full title The Misanthrope or Le Misanthrope
type of work Play
genre Satire; farce
time and place written Early 1660s, Paris
date of first publication 1666
tone In satirizing French aristocracy, Molière strikes a light, but critical tone. With his deft use of irony, he exposes the hypocrisies of Célimène, her suitors, and the protagonist, Alceste—although Molière's judgment of Alceste is less severe than his critique of others. Molière praises reason and compromise while condemning extremism in any form. The Misanthrope is undoubtedly a comedy, but undertones of social dysfunction and true personal anguish are present.
setting (time) Late seventeenth century
setting (place) Célimène's elegant home in Paris
major conflict Alceste's difficulty in reconciling his set of values with his love for the young, carefree, and flirtatious Célimène
rising action Alceste learns of Célimène's deception and seeks her out to find out the whole truth; Alceste loses his court case and risks arrest by staying in Paris
climax Célimène's suitors learn that she has insulted all of them in a letter; Alceste decides to retire from society for good
falling action Alceste rejects Célimène's offer to marry him when she refuses to seek solitude with him; Philinte and Éliante plan to discourage Alceste from leaving society
themes The hypocrisies of social behavior; the acceptance of human flaw; the irrationality of love; the rationality of compromise
motifs The legal system; letters; deal-making
symbols Célimène's house; Oronte's poem; Alceste's "rustic solitude"
foreshadowing Oronte reacts angrily to Alceste's criticism, foreshadowing Oronte's legal action against Alceste; Éliante appreciates Philinte's expression of attraction to her, foreshadowing their eventual relationship; Célimène holds a gossip session with her suitors, foreshadowing her later betrayal of the same suitors with her gossip