Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Jourdain mansion

Jourdain mansion (zhohr-DAHN). Parisian home of Monsieur Jourdain, a rich tradesman. It is instructive to study the ingenuity with which France’s greatest comic genius uses a single bare setting to present a complicated story that even includes five interludes performed by musicians, singers, and dancers. Foolishly enamored with the beautiful Marchioness Dorimène, Jourdain tries desperately to become a gentleman in the shortest possible time and spares no expense to attain his goal. His impulsive haste makes it possible for Molière to adhere to the Aristotelian unity-of-action dictum by confining all the events, including the subplot of the love affair between Cléonte and Lucile Jourdain, within a time frame of only a few hours. The bourgeois gentleman’s foolishly impractical ambitions provide an excuse for the entrance of a variety of visitors in appropriate costumes, escalating to the hilarious climactic Fourth Interlude, in which the mufti, four dervishes, six Turkish dancers, six Turkish musicians, and other instrumentalists disguised as Turks perform a ceremony that transforms Jourdain into a Mamamouchi.

This ridiculous but likable tradesman’s home is crucial to the drama because it is the only possible place in which such an extravagant assortment of characters could appear and such a strange—but logically ordered—progression of scenes could occur. Jourdain’s house in Paris provides the mandatory Aristotelian unity of place because it is a magnet for all the characters who want to take advantage of the money that is pouring out of this would-be gentleman’s pockets during the brief period of infatuation preceding his inevitable disillusionment.