The Misanthrope

by: Molière

Symbols

Main ideas Symbols

Célimène's House

The openness of Célimène's house parallels her own personal openness to the advances of her suitors. Men are allowed to come and go freely, and Célimène does not show any discretion as to who comes and who goes. Beyond its role as a symbol of Célimène's flirtatiousness, the house serves as a conduit for the action of the play. The fluidity of entrances and exits moves the play along and provides the opportunity for interruptions and discoveries.

Oronte's Poem

Oronte's poem is one of the more satirical elements of the play. The poem acts as a testament to the pretentiousness of French aristocracy, implying the false confidence of aristocrats like Oronte. Oronte's poem is comically bad, calling into question the intelligence and ability of the upper class. Perhaps Molière is demonstrating the existence of the upper class by inheritance alone and not by merit.

Alceste's "Rustic Solitude"

The "solitude" that Alceste seeks—a physical separation from society—represents his attitudinal and moral separation from the other characters. This solitude might also represent Alceste's delusion. Indeed, it would be difficult for him to totally retire from others' company. Alceste deceives himself in thinking that such a retirement is a feasible alternative, an alternative he creates because he cannot bear the reality of having to find a way to exist with others. Philinte understands this; as the play draws to a close, he follows Alceste in an attempt to convince him not to leave. While Alceste insists on the honesty of others, he deceives himself.