Short summary - The Misanthrope, or the Cantankerous Lover
Molière - Jean-Baptiste Poquelin
With his disposition, convictions and actions, Alcest never ceased to amaze people close to him, and now he even refused to consider his old friend Filint a friend - because he was too cordially talking with a man whose name he could only remember with great difficulty. From the point of view of Alcest, his former friend thereby demonstrated a low hypocrisy, incompatible with true spiritual dignity. In response to Filint's objection that, they say, living in society, a person is not free from the decencies required by the morals and custom, Alcestus decisively denounced the godless vileness of secular lies and pretense. No, Alcestus insisted, always and under any circumstances one should tell people the truth in person, never stopping to flattery.
Alcest not only declared his loyalty to his convictions, but also proved in practice. So he, for example, flatly refused to coax the judge, on whom the outcome of an important litigation depended on him, and Alcestus came to the house of his beloved Selimene, where Filint found him, with impartial speeches inspired by love, to cleanse her soul from the scum of sin. - frivolity, coquetry, and the habit of speaking evil, inherent in the spirit of the times; and let such speeches be unpleasant for Selimene ... The
conversation of the friends was interrupted by a young man named Orontes. He, too, like Alcest, had tender feelings for the charming coquette and now wanted to present a new sonnet dedicated to her to the court of Alcest and Filint. After listening to the work, Filint rewarded it with graceful, non-binding praise, which he unusually pleased the writer. Alcestus spoke sincerely, that is, he smashed the fruit of Orontes' poetic inspiration to smithereens, and with his sincerity, as expected, made himself a mortal enemy.
Selimena was not used to the fact that admirers - and she had a lot of them - sought a date only to grumble and swear. And just so Alcestus behaved. He most hotly denounced Selimene's frivolity, the fact that in one way or another she bestows the favor of all the gentlemen winding around her. The girl objected that she could not stop attracting fans - she already does nothing for this, everything happens by itself. On the other hand, not to drive them all out of the door, especially since it is pleasant to accept signs of attention, and sometimes - when they come from people with weight and influence - and useful. Only Alcest, Selimene said, is truly loved by her, and for him it is much better that she is equally friendly with everyone else, and does not single out one of them from among them and does not give grounds for jealousy. But even such an argument did not convince Alcest of the advantages of innocent frivolity.
When Selimene was informed about two visitors - the court dandies, the Marquis Acasta and the Marquis Clitandre, Alcestus felt disgusted and he left; or rather, having overcome himself, he remained. Selimene's conversation with the marquises developed exactly as Alcestus expected - the hostess and guests tastefully washed the bones of secular acquaintances, and in each they found something worthy of ridicule: one is stupid, the other is boastful and vain, with the third no one would support acquaintances, if not the rare talents of his cook.
Selimene's sharp tongue deserved the stormy praise of the marquis, and this overflowed the cup of Alcestus, who had not opened his mouth until that time.He wholeheartedly branded both the slander of his interlocutors and harmful flattery, with the help of which the fans indulged the girl's weaknesses.
Alcestus decided not to leave Selimene alone with Acastus and Clitandre, but the gendarme prevented him from fulfilling this intention, who appeared with an order to immediately take Alcesta to the office. Filint persuaded him to obey - he believed that the whole thing was in a quarrel between Alceste and Orontes over the sonnet. Probably, the gendarme office has conceived to reconcile them.
The brilliant court gentlemen Akast and Klitandr are accustomed to easy successes in matters of the heart. Among the admirers of Selimene, they decidedly did not find anyone who could make them at least some kind of competition, and therefore they entered into an agreement between themselves: which of the two would provide more weighty proof of the beauty's favor, that will remain the battlefield; the other will not interfere with him.
Meanwhile, Arsinoe, who was considered, in principle, to be her friend, showed up on a visit to Selimene. Selimene was convinced that Arsinoe preached modesty and virtue only against her will - insofar as her own pitiful charms could not move anyone to violate the boundaries of these very modesty and virtue. However, she met Selimene as a guest quite kindly.
Arsinoe did not have time to enter, when, referring to the fact that her duty of friendship tells her to talk about it, she started talking about the rumor surrounding the name of Selimene. She herself, well, of course, for a second did not believe idle speculation, but nevertheless strongly advised Selimene to change the habits that gave such grounds. In response, Selimena - since her friends must certainly speak any truth in her face - told Arsinoe that they were chatting about herself: devout in church, Arsinoe beats the servants and does not pay them money; seeks to hang nudity on canvas, but strives, if the opportunity presented itself, to beckon with his own. And Selimene's advice for Arsinoe was ready: to look after yourself first, and only then for your neighbors. Word for word, the dispute between the friends had almost turned into a squabble, when, just as opportunely, Alcest returned.
