In The Misanthrope by Moliere, how is there a reflection regarding absolutism under Louis XIV?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that the premise of the Moliere drama as one where there is a critique offered of the social conventions of the day has a directly reflective effect regarding the absolutist ideas of Louis XIV.  The memoirist Saint- Simon once wrote about Louis XIV that "There was nothing he liked so much as flattery, or, to put it more plainly, adulation; the coarser and clumsier it was, the more he relished it."  Voltaire confirmed the same idea about the absolutist ruler:  

It is certain that he passionately wanted glory, rather than the conquests themselves. In the acquisition of Alsace and half of Flanders, and of all of Franche-Comté, what he really liked was the name he made for himself.

Both recollections of the French Monarch reveal the social convention of the time period, a condition where inauthenticity defined how individuals interact with one another.  Alceste is driven to be honest and define himself in a way that transcends the condition where "flattery" and false "adulation" guide the contours of human interaction.  

Such a condition becomes a reflection of how Moliere might be challenging life under Louis XIV.  The absolutist condition of the time period made social interactions based on inauthenticity a standard for all.  It was never restrained because it was a top- down approach.  Louis XIV showed a preference for it and throughout French society this preference was seen as absolute, something non- negotiable.  Moliere's construction of how fraudulence cannot be a means through which individuals live their lives is a reflection of the structure and manner of society under Louis XIV.  Alceste's repudiation of such a world and his desire to flee it can represent Moliere's fundamental challenge to the absolutist means and approach of the social world under Louis XIV.


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