The School for Husbands

by Moliere

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Moliere's The School for Husbands is a play about two brothers who become guardians of a deceased friend's daughters. The play features a cast of nine actors.

Ariste is the older brother and caretaker of Léonor. He is affectionate and kind. He raises Léonor with a sense a freedom, indulges her whims, and allows her to go to parties. By raising her with love and giving her the freedom to marry whomever she chooses, she ends up returning his love. He disagrees with his brother's strictness.

Sganarelle is a foil to his brother. He raises his ward, Isabelle, in the opposite way. He disagrees with his brother's leniency. Sganarelle is strict and controlling. He does not care about her desires and keeps her at home like a prisoner. This is his downfall, as Isabelle falls in love with another and outwits her severe guardian. He ends up swearing off women forever. (It is said that this part was originally played by Moliere himself.)

Isabelle is the ward of Sganarelle. She is smart and manipulative, as she is able to trick her guardian. She convinces him that her love letters are really spurning Valere. She disguises herself as her sister in order to marry Valere, whom she loves.

Léonor is Isabelle's sister and the ward of Ariste. Unlike her sister, she is raised with affection and freedom, and therefore falls in love with Ariste and returns from the ball declaring she will marry him.

Valere is Sganarelle's young neighbor. He and Isabelle fall in love and wish to marry. He is smart, and realizes Isabelle is tricking Sganarelle. He plays into this, knowing how to flatter Sganarelle and pretending to be sad, despite his knowledge that Isabelle secretly loves him. He marries Isabelle at the end of the play.

The cast is rounded out with Ergaste, a servant to Valere; Lisette, Isabella's maid; a magistrate, who marries Isabelle and Valere; and a notary.

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