“The Miser” is a 1668 five-act comedy of manners by a French playwright Jean-Baptist Moliere.
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Being first staged at the Palais Royal in 1668, this play is popular among contemporary theatre lovers, who are not less indignant at avarice and inhumanity of Harpagon, the miser and the main protagonist of the comedy, than the seventeenth-century spectators must have been.
Present day interpretation of The Miser by Jean-Baptist Moliere directed by Henry Jordan adds new meanings to the initial playwright’s messages but does not reduce the artistic value of this work of the world’s classic.
For the purpose of appealing to the feelings of contemporary spectators, the text of the play has been adapted, considering the needs and interests of the target audience.
Without distorting the integrity of the plot, the director managed to capture the spectators’ attention from the very beginning of the performance.
Only taking into consideration the peculiarities of the perception of the audience, the director managed to establish the rapport between the actors and the spectators for making them feel sympathetic with some characters, depreciating behavior of others.
The genre of the play is defined as a five-act comedy of manners. The audience enjoys Moliere’s sense of humor and laughs at his jokes which do not lose their topicality even though several centuries have passed since the playwright’s death.
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Thinking over some details of the play, a spectator would admit that the reality is a bit distorted and human weaknesses are exaggerated. However, nobody would notice it while watching the performance and laughing at the funniest episodes.
“From a realistic or psychological point of view, Moliere’s portrait of a miser is not entirely satisfactory… Harpagon’s fumbling affection for his cassette is little more than a caricature” (Hubert 211).
This contradiction can be regarded as the intentional author’s device used for creating the comic effect and expressing the author’s negative attitude towards particular characters or events.
The main plot lines are related to the contradiction of true love and avarice, which are made mutually exclusive.
Harpagon, the main protagonist of the play, is a rich moneylender whose children want to escape from his household and marry their lovers instead of rich spouses which their father has chosen for them.
The main action takes place in Paris of the 1660s and is focused on Harpagon’s money box and distorted life views. Giving preference to money instead of real treasures, he looks miserable, planting the box in the garden.
Love and money are often confused in the play, and it is especially noticeable in the dialogue of Harpagon and his daughter’s lover Valere when they speak about different things and cannot understand each other.
Raising the issues of universal values, the play is expected to influence the spectators’ life views. Laughing at Harpagon’s weaknesses, the audience reappraises particular life values and makes appropriate conclusions as to their life style and behavior.
The main characters of the play include Harpagon, his children Cleante and Elise, Marianne, a young and attractive woman whom both the miser and his son want to marry, Anselme whom Harpagon chose as a spouse for his daughter and Anselme’s son Valere who is in love with Elise.
The rest of the characters are represented by servants who have a significant impact on the development of the actions as well, expressing Moliere’s views and delivering his messages to the audience.
“Comic servants can see what their master cannot, and brothers, sisters, and lovers show how life-denying avarice can be” (Moliere, Wood and Coward 150).
The main conflict of the play is connected to the confrontation of true feelings and Harpagon’s false ideals.
When at the end of the play Anselm goes out with his children and Harpagon is left alone with his box of money, a spectator can conclude that everyone gets what he/she wanted and the conflict is resolved.
The climax of the play can be referred to the moment when Anselme arrives and lasts until the moment when he knows that he is the father of Valere and Marianne. Before the secret was disclosed, the pressure in the amateur theatre was at apogee.
Even those who knew the ending of the play were looking and listening intently, being impressed with the actors’ play.
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The design elements such as costumes and decorations added special appeal to the performance, reflecting the atmosphere of the 17-th century setting and revealing the mood of the comedy.
“Far from being a study in monomania it is sometimes taken to be; The Miser needs its lesser parts as much as it needs Harpagon” (Moliere, Wood and Coward 150).
The play of the majority of actors was believable though in some episodes the face expression of the main protagonist did not coincide with the main mood of the scene.
Special credit should be given to those actors who played servants, and this cannot be explained with his interpretation of the plot.
In general, Jordan’s interpretation of The Miser by Jean-Baptist Moliere produces a positive and long-lasting impression on the audience, motivating to reappraise particular life values.
It has proven that the classic works never lose their actuality on the condition that the director manages to adapt the text to the interests of the intended audience.
Hubert, Judd. Moliere and the Comedy of Intellect. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000. Print.
Moliere, Jean-Baptiste, John Woods, and David Coward. The Miser and Other Plays: A New Selection. New York: Penguin, 2000. Print.