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Although Alceste drives the action of The Misanthrope, the world of the play revolves around Célimène. She is young, energetic, and naughty enough to pique everyone's interest. Just as Alceste is set apart by his sour attitude, Célimène stands out by her charm and wit. Nearly every man of the court has his eye on her. She has learned to operate within her society almost perfectly: she flirts and gossips enough to remain the center of attention, with a knack for saying the right things to the right people. Célimène and Alceste are complete opposites, and their relationship—especially his attraction to her—is one of the play's great ironies. The fact that she cares for him indicates her susceptibility to emotion.
In the play's final scenes, Célimène journeys too far in the direction of carelessness. Her gossip comes back to haunt her when several of her suitors discover a letter she has written that pokes fun at all of their faults. Eventually, all the suitors, except for Alceste, desert her. Though confident, Célimène is unsure of what she wants. She never demonstrates any intense desires or frustrations, which may explain her lack of a strong value system. Célimène is sharp-witted in attacking others, but her ability to apply a keen eye to her own feelings and intentions is dubious. She shows a proclivity to want others to make decisions for her: after Oronte and Alceste ask her to choose between them, she turns to Éliante to decide on her behalf. In short, for all of her charm, Célimène lacks maturity. Molière suggests that this maturity will be difficult to develop if Célimène does not start taking more responsibility for her words and deeds.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Misanthrope!