Monday 7 February 2022

Molière "The Miser or The School for Lies"

Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin) "The Miser or The School for Lies" (French: L'Avare ou l’École du mensonge) - 1668

I think we have all heard of "The Miser" and the title already tells us what it is all about. That's right, a rich guy who loves his money more than his children.

I'm not the biggest fan of reading plays but from time to time, my book club chooses one. And that is probably a good idea since otherwise I might never attempt them. And in this case it gave me another instigation to read a French book. That's definitely a reason.

I quite liked the story. And the writing was very good. No wonder, Molière is still such a famous writer.

Still, I would have preferred to read the play as a story. As always. It is quite interesting and certainly would have made just as much impression on people. The only thing that speaks for it as a play is that at the time Molière wrote this, most people couldn't read.

I just wonder whether everyone else thinks of Scrooge McDuck when reading this. And whether the Miser or anyone else who behaves like him has ever heard this quote:

"When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realise that one cannot eat money." Obviously, that is another subject but we can't mention it often enough.

Some comments from our book club members:

"We discussed the Scrooge McDuck connection, also a similarity to Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". At first, I felt uncomfortable with the writing style of the play, but soon I started chuckling at the absurdities and very clever humour of miscommunication, misunderstandings, intentional deception, sassy servants and blackmail. I absolutely had an enjoyable morning reading it through in one go and indeed might have changed my mind about reading more of Moliere's works in the future."

"This was an enjoyable read for me, too. It is the first of Moliere's plays I have ever read. At first I wondered how Seventeenth Century characters and situations could engage me, but soon I found myself groaning, arguing back, rooting for some, booing others and all the while entertained by the sheer inventiveness of it all. A welcome escape from pandemic drab in very cold Canada in January."

As you see, it was a good read for all.

This was our international online book club book for January 2022.

From the back cover:

"The aging but vital Harpagon is hoarding every centime he can get his hands on, making sure that his two children, the virginal Elise and the dandy Cleante, live under his iron will. To complicate matters, Elise has fallen in love with the handsome Valere, who masquerades as a servant in the household, despite his noble birth, and, worse yet, Cleante and Harpagon are both smitten with the same woman, the beautiful, if somewhat dim, Marianne. Meanwhile, scheming servants and assorted hustlers angle for Harpagon's incredible wealth, much of which is now buried and protected by snarling Dobermans. The delirious plot spirals to a wildly comic finish, filled with all the masterful plot twists and outrageous revelations one would expect from one of Molière's finest plays."


  1. I don't think I've ever read anything by Moliere. Maybe one of his short stories, but not any of his plays.

    1. I'm not surprised, Lark, not many people have if they didn't study French. I like to read French books from time to time, just for the langauge, but often don't enjoy them for the content. And I don't enjoy reading plays. But this was a book club read and I was pleasantly surprised.

  2. Neat to be reading it in this big Molière year! You may be able to find a good play of it on YouTube

    1. That is one of the reasons we read it, Emma. Someone suggested it for that. And I'm glad they did. And thanks for the idea with YouTube, I never really think about it.

  3. I find it difficult and not too interesting to read plays. I prefer to watch them. Molière is of course out of the extra ordinary in pointing the finger to the bad habits of certain characters.

    1. I totally agree with you there, Lisbeth. I've read a few plays, mainly Shakespeare, since he didn't write any novels but I always prefer watching them. This was a book club book, so I read it because of that. And because it was a French story.