, she is to be married to Anselme, a wealthy man fifty years old. The fact that Anselme will take his daughter without a dowry is too good a proposition for Harpagon to miss. Élise appeals to Valère for help. The clever lad...
(The entire section is 1038 words.)
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