Advertisement

Staging Age pp 151-161 | Cite as

Molière’s Miser, Old Age, and Potency

Chapter
  • 83 Downloads

Abstract

Molière’s miser is old. In fact, Harpagon is one of the oldest characters in all of the thirty or so plays by the seventeenth-century French dramatist.1 He keeps precise count of his age as well as his money, boasting to the matchmaker Frosine that he is sixty years old (j’en ai soixante bien comptés [I am sixty well-counted years old]). A widower, he plans to remarry at the same time he arranges marriages for his two children still living at home. Within the world of Molière’s theatre, Harpagon is one of the obsessed, authoritarian father figures, along with Orgon in Tartuffe, Monsieur Jourdain in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, and Argan in Le Malade Imaginaire. The character type comes from the senex (old man) of Roman comedy, whose function is to try, unsuccessfully, to block the wedding plans of a child. In addition, Harpagon seems to be a senex amans (amorous old man), in that he is in love with a woman young enough to be his daughter, and the play encourages the audience to view his “passion as contrary to nature and ridiculous in its appearance” (Sweetser, 115, my translation). In Molière’s plays, the ages of the other fathers remain unspecified, and usually they are portrayed as being in their late forties or early fifties, about the age of Molière when he played the parts. This study examines the relationship between Harpagon’s age and issues of power and desire.

Keywords

Stock Character Early Fifty Late Forty Precise Count Oedipal Conflict 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Works Cited

  1. Albanese, Ralph. “Argent et réification dans L’Avare,” L’Esprit Créateur 21.3 (1981): 35–50.Google Scholar
  2. Beauvoir, Simone de. Old Age. Trans. Patrick O’Brian. London: André Deutsch and Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972.Google Scholar
  3. Foucault, Michel. Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la Prison. Paris: Gallimard, 1975.Google Scholar
  4. Frye, Northrop. Anatomy oj Criticism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1957.Google Scholar
  5. Goubert, Pierre. Louis XIV and Twenty Million Frenchmen. Trans. Anne Carter. New York: Pantheon, 1970.Google Scholar
  6. Goux, Jean-Joseph. Symbolic Economies: After Marx and Freud. Trans. Jennifer Curtiss Gage. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1990.Google Scholar
  7. Hilgar, Marie-France. Onze Mises en Scène Parisiennes du Théâtre de Molière, 1989–1994. Paris: Biblio 17, 1997.Google Scholar
  8. Molière. ɶuvres Complètes. Ed. Georges Couton. Paris: Gallimard, 1971.Google Scholar
  9. Roosen, William. “The Demographic History of the Reign.” The Reign of Louis XIV. Ed. Paul Sonnino. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1990. 9–26.Google Scholar
  10. Sweetser, Marie-Odile. ‘“Docere et Delectare’: Richesses de l’Avare.” Convergences. Ed. David Lee Rubin and Mary B. McKinley. Columbus, OH: Ohio State UP, 1989. 110–20.Google Scholar
  11. Woodward, Kathleen. Aging and Its Discontents: Freud and Other Fictions. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1991.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Valerie Barnes Lipscomb and Leni Marshall 2010

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations