The Affected Young Ladies

by Moliere

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Affected Young Ladies (a.k.a The Pretensions Young Ladies; French: Les Précieuses Ridicules) is a comedy of manners written in 1659, by French playwright, poet and actor Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, most commonly known as Molière.

MAGDELON: Give us leave to take breath for a short time among the fashionable world of Paris, where we are but just arrived. Allow us to prepare at our leisure the groundwork of our novel, and do not hurry on the conclusion too abruptly.

CATHOS: Indeed, I think it the height of ridicule for anyone who possesses the slightest claim to be called clever not to know even the smallest couplet that is made every day; as for me, I should be very much ashamed if anyone should ask me my opinion about something new, and I had not seen it.

The play is, essentially, a one-act satire, written in prose, and tells the story of two young ladies, Magdelon and Cathos, whose father and uncle – Gorbious, decides to marry them off to two young eligible bachelors of the Parisian bourgeoisie. However, the girls deem the bachelors uncultured and unsophisticated, and mock them.

GORGIBUS: Hearken; one word will suffice. I do not allow you to take any other names than those that were given you by your godfathers and godmothers; and as for those gentlemen we are speaking about, I know their families and fortunes, and am determined they shall be your husbands. I am tired of having you upon my hands. Looking after a couple of girls is rather too weighty a charge for a man of my years.

MASCARILLE: Some larceny of my heart; some massacre of liberty. I behold here a pair of eyes that seem to be very naughty boys that insult liberty, and use a heart most barbarously. Why the deuce do they put themselves on their guard, in order to kill anyone who comes near them? Upon my word! I mistrust them; I shall either scamper away, or expect very good security that they do me no mischief.

The two rejected gentlemen, Le Grange and Du Croisy, order their valets to pretend to be aristocrats and trick the girls, so that they could have their revenge. Their plan works, and Magdelon falls in love with Marquis de Mascarille – La Grange’s valet, and Cathos falls in love with Vicomte de Jodelet – Du Croisy’s valet.

LA GRANGE: No doubt I do; so much so, that I am resolved to be revenged on them for their impertinence. I know well enough why they despise us. Affectation has not alone infected Paris, but has also spread into the country, and our ridiculous damsels have sucked in their share of it. In a word, they are a strange medley of coquetry and affectation. I plainly see what kind of persons will be well received by them; if you will take my advice, we will play them such a trick as shall show them their folly, and teach them to distinguish a little better the people they have to deal with.

In the end, when the ladies uncover the truth, they feel ashamed and mocked, similar to how Le Grange and Du Croisy felt when they were rejected as their suitors. The play was very well received, and still is to this day.

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