Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Parisian public square

*Parisian public square. The play’s setting—an open square in a city full of coquettes and seducers—is integral to the comedy, as well as essential to adherence to the Aristotelian unity of place, which was essential in seventeenth century French drama. Arnolphe’s silly vanity induces him to change his name to “Monsieur de la Souche,” which allows the newly arrived young Horace to believe that Agnes is the ward of a different man and makes it necessary for Molière to stage his frequent encounters with Arnolphe outdoors. The information obtained from Horace by the increasingly horrified Arnolphe motivates the middle-aged man to decide to marry his ward immediately, thus enabling Molière to adhere to another Aristotelian unity—that of time. Most of the laughter the play evokes is a function of Horace’s and Arnolphe’s talking at cross purposes. Horace is a newcomer, a friendly, trusting young man who does not realize he is confiding in the Monsieur de la Souche, who is the strict and jealous guardian of the sweet, innocent, and desirable Agnes, a seventeen-year-old ingénue fresh from the convent.