Selimene withdrew, leaving Alcesta alone with Arsinoe, who had long been secretly not indifferent to him. Wishing to be pleasant to her interlocutor, Arsinoe started talking about how easily Alcestus disposes of people; using this happy gift, she believed, he could succeed at court. Extremely dissatisfied, Alcestus replied that a court career is good for anyone, but not for him - a man with a rebellious soul, brave and disgusted with hypocrisy and pretense.
Arsinoe hastily changed the subject and began to denigrate Selimene in the eyes of Alcesta, allegedly cheating on him, but he did not want to believe the unfounded accusations. Then Arsinoe promised that Alcestus would soon receive a true proof of the treachery of his beloved.
In what Arsinoe was really right, it is that Alcest, despite his oddities, had the gift of winning people over to him. So, a deep spiritual inclination towards him was nourished by the cousin of Selimene, Eliant, who in Alceste was bribed by a rare in others straightforwardness and noble heroism. She even confessed to Filint that she would gladly become the wife of Alcest, if he were not passionately in love with another.
Filint, meanwhile, was sincerely perplexed how his friend could have inflamed with feelings for the quick-tail Selimene and not prefer her a model of all virtues - Eliante. The union of Alcesta with Eliante would have pleased Filint, but if Alcest had nevertheless been married to Selimene, he himself would have offered Eliante his heart and hand with great pleasure.
The declaration of love did not allow Filint to complete Alcest, who burst into the room, all flaming with anger and indignation. He had just got his hands on a letter from Selimene, fully exposing her infidelity and cunning. The letter was addressed, according to the person who handed it over to Alcest, to the rhymer Orontes, with whom he barely had time to reconcile through the mediation of the authorities. Alcestus decided to break with Selimene forever, and in addition, to take revenge on her in a very unexpected way - to marry Eliante. Let the insidious see what happiness she has deprived herself of!
Eliante advised Alcesta to try to make peace with his beloved, but he, seeing Selimene, rained down on her a hail of bitter reproaches and offensive accusations. Selimena did not consider the letter reprehensible, since, according to her, the addressee was a woman, but when the girl was tired of assuring Alcesta of her love and hearing only rudeness in response, she announced that, if he so pleased, she really wrote to Orontes, charmed her with his countless virtues.
The stormy explanation was ended by the appearance of Alceste's terrified servant, Dubois. Every now and then, straining from excitement, Dubois said that the judge - the one whom his master did not want to coax, relying on the incorruptibility of justice - made an extremely unfavorable decision on the Alcesta litigation, and therefore now both of them, in order to avoid major troubles, need to you can leave the city as soon as possible.
No matter how Filint persuaded him, Alcestus flatly refused to file a complaint and challenge the deliberately unfair sentence, which, in his opinion, only once again confirmed that dishonor, lies and debauchery reign supreme in society. He will retire from this society, and for his deception the money taken away will receive the undeniable right at all corners to shout about the evil lie that reigns on earth.
Now Alcesta had only one thing to do: wait for Selimen to inform about the imminent change in his fate; if the girl really loves him, she will agree to share her with him, but if not, the road is like a tablecloth.
But Alcestus was not the only one who demanded a final decision from Selimene - Orontes pestered her with the same. In her heart, she had already made a choice, but she hated public confessions, usually fraught with loud resentments. The situation of the girl was further aggravated by Akast and Clitandre, who also wanted to get some clarification from her. They had in their hands a letter from Selimena to Arsinoe - a letter, as before Alcesta, was supplied to the marquis by the jealous addressee herself - containing witty and very evil portraits of the seekers of her heart.
After reading this letter aloud, a noisy scene followed, after which Akast, Clitander, Orontes and Arsinoe, offended and wounded, hurriedly bowed. The remaining Alcestus for the last time turned all his eloquence to Selimene, urging him to go with him somewhere in the wilderness, away from the vices of the world. But such selflessness was beyond the strength of a young creature spoiled by universal worship - loneliness is so terrible at twenty.
Having wished Filint and Eliante great happiness and love, Alcestus said goodbye to them, for he now had to go to look for a corner of the world where nothing would prevent a person from being always completely honest.