Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 581
The School for Wives is a comedic Moliere play that follows the antics of Arnolphe, a wealthy and paranoid man whose greatest desire and fear is to have a wife. Arnolphe is sure that if he marries, his wife will cheat on him. He thinks that all wives cheat, and the only way to prevent it is to marry an innocent and uneducated girl who can be "trained" to submit to her husband entirely.
When talking of marriage and the nature of wives, Arnolphe insists that he will not be humiliated like some of the other husbands he knows. He tells his friend Chrysalde:
I know all the cunning tricks and subtle devices which women use to deceive us, and how one is fooled by their dexterity, and I have taken precautions against this mischance. She whom I am marrying possesses all the innocence which may protect my forehead from evil influence.
Chrysalde does not believe that marrying an innocent, uneducated girl will prevent adulterous actions. He tells Arnolphe:
But how can you expect, after all, that a mere simpleton can ever know what it is to be virtuous? Besides, to my mind, it must be very wearisome for a man to have a stupid creature perpetually with him. Do you think you act rightly, and that, by reliance on your plan, a man's brow is saved from danger? A woman of sense may fail in her duty; but she must at least do so knowingly; a stupid woman may at any time fail in hers, without desiring or thinking of it.
Arnolphe does not listen and proceeds with a plan to train and marry his young ward, Agnes, who grew up in a convent. Agnes wishes to marry a young man named Horace, but Arnolphe misunderstands her desire and believes she wants to marry him. He says:
I cannot do better than make her my wife. I shall be able to mould her as I please; she is like a bit of wax in my hands, and I can give her what shape I like. She was near being wiled away from me in my absence through her excess of simplicity; but, to say the truth, it is better that a wife should err on that side....
(The entire section contains 581 words.)
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