Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Argan’s bedchamber

Argan’s bedchamber (ahr-GAH[N]Z). Bedroom of the hypochondriac of the play’s title. This play is an excellent example of how place can have critical importance in the creative process. The dramatic conventions of Molière’s time required adherence to the Aristotelian unity of place. His creative solution to the problem of confining the action to a single location was to invent a character gullible and rich enough to employ a doctor and an apothecary on a full-time basis to treat his nonexistent maladies. Once Molière imagined this neurotic character, it was obvious that the complex plot could easily revolve around a single place, the imaginary invalid’s bedchamber. The doctor and apothecary are attracted there by the lucrative fees. Dr. Diafoirus brings his son there in hopes of marrying him to the rich Argan’s daughter. The intrusions of the unsympathetic and outspoken maidservant into Argan’s bedchamber are logical because Argan demands constant attendance. The intrusions of his mendacious and avaricious wife are also logical because she wants to turn her husband against her two stepdaughters as well as to see how much closer he may have come to dying.

In addition to being rich, neurotic, and gullible, the hypochondriac had to be made parsimonious, as demonstrated in the opening scene where he is going over his apothecary’s bills and deciding how much he can chisel on each item. Argan’s imaginary ailments led to the creation of the most important plot element, his desire to obtain free medical advice for life by forcing his daughter to marry a doctor’s son against her wishes. Moliere’s invention of Argan was a case of necessity being the mother of invention.