Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


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...

(The entire section is 770 words.)