Characters Discussed

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Harpagon (ahr-pah-GOH[N]), the father of Cléante and Élise, a wealthy, vicious, money-mad old widower. He loves money more than reputation, honor, or virtue, according to his son’s valet, and spends his time watching and guarding it. Fearful of being robbed and killed for his wealth, he buries his money in his garden. Even his children are suspected of planning to rob him. Because he treats them with austerity, they complain of their lack of decent clothes. For his daughter, he plans a marriage to a wealthy man, for himself a marriage without dowry but with “other” things. The servant is warned not to rub the furniture too hard when polishing it and thus wear it out; the valet is searched on being fired to ensure he has not stolen anything. Even his horses suffer from avarice: He feeds them straw. Hypocrisy is another dominant trait revealed in his statement, “Charity enjoins us to be agreeable when we can.”


Cléante (klay-AHNT), Harpagon’s son, a kindhearted youth who admits his obligation to his father. He is determined to leave Harpagon if he can get no help from him, and he is forced to gamble for money for clothes. Outspoken, he tells his father he is a usurer. He acts with cleverness and boldness when he thwarts his father’s parsimony by ordering elaborate refreshments for Mariane and gives her Harpagon’s ring. His courage builds up to the point of defying his father on the question of marriage.

Master Jacques

Master Jacques (zhahk), Harpagon’s cook and coachman. He hates flatterers and is outspoken. Because these traits and his clever sotto voce comments have earned him several beatings, he swears to give them up. He is also a trickster and practical joker. His false messages carried between Harpagon and Cléante renew their mutual antagonism, and his false accusation of Valère as a thief is cause for a beating. There is another side to the man: He has a feeling for the horses being starved by their straw diet. Next to them, he loves his master and regrets the world’s evil report of him.


Valère (vah-LEHR), a rich young Neapolitan shipwrecked sixteen years earlier, now serving incognito as steward to Harpagon. He is sincere and honorable in his love for Élise but uses shrewd and artful means in his endeavors to marry her. His method is to “take men’s hobbies, follow their maxims, flatter their faults, and applaud their doings”; however, he admits that this practice is not sincere.


Élise (ay-LEEZ), Harpagon’s daughter and Valère’s sweetheart after he saves her from drowning. She is formal in speech even in her comments on love; Valère says she is prudent. She fears that her father, the family, and the world will censor them, but she is realistic enough never to say one thing and then do another.


Mariane (mahr-YAHN), Valère’s sister, also shipwrecked, sincerely in love with Cléante. She is obedient to, and loving in her care of, her mother. When Harpagon proposes marriage to her, thus shocking Cléante, she cleverly replies in a manner satisfactory to both aspirants for her hand.


Frosine (froh-ZEEN), a designing woman, a flatterer and a matchmaker who earns her living by her wits. Heaven has given her no income other than intrigue and industry, she says. Despite her cleverness and wit, she is tenderhearted toward lovers and tries to help them. She regrets her efforts on Harpagon’s behalf, especially after he refuses to pay her.

La Flèche

La Flèche (flehsh), Cléante’s valet, whose sense...

(This entire section contains 770 words.)

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of humor is shown in his sotto voce comments and in explanations he makes when he is overheard. He is shrewd in his appraisal of Harpagon.


Anselme (ahn-SEHLM), the father of Valère and Mariane, an honest man who left Naples after the loss of his wife and children. He is faithful to friends, fair to Valère (unknown to him then), and liberal and generous, even to Harpagon, for he agrees to pay for the double wedding of Harpagon’s son and daughter to his daughter and son. He even buys a wedding suit for Harpagon.

Master Simon

Master Simon, an agent and moneylender, shrewd in his estimate of Cléante and his need for money. He flees when Harpagon sees that it is his son who wants to borrow.


Brindavoine (bra[n]-dah-VWAHN) and

La Merluche

La Merluche (mehr-LEWSH), lackeys to Harpagon.

Mistress Claude

Mistress Claude (klohd), Harpagon’s servant.




Critical Essays