Part 1 out of 2
Delphine Lettau and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
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
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
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
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
likely not to be deceived by appearances, and to judge better what is
good for us; that we ought to trust their experience rather than the
passion which blinds us; and that the rashness of youth often carries
us to the very brink of dangerous abysses. I know all this, my sister,
and I tell it you to spare you the trouble of saying it to me, for my
love will not let me listen to anything, and I pray you to spare me
ELI. Have you engaged yourself, brother, to her you love?
CLE. No, but I have determined to do so; and I beseech you once more
not to bring forward any reason to dissuade me from it.
ELI. Am I such a very strange person, brother?
CLE. No, dear sister; but you do not love. You know not the sweet
power that love has upon our hearts; and I dread your wisdom.
ELI. Alas! my brother, let us not speak of my wisdom. There are very
few people in this world who do not lack wisdom, were it only once in
their lifetime; and if I opened my heart to you, perhaps you would
think me less wise than you are yourself.
CLE. Ah! would to heaven that your heart, like mine....
ELI. Let us speak of you first, and tell me whom it is you love.
CLE. A young girl who has lately come to live in our neighbourhood,
and who seems made to inspire love in all those who behold her.
Nature, my dear sister, has made nothing more lovely; and I felt
another man the moment I saw her. Her name is Marianne, and she lives
with a good, kind mother, who is almost always ill, and for whom the
dear girl shows the greatest affection. She waits upon her, pities and
comforts her with a tenderness that would touch you to the very soul.
Whatever she undertakes is done in the most charming way; and in all
her actions shine a wonderful grace, a most winning gentleness, an
adorable modesty, a ... ah! my sister, how I wish you had but seen
ELI. I see many things in what you tell me, dear brother; and it is
sufficient for me to know that you love her for me to understand what
CLE. I have discovered, without their knowing it, that they are not in
very good circumstances, and that, although they live with the
greatest care, they have barely enough to cover their expenses. Can
you imagine, my sister, what happiness it must be to improve the
condition of those we love; skilfully to bring about some relief to
the modest wants of a virtuous family? And think what grief it is for
me to find myself deprived of this great joy through the avarice of a
father, and for it to be impossible for me to give any proof of my
love to her who is all in all to me.
ELI. Yes, I understand, dear brother, what sorrow this must be to you.
CLE. It is greater, my sister, than you can believe. For is there
anything more cruel than this mean economy to which we are subjected?
this strange penury in which we are made to pine? What good will it do
us to have a fortune if it only comes to us when we are not able to
enjoy it; if now to provide for my daily maintenance I get into debt
on every side; if both you and I are reduced daily to beg the help of
tradespeople in order to have decent clothes to wear? In short, I
wanted to speak to you that you might help me to sound my father
concerning my present feelings; and if I find him opposed to them, I
am determined to go and live elsewhere with this most charming girl,
and to make the best of what Providence offers us. I am trying
everywhere to raise money for this purpose; and if your circumstances,
dear sister, are like mine, and our father opposes us, let us both
leave him, and free ourselves from the tyranny in which his hateful
avarice has for so long held us.
ELI. It is but too true that every day he gives us more and more
reason to regret the death of our mother, and that....
CLE. I hear his voice. Let us go a little farther and finish our talk.
We will afterwards join our forces to make a common attack on his hard
and unkind heart.
SCENE III.--HARPAGON, LA FLÈCHE.
HAR. Get out of here, this moment; and let me have no more of your
prating. Now then, be gone out of my house, you sworn pickpocket, you
veritable gallows' bird.
LA FL. (_aside_). I never saw anything more wicked than this
cursed old man; and I truly believe, if I may be allowed to say so,
that he is possessed with a devil.
HAR. What are you muttering there between your teeth?
LA FL. Why do you send me away?
HAR. You dare to ask me my reasons, you scoundrel? Out with you, this
moment, before I give you a good thrashing.
LA FL. What have I done to you?
HAR. Done this, that I wish you to be off.
LA FL. My master, your son, gave me orders to wait for him.
HAR. Go and wait for him in the street, then; out with you; don't stay
in my house, straight and stiff as a sentry, to observe what is going
on, and to make your profit of everything. I won't always have before
me a spy on all my affairs; a treacherous scamp, whose cursed eyes
watch all my actions, covet all I possess, and ferret about in every
corner to see if there is anything to steal.
LA FL. How the deuce could one steal anything from you? Are you a man
likely to be robbed when you put every possible thing under lock and
key, and mount guard day and night?
HAR. I will lock up whatever I think fit, and mount guard when and
where I please. Did you ever see such spies as are set upon me to take
note of everything I do? (_Aside_) I tremble for fear he should
suspect something of my money. (_Aloud_) Now, aren't you a fellow
to give rise to stories about my having money hid in my house?
LA FL. You have some money hid in your house?
HAR. No, scoundrel! I do not say that. _(Aside)_ I am furious!
_(Aloud)_ I only ask if out of mischief you do not spread abroad
the report that I have some?
LA FL. Oh! What does it matter whether you have money, or whether you
have not, since it is all the same to us?
HAR. _(raising his hand to give LA FLÈCHE a blow)_. Oh! oh! You
want to argue, do you? I will give you, and quickly too, some few of
these arguments about your ears. Get out of the house, I tell you once
LA FL. Very well; very well. I am going.
HAR. No, wait; are you carrying anything away with you?
LA FL. What can I possibly carry away?
HAR. Come here, and let me see. Show me your hands.
LA FL. There they are.
HAR. The others.
LA FL. The others?
LA FL. There they are.
HAR. (_pointing to LA FLÈCHE'S breeches_). Have you anything hid
LA FL. Look for yourself.
