Short summary - The Miser, or the School for Lies - Molière - Jean-Baptiste Poquelin

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Miser, or the School for Lies
Molière - Jean-Baptiste Poquelin

Eliza, the daughter of Harpagon, and the young man Valera fell in love for a long time, and this happened under very romantic circumstances - Valera saved the girl from the stormy sea waves when the ship on which they both sailed was wrecked. Valera's feeling was so strong that he settled in Paris and became a butler to Eliza's father. Young people dreamed of getting married, but an almost insurmountable obstacle stood on the way to realizing their dream - the incredible stinginess of Eliza's father, who would hardly have agreed to give his daughter for Valera, who did not have a penny in his heart. Valera, however, did not lose heart and did everything to win the favor of Harpagon, although for this he had to break the comedy day after day, indulging the weaknesses and unpleasant quirks of the miser.
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Eliza's brother, Cleanthe, was worried about the same problem as her: he was madly in love with a girl named Mariana who had recently settled in the neighborhood, but since she was poor, Cleanthe feared that Harpagon would never let him take Mariana. as a wife.
Money was the most important thing in life for Harpagon, and his boundless avarice was also combined with an equally boundless suspicion - he suspected everyone in the world, from servants to his own children, of trying to rob him, deprive him of treasures dear to his heart. On the day when the events we are describing unfolded, Harpagon was more suspicious than ever: still, because the day before he was repaid a debt of ten thousand crowns. Not trusting the chests, he put all this money in a box, which he later buried in the garden, and now he trembled, as if someone would not find out about his treasure.
Gathering courage, Eliza and Cleant nevertheless started a conversation with their father about marriage, and he, to their surprise, readily supported him; moreover, Harpagon began to praise Mariana: she is good to everyone, except that she is a dowry, but that's nothing ... In short, he decided to marry her. These words completely stunned the brother and sister. Cleant felt so ill at ease.
But that was not all: Eliza Garpagon set out to marry the sedate, prudent and wealthy Mr. Anselm; he was at most fifty years old, and besides, he agreed to marry Eliza - just think! - absolutely no dowry. Eliza turned out to be stronger than her brother and decisively declared to her father that she would rather lay hands on herself than marry the old man.
Cleanthe constantly needed money - what his avaricious father gave him was not enough even for a decent dress - and one day he decided to resort to the services of a money lender. The broker Simon found a lender for him, whose name was kept secret. The latter, however, lent money not at the accepted five percent, but at the extortionate twenty-five, and besides, of the required fifteen thousand francs, only twelve were ready to give in cash, at the expense of the rest imposing some unnecessary belongings, but Cleant did not have to choose, and he agreed to such conditions. Cleant's own father acted as the creditor. Harpagon willingly agreed to deal with a young rake unknown to him, since, according to Simon, he was expecting the death of his rich father in the very near future. When Harpagon and Cleant finally came together as business partners, the indignation of both one and the other knew no bounds: the father angrily branded his son for the fact that he shamefully gets into debt, and the father's son for no less shameful and reprehensible usury.
After driving Cleant out of sight, Harpagon was ready to accept Frozina, who was waiting for him, a mediator in matters of the heart, or, simply put, a matchmaker. From the doorway, Frozina began to scatter in compliments to the elderly groom: at sixty, Harpagon looks better than other twenty-year-olds, and he will live to be a hundred, and will also bury his children and grandchildren (the latter thought was especially to his heart). She also praised the bride: the beautiful Mariana, although a dowry, is so modest and unassuming that to maintain her is only to save money; and she will not be drawn to young men, since she cannot stand them - give her at least sixty, so that she has glasses and a beard.
Harpagon was extremely pleased, but no matter how hard Frozina tried, she - as Cleant's servant Laflesh had predicted - did not succeed in extorting a penny from him. However, the matchmaker did not despair: not from this, so from the other end she will receive her money.
In Harpagon's house something was being prepared before - a dinner party; Eliza's fiancé, Mr. Anselm and Mariana, were invited to it. Harpagon remained true to himself here, too, strictly ordering the servants, God forbid, not to introduce him into expenses, and the cook (the coachman in combination) Jacques to cook dinner tastier and cheaper. All the instructions of the owner regarding the economy were diligently echoed by the butler Valera, thus trying to win the favor of his beloved father. Sincerely devoted Jacques it was disgusting to listen to how shamelessly Valera sucked up to Harpagon. Having given free rein to the language, Jacques honestly told the owner how the whole city was walking about his incredible stinginess, for which he was beaten first by Harpagon, and then by the zealous butler. He accepted the beatings from the owner without a murmur, while Valera promised to repay him somehow.
