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The Miser

By: Moliere

The Miser is a five-act comedy in prose by the French playwright Molière. It was first performed on September 9, 1668, in the theatre of the Palais-Royal in Paris.

Act I

La Fleche is waiting for his master in Harpagon's house. Valere explains to the audience how he has assumed the role of a servant to be closer to Elise. They met when he rescued her from drowning and they fell in love. Harpagon enters, angry with La Fleche for hanging around. He suspects him of stealing something from him. La Fleche is angry at being suspected and points out that Harpagon is so careful with his money that it would be impossible to steal it. Harpagon confides in the audience expressing anxiety about the large sum of money he has buried in the garden. As Cleante and Elise enter he is again fearful that they might have heard what he is saying about the hidden money. When they approach Harpagon thinks that they are plotting to steal from him. They are actually trying to work out how to broach the subject of marriage with him since they have both found people they want to marry. Harpagon also wants to discuss marriage with them and he mentions a young girl called Mariane. Harpagon wants to know what Cleante thinks of her. Cleante is shocked and rushes off the stage. Meanwhile, Harpagon says that Elise has to marry Seigneur Anselme. Harpagon asks Valere for his opinion on the matter. Valere is trying to suck up and agrees with Harpagon's idea. Valere reassures Elise that somehow they will sort things out later.

Act II

Cleante expresses his frustration that he and his father are rivals in love with the same woman but plans to keep his own sentiments secret while he tries to secure funds to help Mariane and her mother. Cleante has dispatched La Fleche to meet with a money-lender. Maitre Simon has acted as an intermediary between La Fleche and the money-lender until the deal is done so as to protect his identity. La Fleche explains that there are some conditions attached to the loan. Cleante is ready to accept them whatever they are, so long as he can get money to give to his beloved. When La Fleche refers to them as 'several small conditions' it is rather an understatement. Cleante is resentful but feels trapped by his desire for the money. Meanwhile, Maitre Simon enters with Harpagon discussing a young man who wants to borrow from Harpagon. Harpagon is displeased that Cleante is trying to borrow money from someone else. Cleante, dismissed by his father, expresses disgust and leaves.


The scene begins with Harpagon calling his household together to issue instructions in preparation for Mariane's arrival for dinner. When it is Master Jacques's turn, he wants to know whether he is being consulted as coachman or cook. Master Jacques insists that he can only produce excellent food if given money. Harpagon wants his carriage cleaning and horses getting ready. Mariane enters. She is shocked at how unattractive Harpagon is when they first meet and then even more shocked to be introduced to Harpagon's son, who is no other than the man with whom she is herself in love. Cleante begins complimenting her which makes Harpagon very agitated because to him, Cleante's words sound insulting and offensive. Cleante pays her compliments on his father's behalf and tells her of an expensive array of delicacies and drinks he has arranged. He then insists they takes as a present, the diamond ring on his father's hand. Harpagon becomes angry with Cleante for wasting his money, but hides his anger from Mariane. Elise arrives, is introduced to Mariane, announcing that someone has brought Harpagon some money. Harpagon quickly exits while Cleante and Elise escort Mariane on a tour of the garden.

Act IV

Harpagon sees Cleante kissing Mariane's hand and suspects that something is happening between them. Harpagon wants Cleante to tell him his feelings about Mariane. Cleante expresses a lack of interest in her. Harpagon tricks Cleante into confessing his true feelings by suggesting he is having second thoughts about taking her as his wife, and would have given her to Cleante if he thought that Cleante had any feelings for her. Through further questioning, he establishes that Cleante does feel for her and has visited her a few times. Harpagon is angered when Cleante refuses to stop loving Mariane. Master Jacques is called to judge which of them is right and wrong. On stage, he moves between Cleante and Harpagon, listening to their complaints about each other and taking back to each, the version of the response by the other party that he knows each wants to hear. As Master Jacques leaves, he brings the two men together physically on stage to show their new found accord and then leaves them to a new argument. As they make up, they promise respect and tolerance to one another and say thank you to one another for allowing the other to marry Mariane. It then becomes clear as to what has happened, and the conversation returns to the former state of anger. Harpagon tells Cleante to leave and threatens to disinherit him. La Fleche enters excitedly. He has managed to steal Harpagon's money box.

Act V

In this scene Seigneur Anselme enters. He does not want to force Elise into an unhappy marriage. Master Jacques accuses Valere of stealing Harpagon's gold. When Valere comes in he believes the crime to which Harpagon desires him to confess is the crime of stealing the love of his daughter. When Valere says that he won't deny it and he has no regrets, he refers to loving Elise but Harpagon thinks he's admitting the theft of the money. Harpagon is puzzled. He is furious with Elise for falling for Valere, especially since he believes him to be a thief. Elise tries to justify this love as Valere saved her life, but Harpagon is not interested. Valere reveals that he is the son of a man of high rank, Dom Thomas d'Alburcy from Naples. Anselme says that this cannot be true as the whole family died in a shipwreck. Valere reveals that when the ship went down, he was saved and he recently discovered his father had also survived. On his search for his father he had met, saved, and fallen for Elise and had decided the best way to be near her was to assume the role of servant. Mariane claims him as her long-lost brother. She also survived the wreck with her mother and eventually came to France. Anselme then reveals he is their father. Harpagon's first reaction is to hold Anselme responsible for the theft of his money. He shows no other emotion than greed. Harpagon is wary of letting them marry because of the cost of a wedding. However, Anselme generously offers to pay for everything. Harpagon is more bothered to find out who took his money. Cleante returns to Harpagon and negotiates with him for the right to marry Mariane in return for getting his money back.

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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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