Moliere's Uses of Character, Dialogue, and Action in L'Avare



"For Moliere, a character is a person who is powerfully unified by the domination of a passion or vice that destroys or subdues all other likes and dislikes of his soul, and this quality becomes the motivating force of all his thought and action.  Love alone can sometimes resist this tyranny, and the comic springs forth from this resistance, from its partial defeat or its unforeseen compromises"
-- Gustave Lanson, "Moliere and Farce"

What passions/vices would you attach to the following?:

  • Harpagon
  • Cleante & Elise
  • Valere & Mariane
  • Frosine
  • Jacques


moliere acting
  • Moliere uses brevity of dialogue to impart meaning and reverse meaning. (186-187, 194)
  • His dialogue is both realistic and farcical. (188-189)
  • He plays off dual possibilities of meaning. (221-223)
  • He often breaks up a character's verbosity with an exchange of speeches. (181-183)
  • Other times he deliberately juxtaposes brief and expansive speeches. (179-180, 197-200)
  • He purposely use interruptions for comic effect. (202)
  • Social speech is at the heart of his notion of the social comedy
  • Moliere experimented at various points in his career with both poetry and prose.  Prose was considered more fitting for a "low" subject, but in L'Avare Moliere purposely uses it with a "high" subject, that of avarice and middle-class life.


Moliere's L'Avare (The Miser) is a carefully mixture of psychological realism and farce. 

The staging of L'Avare Example

  1. What elements do you consider realistic?  What elements are farcical?
  2. How might you shape the scenic setting to give a sense of both?
  3. How would you use props to show both the realistic and farcical?
  4. How should the major characters behave in each act? Consider the following: Cleante's consideration of taking a loan (191ff.); Harpagon's discovery of the theft of his money box (218); Harpagon, Jacques, and the Officer (219ff.); Valere, Mariane, and Anselm's revelation of their true identities (225-227).