As agreed, Mariana, accompanied by Frozina, paid Harpagon and his family an afternoon visit. The girl was horrified by the marriage that her mother was pushing her to; Frozina tried to console her with the fact that, unlike young people, Harpagon is rich, and in the next three months he will certainly die. Only in the house of Harpagon did Mariana learn that Cleant, whose feelings she reciprocated, was the son of her ugly old fiance. But even in the presence of Harpagon, who was not distinguished by great intelligence, the young people managed to talk as if in private - Cleant pretended to speak on behalf of his father, and Mariana answered her lover, while Harpagon was confident that her words were addressed to him. Seeing that the trick was successful, and this made him bold, Cleant, again on behalf of Harpagon, presented Mariana with a ring with a diamond, taking it off right from his father's hand. He was beside himself with horror, but did not dare to demand the gift back.
When Harpagon retired for a short time on a hurried (money) business, Cleanthe, Mariana and Eliza had a conversation about their affairs of the heart. Frozina, who was present immediately, understood what a difficult situation the young people were in, and from the bottom of her heart felt sorry for them. After convincing the youth not to despair and not succumb to the whims of Harpagon, she promised to come up with something.
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Returning soon, Harpagon found his son kissing the hand of his future stepmother and was worried if there was any catch. He began to ask Cleant how the future stepmother had happened, and Cleant, wishing to dispel the suspicions of his father, replied that upon closer examination she turned out to be not as good as at first glance: her appearance, they say, is mediocre, her appeal is cutesy, her mind is the most ordinary ... Here it was Harpagon's turn to resort to cunning: it is a pity, he said, that Cleant did not like Mariana - after all, he had just changed his mind about marrying and decided to give up his bride to his son. Cleanthe fell for his father's trick and revealed to him that in fact he had been in love with Mariana for a long time; this is what Harpagon should have known.
A fierce skirmish began between father and son, which did not end with assault only thanks to the intervention of the faithful Jacques. He acted as an intermediary between father and son, mistakenly passing one word to another, and thus achieved reconciliation, however short-lived, since, as soon as he left, the rivals figured out what was what. A new outbreak of quarrel led to the fact that Harpagon disowned his son, deprived him of his inheritance, cursed and ordered to get away.
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While Cleantus was not too successfully fighting for his happiness, his servant Laflesh wasted no time - he found a box with Harpagon's money in the garden and stole it. Finding the loss, the miser almost lost his mind; of the monstrous theft, he suspected everyone without exception, almost even himself.
Harpagon told the police commissioner that the theft could have been committed by any of his household, any of the inhabitants of the city, any person in general, so everyone should be interrogated. The first to turn up under the arm of the investigation was Jacques, who thus unexpectedly had an opportunity to take revenge on the sycophant-butler for the beatings: he testified that he had seen the cherished Harpagon's box in Valera's hands.
When Valera was pinned against the wall with accusation of kidnapping the most precious thing that Garpagon had, he, believing that it was undoubtedly about Eliza, admitted his guilt. But at the same time, Valera fervently insisted that his act was forgiven, since he did it from the most honest motives. Shocked by the arrogance of a young man who asserted that money, you see, could be stolen from honest motives, Harpagon nevertheless stubbornly continued to believe that Valera had confessed precisely to stealing money - he was not in the least embarrassed by the words about the unshakable virtue of the box, about Valera's love for her ... The veil fell from his eyes only when Valera said that the day before he and Eliza signed a marriage contract.
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Harpagon was still raging when Mr. Anselm, invited to dinner, came to his house. Only a few remarks were required to suddenly reveal that Valere and Mariana are brother and sister, children of the noble Neapolitan Don Tomaso, who now lives in Paris under the name of M. family to flee from their hometown; their ship was caught in a storm and sank. Father, son, mother and daughter - all lived for many years with the confidence that other family members died at sea: Mr. Anselm even decided to start a new family in his old age. But now everything fell into place.
Harpagon finally allowed Eliza to marry Valera, and Cleanthe to marry Mariana, on condition that the precious box was returned to him, and Mr. Anselm would bear the costs of both weddings, dress Harpagon with a new dress and pay the commissioner for drawing up the protocol that turned out to be unnecessary.