9780822206484 / 082220648X

Moliere's The Learned Ladies


Publisher:Dramatists Play Service, Inc.



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About the book:

The Learned Ladies was the last-but-one of Molières plays and the last of his great rhyming-couplet comedies. Its predecessors had used the artificiality of the style to add point and irony to some of Molières most trenchant examinations of aspects of the human condition. For lighter-hearted satire, sending up specific behaviour rather than the general human condition, Molière tended to use prose. The Learned Ladies has the best of both worlds: it satirises a specific fad (intellectual pretension) but  perhaps because its subject requires an appropriately high style  is written in rhyming verse. Targeting cultural snobbery, The Learned Ladies mocks the fashion, current among upper-class ladies, for holding salons to discuss such learned matters as the arts, philosophy and science. The joke, to Molières audience, was not merely intellectual snobbery, but that the snobs were women. This was an age when matters of the mind were, in theory, still the province of men; upper-class women were expected to be charming, witty, interested in the world and its doings, but not scholars. The majority of the aristocratic ladies in Molières own audience probably took this view and shared the opinion of the men, that learned ladies and their gatherings were fools, fit targets for the pedants, charlatans and other confidence-tricksters who preyed on them. The Learned Ladies played for a couple of dozen performances (a successful run for court plays at the time) and attracted none of the hostility and scandal of Molières more contentious works. This French-to-English translation is by A. R. Waller and is scrupulously accurate to Molières meaning.

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