(Drama for Students)

The Medical Profession
It is immediately clear that Molière is interested in a pointed satire of the entire medical profession in The Imaginary Invalid, an agenda that is common to many of the dramatist’s works. In a manner that would have been familiar to contemporary audiences, the play constantly ridicules the pompous behavior, misuse and overuse of Latin, incompetence, ignorance, and selfishness of doctors. Monsieur Purgon and Monsieur Fleurant are mocked by their very names, which suggest ‘‘purging’’ and ‘‘flowery,’’ respectively, and Monsieur Diafoirus and Thomas are shown to be incompetent doctors with intolerable personalities.

Molière attacks doctors with satire that is not simply farcical, however; at the beginning of act 3, Béralde’s discussion with Argan about the medical profession is an eloquent and even philosophical argument against the medical profession. Béralde questions the basic reasons for living, pointing out that nature should be left to itself. Although the claim that doctors are useless may seem doubtful today, it was not an extreme view during the seventeenth century, and the idea that nature is too complex for humans to understand and that life should be embraced as a phenomenon outside the realm of science is a philosophical notion to which modern readers can relate.

Since Molière’s presentation of medicine is such a central theme in the play, it also relates to many of the dramatist’s other thematic ideas. For example, critics have connected Argan’s imaginary illnesses to the imaginative endeavor of a play, since these are both obsessions associated with the creator's pleasure; they are both spectacles that affect the subject psychologically, and they both must be reconciled with bourgeois demand for moneymaking and reasonable prices, which is why Argan is so interested in having a doctor in the family. Also, Molière’s ideas about the medical profession can be...

(The entire section is 806 words.)