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- The Miser - 1/18 -
THE MISER. (L'AVARE.)
TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH PROSE
_WITH A SHORT INTRODUCTION AND EXPLANATORY NOTES._
CHARLES HERON WALL
This play was acted for the first time on September 9, 1668. In it, Molière has borrowed from Plautus, and has imitated several other authors, but he far surpasses them in the treatment of his subject. The picture of the miser, in whom love of money takes the place of all natural affections, who not only withdraws from family intercourse, but considers his children as natural enemies, is finely drawn, and renders Molière's Miser altogether more dramatic and moral than those of his predecessors.
Molière acted the part of Harpagon.
HARPAGON, _father to_ CLÉANTE, _in love with_ MARIANNE.
CLÉANTE, HARPAGON'S _son, lover to_ MARIANNE.
VALÈRE, _son to_ ANSELME, _and lover to_ ÉLISE.
ANSELME, _father to_ VALÈRE _and_ MARIANNE.
MASTER SIMON, _broker_.
MASTER JACQUES, _cook and coachman to_ HARPAGON.
LA FLÈCHE, _valet to_ CLÉANTE.
BRINDAVOINE, and LA MERLUCHE, _lackeys to_ HARPAGON.
A MAGISTRATE _and his_ CLERK.
ÉLISE, _daughter to_ HARPAGON.
MARIANNE, _daughter to_ ANSELME.
FROSINE, _an intriguing woman_.
MISTRESS CLAUDE, _servant to_ HARPAGON.
* * * * *
_The scene is at_ PARIS, _in_ HARPAGON'S _house_.
SCENE I.--VALÈRE, ÉLISE.
VAL. What, dear Élise! you grow sad after having given me such dear tokens of your love; and I see you sigh in the midst of my joy! Can you regret having made me happy? and do you repent of the engagement which my love has forced from you?
ELI. No, Valère, I do not regret what I do for you; I feel carried on by too delightful a power, and I do not even wish that things should be otherwise than they are. Yet, to tell you the truth, I am very anxious about the consequences; and I greatly fear that I love you more than I should.
VAL. What can you possibly fear from the affection you have shown me?
ELI. Everything; the anger of my father, the reproaches of my family, the censure of the world, and, above all, Valère, a change in your heart! I fear that cruel coldness with which your sex so often repays the too warm proofs of an innocent love.
VAL. Alas! do not wrong me thus; do not judge of me by others. Think me capable of everything, Élise, except of falling short of what I owe to you. I love you too much for that; and my love will be as lasting as my life!
ELI. Ah! Valère, all men say the same thing; all men are alike in their words; their actions only show the difference that exists between them.
VAL. Then why not wait for actions, if by them alone you can judge of the truthfulness of my heart? Do not suffer your anxious fears to mislead you, and to wrong me. Do not let an unjust suspicion destroy the happiness which is to me dearer than life; but give me time to show you by a thousand proofs the sincerity of my affection.
ELI. Alas! how easily do we allow ourselves to be persuaded by those we love. I believe you, Valère; I feel sure that your heart is utterly incapable of deceiving me, that your love is sincere, and that you will ever remain faithful to me. I will no longer doubt that happiness is near. If I grieve, it will only be over the difficulties of our position, and the possible censures of the world.
VAL. But why even this fear?
ELI. Oh, Valère! if everybody knew you as I do, I should not have much to fear. I find in you enough to justify all I do for you; my heart knows all your merit, and feels, moreover, bound to you by deep gratitude. How can I forget that horrible moment when we met for the first time? Your generous courage in risking your own life to save mine from the fury of the waves; your tender care afterwards; your constant attentions and your ardent love, which neither time nor difficulties can lessen! For me you neglect your parents and your country; you give up your own position in life to be a servant of my father! How can I resist the influence that all this has over me? Is it not enough to justify in my eyes my engagement to you? Yet, who knows if it will be enough to justify it in the eyes of others? and how can I feel sure that my motives will be understood?
VAL. You try in vain to find merit in what I have done; it is by my love alone that I trust to deserve you. As for the scruples you feel, your father himself justifies you but too much before the world; and his avarice and the distant way in which he lives with his children might authorise stranger things still. Forgive me, my dear Élise, for speaking thus of your father before you; but you know that, unfortunately, on this subject no good can be said of him. However, if I can find my parents, as I fully hope I shall, they will soon be favourable to us. I am expecting news of them with great impatience; but if none comes I will go in search of them myself.
ELI. Oh no! Valère, do not leave me, I entreat you. Try rather to ingratiate yourself in my father's favour.
VAL. You know how much I wish it, and you can see how I set about it. You know the skilful manoeuvres I have had to use in order to introduce myself into his service; under what a mask of sympathy and conformity of tastes I disguise my own feelings to please him; and what a part I play to acquire his affection. I succeed wonderfully well, and I feel that to obtain favour with men, there are no better means than to pretend to be of their way of thinking, to fall in with their maxims, to praise their defects, and to applaud all their doings. One need not fear to overdo it, for however gross the flattery, the most cunning are easily duped; there is nothing so impertinent or ridiculous which they will not believe, provided it be well seasoned with praise. Honesty suffers, I acknowledge; but when we have need of men, we may be allowed without blame to adapt ourselves to their mode of thought; and if we have no other hope of success but through such stratagem, it is not after all the fault of those who flatter, but the fault of those who wish to be flattered.
ELI. Why do you not try also to gain my brother's goodwill, in case the servant should betray our secret?
VAL. I am afraid I cannot humour them both. The temper of the father is so different from that of the son that it would be difficult to be the confidant of both at the same time. Rather try your brother yourself; make use of the love that exists between you to enlist him in our cause. I leave you, for I see him coming. Speak to him, sound him, and see how far we can trust him.
ELI. I greatly fear I shall never have the courage to speak to him of my secret.
SCENE II.--CLÉANTE, ÉLISE,
CLE. I am very glad to find you alone, sister. I longed to speak to you and to tell you a secret.
ELI. I am quite ready to hear you, brother. What is it you have to tell me?
CLE. Many things, sister, summed up in one word--love.
ELI. You love?
CLE. Yes, I love. But, before I say more, let me tell you that I know I depend on my father, and that the name of son subjects me to his will; that it would be wrong to engage ourselves without the consent of the authors of our being; that heaven has made them the masters of our affections, and that it is our duty not to dispose of ourselves but in accordance to their wish; that their judgment is not biassed by their being in love themselves; that they are, therefore, much more
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