The Doctor in Spite of Himself

by Moliere

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 623

Characters Discussed


Sganarelle (zgah-nah-REHL), a wood gatherer whose wife accuses him of drunkenness, gambling, and lechery. Although he admits that she is a good wife, he intends to be the boss of the household. Because he believes that beatings increase affection, he whips her. When he is mistaken for a doctor, through his wife’s trickery to have him beaten in turn, he displays—though he has had no education beyond the lowest class in school—wit, quick thinking, and convincing inventiveness by his use of garbled Latin, jumbled anatomical terms, and quotations from Cicero and Hippocrates. Learning that his patient suffers dumbness only because of thwarted love, he prescribes a remedy known to make parrots talk, bread soaked in wine. He displays avarice when he gets what money he can from Géronte to cure his daughter, from Léandre to enable him to see Lucinde, and from Perrin to help his mother. At the happy ending to this farce, Sganarelle forgives his wife the beatings he has received, but he reminds her that she must hereafter show greater respect for him, for he is now a doctor and not a wood gatherer.


Martine (mahr-TEEN), Sganarelle’s wife, who nags her husband about his drinking and gambling, and for selling their household possessions for these purposes. She seeks revenge for his frequent beatings by claiming that Sganarelle is an eccentric doctor who amuses himself by cutting wood and who must be beaten before he will admit to being a physician. After her husband has successfully cured his patient, she overtakes him just as he is about to be hanged for helping in an elopement. She decides to witness the hanging to give him courage. When he is not hanged after all, she demands thanks for making him a doctor.


Géronte (zhay-ROHNT), the father of a daughter who feigns loss of speech because he objects to her marriage to anyone other than the wealthy man he has chosen. a great quoter of maxims, he is deceived by Sganarelle’s garbled Latin and anatomical jargon. When he learns that his daughter’s lover has inherited his uncle’s wealth, he finds virtue in the young man and gives the couple his blessing.


Lucinde (lew-SAHND), Géronte’s daughter, who stubbornly refuses to marry any of her father’s selected suitors and feigns illness and loss of speech. Her clever pretense allows her to elope with Léandre.


Léandre (lay-AHNDR), Lucinde’s lover. Disguised as an apothecary working with the physician, he is able to elope with Lucinde. He soon returns to ask Géronte’s permission for their marriage, a request readily granted when he tells of his inheritance from his uncle.


Valère (vah-LEHR), Géronte’s simple, credulous servant, who tries to reason with Sganarelle before beating him as a means of making the wood gatherer admit that he is a doctor.


Lucas (lew-KAH), another servant to Géronte, the foster father of Valère and husband of Géronte’s nurse. He is an ill-tempered man who jealously prevents Sganarelle from embracing and fondling his wife, Jacqueline.


Jacqueline (zhahk-LEEN), Lucas’ wife and nurse to Lucinde. She is a sensible, realistic woman who sees that Lucinde is feigning an illness that love will cure.

M. Robert

M. Robert (roh-BEHR), Sganarelle’s neighbor, a busybody who objects to wife-beating. He is forced to admit his meddling to avoid a similar drubbing.


Thibaut (tee-BOH), a peasant who, hearing of Sganarelle’s fame as a physician, comes to the wood gatherer. Trying to tell about his wife’s illness, he talks in garbled medical terms.


Perrin (pehr-RAHN), Thibaut’s son.

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