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The Imaginary Invalid

By: Moliere

The Imaginary Invalid is a three-act comédie-ballet by the French playwright Molière. It was first performed in 1673 and was the last work he wrote. In an ironic twist of fate, Molière collapsed during his fourth performance as Argan on 17 February and died soon after.

The play opens with Argan, a severe hypochondriac, going through the bill from his apothecary (the pharmacist) item by item. He pays out only about half of what is on the bill. That done, he calls for his maid, Toinette. When she fails to appear immediately he shouts and calls her names until she arrives. Toinette is not interested in putting up with Argan's temper, so she mocks his rage. Eventually he gives up trying to scold her and asks her to call in his daughter, Angelique. Angelique is ready to talk to him, but Argan must leave the room for a short while (presumably the result of an "injection" [i.e., enema] he's just had).


While he is out, Angelique takes the opportunity to talk to Toinette. We quickly find out that she has been talking almost non-stop about the qualities of a young man named Cléante since she met him at a play six days ago. She expects Cléante to ask her father if he can marry her, within a few days.


Argan returns and expects to surprise his daughter when he tells her that someone has asked to marry her. He is shocked to find that she not only knows about it, but could not be happier. Unfortunately, Angelique thinks he's been talking about Cléante, while her father has promised his daughter to Thomas Diaforious, the son of a respected Paris doctor who is soon to be made a doctor himself.


Toinette asks him why, with all his money, Argan would want a doctor for a son-in-law. He replies that since he is always ill, he thought it would be a good idea to have a doctor in the family. Then he could have Thomas Diaforious' services as doctor all the time, not to mention the services of his father and his uncle for free. Toinette will not take his hypochondria seriously and tells him that she knows Angelique will never agree to that marriage. More than that, Toinette downright forbids the union to happen. This is amazing gall for a servant, and Argan becomes so incensed that he chases Toinette around the room threatening to kill her. Finally he stops, exhausted, and claims he is dying.


Hearing the disturbance, Argan's second wife Béline runs in. She soothes Argan, talking to him as one would to a child throwing a temper tantrum. Once his new wife has calmed him, Argan asks if she has contacted a notary; he intends to change his will to include (and heavily favour) Béline. She dramatically begs him not to think of such things, but just happens to have the notary to hand. Béline repeatedly claims that she doesn't care about the money, but double-checks the amounts all the same. The notary warns Argan that he can't leave his wife anything, but instructs him on several devious and underhanded methods whereby Béline could get all the money.


Meanwhile, outside the study, Toinette and Angelique have a chance to talk in private. Toinette warns Angelique that her stepmother is plotting to get her inheritance, but Angelique does not care, so long as she is allowed to marry as she wishes. She begs Toinette to help her foil her stepmother and father's plans, a proposition to which Toinette is only too delighted to agree. She also endeavors to find a way to tell Cléante of the intended marriage.

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Jean-Baptiste Poquelin known by his stage name Molière was a French playwright, actor, and poet, widely regarded as one of the greatest writers in the French language and world literature. His...

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