The School for Husbands

by Moliere

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The School for Husbands (French: L'École des maris) is a 1661 play written by famed French playwright and actor Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, most commonly recognized by his stage name Molière. It is one of the author’s first full-length plays, and it had its first stage production and performance in the same year it was written and published, in Paris. The play is written in verse and consists of three acts.

The story focuses on two brothers, Sganarelle and Ariste, and their intended wives—Isabella and Léonor. Sganarelle is a forty-year-old, controlling man who likes to show his dominance, and expects his fiancée to be obedient and to submit to his authority; in contrast, Ariste is a kind, sixty-year-old man, who treats his wife-to-be as an equal and with respect. Thus, Ariste is the one who ends up happily married in the end, while Sganarelle is left wifeless, loveless and miserable, and forced to think on his actions. Because of its humorous narrative, and the numerous situations in which the main antagonist’s personality is mocked and ridiculed, The School for Husbands is considered a character comedy.

The play’s title is an interesting and noteworthy element, as The School for Husbands is the first comedy by Molière in which the word “school” is used, followed by The School for Wives (1662) and The Miser, or, The School of Lies (1668). This was done intentionally, as Molière wanted to present something similar to an “instruction manual for future husbands and married men,” in which he advises them to be to be more like Ariste. Thus, Molière wrote his play not only with the intention to entertain the readers and the audience, but to educate them as well.

From a social aspect, the play has a progressive view on women and their sociopolitical position. Molière wrote the play as a critique of the society in which he lived in, where inequality, marital dependency and even spousal abuse were not so uncommon. In both The School for Husbands and The School for Wives, Molière propagates love, respect, independence, trust and loyalty, and encourages people to be kinder, more respectful and more loving toward their spouses.

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