Person and Persona in the raisonneurs of Molière’s Ecoles

  • Robert McBride


The long-standing debate about the function and meaning of the role of the raisonneur in Molière’s theatre is still as alive and as unresolved today as it ever was. Since F. Brunetière first used the word to identify and isolate a particular kind of recurrent character in the plays, the raisonneur has made a considerable contribution to the critical literature surrounding Molière.1 By this term Brunetiére designated Cléante (Le Tartuffe), Philinte (Le Misanthrope), Ariste (L’Ecole des Maris), Chrysalde (L’Ecole des Femmes), and Béralde (Le Malade Imaginaire). These raisonneurs had for Brunetière the function of articulating at least partially Molière’s own thought on the topics treated in the plays, and later they came to represent for E. Faguet the ideas of the author.2 It was G. Michaut who developed these views of the raisonneur in more systematic form by the elaboration of the philosophy of the juste-milieu which Molière was thought to express through them in each play.3 R. Fernandez initiated the reaction to this line of thought by questioning the explicitly didactic relationship which Michaut established between Molière and his raisonneurs. Thus Molière became not just a thinker or philosopher but a comic dramatist as well, who was not to be identified solely with one of his characters but who animated all of them in and through a poetic vision of incompatibility.4


Comic Actor Comic Stage Comic Character Comic Situation Early Play 
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  1. 2.
    E. Faguet, En lisant Molière (Paris, 1914), pp. 95–6.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    G. Michaut, Les luttes de Molière (Paris, 1925), pp. 108, 227.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    R. Fernandez, La vie de Molière (Paris, 1929), pp. 108–9.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    W. G. Moore, Molière, A New Criticism (Oxford, 1949 ), p. 74;Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    R. Bray, Molière homme de théâtre (Paris, 1954), p. 32.Google Scholar
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    See J. D. Hubert, Molière and the Comedy of Intellect (Berkeley, 1962 ), pp. 48–9;Google Scholar
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    F. L. Lawrence, ‘The “Raisonneur” in Molière’, EsC, VI (1966), pp. 156–66.Google Scholar
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    R. W. Herzel, ‘The Function of the Raisonneur in Molière’s Comedy’, MLN, 90 (1975), pp. 564–75;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 8.
    H. C. Knutson also sees ambiguity in the character, who uses rhetoric to impress the audience and imaginaire rather than to put forward a point of view; Molière: An Archetypal Approach (Toronto and Buffalo, 1976 ), p. 177.Google Scholar
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    R. Fargher, ‘Molière and his reasoners’, Studies in French Literature Presented to H. W. Lawton (Manchester, 1968 ), pp. 105–20;Google Scholar
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    A. Eustis, Molière as Ironic Contemplator (The Hague, 1973), pp. 182–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    On the evolution of the character, see R. McBride, The Sceptical Vision of Molière, a Study in Paradox (London, 1977).Google Scholar
  15. 19.
    See A. Adam, Histoire de la littérature française au XVIIe siècle (Paris, 1962), III, p. 381.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert McBride 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert McBride
    • 1
  1. 1.The Queen’s University of BelfastUK

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