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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 413

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MUSIC MASTER Mere praises do not provide a comfortable existence; one needs to add to them something more substantial, and the best praise is cash.

In the beginning of Act One, we learn that Monsieur Jourdain has hired tutors to teach him the art of being a gentleman. The music master and the dancing master engage in conversation about Jourdain behind his back. Both agree that Monsieur Jordan pays well, and they appreciate his largesse. However, the music master contends that adequate remuneration must accompany praise: after all, an artist must be pragmatic. Meanwhile, the dancing master is offended by what he considers the music master's indelicate focus on money. The conversation highlights the frequent conflict between material and non-material considerations in the practice of art.

MUSIC MASTER: All the troubles, all the wars one sees in the world happen only because people have not learned music.

DANCING MASTER: All the misfortunes of mankind, all the dreadful disasters that fill history books, the blunders of politicians and the errors of great commanders, all that comes from not knowing how to dance.

Here, the dancing and music masters argue about the true impact of their individual crafts on society. On the surface, the passionate words appear to constitute opposing arguments between two idealists. In reality, however, the two masters are vying for Monsieur Jourdain's attention and by extension, his financial largesse. In the play, we learn that Monsieur Jourdain has also hired a fencing master and a master of philosophy. Although the dancing master prefers to be discreet about monetary considerations, the reality is that he's as avaricious as his counterpart, the music master. 

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: A curse on the woman! She always speaks this way! If your father was a merchant, so much the worse for him! But, as for mine, those who say that are misinformed. All that I have to say to you is that I want a son-in-law who is a gentleman.

MADAME JOURDAIN: Your daughter needs a husband who is suitable for her, and it’s better for her to have an honest man who is rich and handsome than an ugly gentleman who has no money.

The quotes above reinforce the themes of economic disparity, social striving, and masculine gender relevance. Monsieur Jourdain and his wife disagree about how they should define a gentleman. While Madame Jourdain advises discretion and pragmatism in the choice of one's marriage partner, Monsieur Jourdain favors marriage as a vehicle for social elevation. 

 

 

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