Describe in what ways society and politics are critiqued in The Bourgeois Gentleman.               

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The real title, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, is paradoxical since gentilhomme means nobleman; thus, a nobleman cannot be bourgeois since he is an aristocrat.  Herein lies Moliere's farce:  the man can never become an aristocrat; one must be born to such a position in seventeenth century France.  This paradox immediately establishes the comedic element that moves Moliere's play quickly through its performance.

Because the satires of Moliere were superior in wit, in language, and in creativity, they were heartily accepted by King Louis XIV and his court.  Moliere's characterization is realistic in its depiction of the idiosyncrasies and vanities of the French court and those who aspired to rise in social status.  Like much parody, those who are being mocked often laugh because they believe that another group is the target of the mockery.  For instance, the character of the aristocrat Dorante is one which the court of Louis XIV would never suspect as meant to satirize them because it was acceptable for a nobleman to dupe another. However, it is, indeed, a character meant to mock the hypocrisy of the aristocrat who feels superior to others, but is underhanded in his actions.

Another character who is parodied is that of Monsieur Jourdain, a tradesman who aspires to rise in social status. This would-be bourgeois is duped by all who serve him. For instance, there are six tailors who fit him with the most ridiculous clothes, telling him that these designs are the latest fashion at court.  The dance instructor, and Dorante also extract money from the foolish M. Jourdain.  Over time, this would-be gentleman has become an archetype in French tradition of the bourgeois who struggles to conform to the life of the aristocrat. And, the other characters are all those who try to dupe M. Jourdain. The fencing teacher, the tailor, and the journey men continue to dissemble, perhaps failing to learn their lessons.



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The Would-Be Gentleman

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