Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Célimène’s salon

Célimène’s salon. Parisian apartment in which the wealthy widow Célimène holds receptions to which she invites distinguished guests, in the custom of wealthy Parisian women of the seventeenth century. At first, audiences assume that Célimène is merely another frivolous rich woman who passes her time hosting fancy parties and engaging in vapid conversations. However, she invites not merely superficial people, such as Philinte and Oronte, but also the rigidly outspoken young Alceste (the “misanthrope” of the play’s title), who is in love with her.

In the formal setting of the salon, Alceste discusses serious moral questions, such as honesty and ethics, while at the same time courting Célimène in a manner surprising for such a rich suitor. Instead of paying her traditional compliments, Alceste criticizes her for the types of guests whom she invites to her home and suggests that she should banish from her apartment men whose behavior is not becoming a woman as serious as herself. Célimène appreciates his unexpected frankness but is surprised when he insists that she leave her Paris to follow him to his country estate. She is unwilling to make such a sudden decision to leave her Parisian apartment. Alceste’s inflexibility causes this comedy to end in an unhappy ending for both characters. Alceste does not understand that he should be more sensitive to Célimène’s emotional needs and not simply expect her to abandon everything for him. The salon in which this comedy takes place creates specific expectations that create numerous surprises in the minds of Molière’s audiences.

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

The Reign of Louis XIV
The maturing of Moliere's theatrical career took place during the reign of King Louis XIV of France,...

(The entire section is 677 words.)

Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

Comedy of Manners
The term comedy of manners refers to a play that focuses on satirizing social customs and rules of...

(The entire section is 936 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

1645-1715: The reign of King Louis XIV is characterized by the exercise of near absolute sovereign authority.


(The entire section is 436 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

Moliere was a key figure in seventeenth-century French drama. Learn more about other areas of French literature in the seventeenth-century,...

(The entire section is 196 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

FACSEA video distributors offers the 1989 version of The Misanthrope, directed by Jacqueline Due, as part of its series collection...

(The entire section is 65 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

L'Ecole des Femmes (1662; The School for Women), by Moliere, was a popular success in its initial production but created...

(The entire section is 247 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Bolt, Ranjit, trans., Moliere, The Misanthrope, A New Version, Oberon Books, 1998.

Coward, David,...

(The entire section is 391 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Gossman, Lionel. Men and Masks: A Study of Molière. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1963. Divides Molière’s plays into two groups: those, like The Misanthrope, that reach a social stalemate and those, like Les Fourberies de Scapin (1671), that transcend that apparent dead end. Includes an entire chapter on The Misanthrope.

Guicharnaud, Jacques. Molière: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964. Very useful collection that treats The Misanthrope in the context of Molière’s other plays, of other theatrical and comedic traditions (including Charlie Chaplin), and as a supremely experimental work.

Knutson, Harold C. The Triumph of Wit: Molière and Restoration Comedy. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1988. Considers Molière’s influence on Restoration comedy in England and concludes that, rather than excessive English borrowing from Molière, both sorts of comedy sprang from similar social circumstances.

Lewis, D. B. Wyndham. Molière: The Comic Mask. New York: Coward-McCann, 1959. A rich description of Molière’s life and works that immerses readers in the world of seventeenth century France. Sees The Misanthrope as the greatest of his works and the one closest to his heart.

Mander, Gertrud. Molière. Translated by Diana Stone Peters. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1973. Includes descriptions and analyses of fourteen plays and a usefully detailed chronology of Molière’s life.