The Would-Be Gentleman Characters


Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Monsieur Jourdain

Monsieur Jourdain (zhohr-DAHN), a rich, forty-year-old tradesman. Ashamed of and denying his father’s occupation, he tries to pass as a gentleman through elaborate spending of his wealth. He has a “sweet income and visions of nobility and grandeur,” says his music master, “though he is an ignorant cit.” In addition to his music master, he has also in attendance a dancing master, a fencing master, and a philosophy master, and through their instructions he hopes to ape persons of quality. He wants concerts every week but would add a marine trumpet to the chamber music strings. He stages elaborate serenades and fireworks to impress a marchioness. He sends her his diamond ring through a count who uses the ring and money borrowed from Jourdain to court the marchioness for himself. He is vain and childish about his fine clothes, even though he is uncomfortable in them, and he has two lackeys in attendance whom he keeps busy putting on and taking off his gown so that he can show off his new breeches and vest underneath. He is completely befuddled by the philosophy master’s explanation of—and rejects instruction in—logic (he wants something prettier), morality (he wants passion whenever he wants it), and Latin, but he is entranced to learn of the placing of tongue and lips in the pronunciation of vowels and consonants and is delighted to hear that he has been speaking prose all his life. After he has heard some speech supposed to be Turkish, he apes the flowery Oriental manner in his own discourse, to the amusement of all. Because his wife realizes how ridiculous he is, he calls her names and damns her impertinence.

Madame Jourdain

Madame Jourdain, his wife, a woman of rare good sense who knows that her husband is making a fool of himself and scolds him accordingly. She dislikes his parties and his guests. Her ideas concerning her daughter’s marriage to Cleonte are sensible. She does not want her son-in-law to be able to reproach his wife for her parents or her grandchildren to be ashamed to call her grandmother. By taking literally the statements of the count and by replying to them, she shows a keen sense of humor. She holds the marchioness in scorn and scolds her for making a fool of Jourdain. She makes her maid her...

(The entire section is 950 words.)