The use of satire in The Misanthrope
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts, such as plays. In satire; vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, with the intent of shaming individuals and society itself. Moliere, an actor-manager-director-playwright all in one, knows and loves his stage as few have done, and writes with the use of literary satire. This research paper will express Moliere’s use of satire in his most profoundly written play, The Misanthrope. In a time in which power is one of the rarest virtues, Moliere draws on the widest imaginable range, from the subtlest irony to the broadest slapstick, in order to reach the accomplishments of keeping an audience amused for five whole acts. Moliere usually works under extraordinary pressures, even during personally difficult times. Often, he will interpret his own thoughts and opinions into his works’ by using different varieties of satire. The Misanthrope was written during a personal crisis and is certainly coloured by Moliere’s own domestic difficulties. There is no doubt that personal suffering helped to give Moliere the astonishing insight into the human heart which he displays in The Misanthrope and which contributes to its richness and maturity. (Turnell) Turnell is noting that Moliere uses his own experiences to resemble the acts that are shown throughout this play. His voice is heard not only through the words the actors’ speak, but by the emotion you can feel. Moliere represents his own personal views and feelings on society by using ridicule and satire throughout this tragic comedy. Examine The Misanthrope carefully and ask yourself whether a poet has ever represented his inner spirit more completely or more admirably. We can well call the content and treatment of this play “tragic.” Such an impression at least it has always left with us, because that mood is brought before our minds eye which often in itself brings us to despair, and seems as if it would make the world unbearable. Here is represented the type of man who despite great cultivation has yet remained natural, and who with himself, as well as others, would like only too well to express himself with complete truth and sincerity. But we see him in conflict with the social world, where one cannot mine without dissimulation and shallowness. (Von 212)
Goethe Von states that Moliere does try to express himself by being truthful and sincere, but he appears to have conflict in doing so. Moliere seems to want to express his emotion and opinion in honest ways, but often becomes too honest. “Moliere’s play asks a question that is no easier to answer today than it was then: When one is asked to be completely honest, is it better to be painfully and perhaps hurtfully truthful, or should one prevaricate a little to save the feelings of a friend” (Kellerman 48). In Moliere’s attempt to being honest, he comes off more hurtful. By doing so, he uses ridicule and satire in his play to demonstrate his views on society. Moliere also uses different genres of language and literature throughout his many works’. “In Le Misanthrope, Moliere looks into the subject of language, exploring how it may be used or abused as a means to communicate or conceal reality, to do battle in the realm of human interaction or to make social intercourse endurable” (Regosin 265-271). Moliere uses language and communication from one character to another in a form of “battle” in order to get his personal view of society played out on the stage (Regosin 265-271). Satire is used by Moliere as the characters’ in The Misanthrope are interrogating, humiliating, and ridiculing one another with different forms of language and also different types of emotion. “A number of recent critics have sensed in Le Misanthrope a violence of emotion in the relationship among the characters akin to that of real combat and have described the action by...
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