HAR. (_feeling the knees of the breeches_). These wide knee-
breeches are convenient receptacles of stolen goods; and I wish a pair
of them had been hanged.
LA FL. (_aside_). Ah! how richly such a man deserves what he
fears, and what joy it would be to me to steal some of his....
LA FL. What?
HAR. What is it you talk of stealing?
LA FL. I say that you feel about everywhere to see if I have been
HAR. And I mean to do so too. (_He feels in LA FLÈCHE'S
LA FL. Plague take all misers and all miserly ways!
HAR. Eh? What do you say?
LA FL. What do I say?
HAR. Yes. What is it you say about misers and miserly ways.
LA FL. I say plague take all misers and all miserly ways.
HAR. Of whom do you speak?
LA FL. Of misers.
HAR. And who are they, these misers?
LA FL. Villains and stingy wretches!
HAR. But what do you mean by that?
LA FL. Why do you trouble yourself so much about what I say?
HAR. I trouble myself because I think it right to do so.
LA FL. Do you think I am speaking about you?
HAR. I think what I think; but I insist upon your telling me to whom
you speak when you say that.
LA FL. To whom I speak? I am speaking to the inside of my hat.
HAR. And I will, perhaps, speak to the outside of your head.
LA FL. Would you prevent me from cursing misers?
HAR. No; but I will prevent you from prating and from being insolent.
Hold your tongue, will you?
LA FL. I name nobody.
HAR. Another word, and I'll thrash you.
LA FL. He whom the cap fits, let him wear it.
HAR. Will you be silent?
LA FL. Yes; much against my will.
HAR. Ah! ah!
LA FL. (_showing_ HARPAGON _one of his doublet pockets_).
Just look, here is one more pocket. Are you satisfied?
HAR. Come, give it up to me without all that fuss.
LA FL. Give you what?
HAR. What you have stolen from me.
LA FL. I have stolen nothing at all from you.
HAR. Are you telling the truth?
LA FL. Yes.
HAR. Good-bye, then, and now you may go to the devil.
LA FL. (_aside_). That's a nice way of dismissing anyone.
HAR. I leave it to your conscience, remember!
SCENE IV.--HARPAGON (_alone_.)
This rascally valet is a constant vexation to me; and I hate the very
sight of the good-for-nothing cripple. Really, it is no small anxiety
to keep by one a large sum of money; and happy is the man who has all
his cash well invested, and who needs not keep by him more than he
wants for his daily expenses. I am not a little puzzled to find in the
whole of this house a safe hiding-place. Don't speak to me of your
strong boxes, I will never trust to them. Why, they are just the very
things thieves set upon!
SCENE V.--_HARPAGON; ÉLISE and CLÉANTE are seen talking together at
the back of the stage._
HAR. (_thinking himself alone_.) Meanwhile, I hardly know whether
I did right to bury in my garden the ten thousand crowns which were
paid to me yesterday. Ten thousand crowns in gold is a sum
sufficiently.... (_Aside, on perceiving_ ÉLISE _and_ CLÉANTE
_whispering together_) Good heavens! I have betrayed myself; my
warmth has carried me away. I believe I spoke aloud while reasoning
with myself. (_To_ CLÉANTE _and_ ÉLISE) What do you want?
CLE. Nothing, father.
HAR. Have you been here long?
ELI. We have only just come.
HAR. Did you hear...?
CLE. What, father?
HAR. What I was just now saying.
HAR. You did. I know you did.
ELI. I beg your pardon, father, but we did not.
HAR. I see well enough that you overheard a few words. The fact is, I
was only talking to myself about the trouble one has nowadays to raise
any money; and I was saying that he is a fortunate man who has ten
thousand crowns in his house.
CLE. We were afraid of coming near you, for fear of intruding.
HAR. I am very glad to tell you this, so that you may not misinterpret
things, and imagine that I said that it was I who have ten thousand
CLE. We do not wish to interfere in your affairs.
HAR. Would that I had them, these ten thousand crowns!
CLE. I should not think that....
HAR. What a capital affair it would be for me.
CLE. There are things....
HAR. I greatly need them.
CLE. I fancy that....
HAR. It would suit me exceedingly well.
ELI. You are....
HAR. And I should not have to complain, as I do now, that the times
CLE. Dear me, father, you have no reason to complain; and everyone
knows that you are well enough off.
HAR. How? I am well enough off! Those who say it are liars. Nothing
can be more false; and they are scoundrels who spread such reports.
ELI. Don't be angry.
HAR. It is strange that my own children betray me and become my
CLE. Is it being your enemy to say that you have wealth?
HAR. Yes, it is. Such talk and your extravagant expenses will be the
cause that some day thieves will come and cut my throat, in the belief
that I am made of gold.
CLE. What extravagant expenses do I indulge in?
HAR. What! Is there anything more scandalous than this sumptuous
attire with which you jaunt it about the town? I was remonstrating
with your sister yesterday, but you are still worse. It cries
vengeance to heaven; and were we to calculate all you are wearing,
from head to foot, we should find enough for a good annuity. I have
told you a hundred times, my son, that your manners displease me
exceedingly; you affect the marquis terribly, and for you to be always
dressed as you are, you must certainly rob me.
CLE. Rob you? And how?
HAR. How should I know? Where else could you find money enough to
clothe yourself as you do?
CLE. I, father? I play; and as I am very lucky, I spend in clothes all
the money I win.
HAR. It is very wrong. If you are lucky at play, you should profit by
it, and place the money you win at decent interest, so that you may
find it again some day. I should like to know, for instance, without
mentioning the rest, what need there is for all these ribbons with
which you are decked from head to foot, and if half a dozen tags are
not sufficient to fasten your breeches. What necessity is there for
anyone to spend money upon wigs, when we have hair of our own growth,
which costs nothing. I will lay a wager that, in wigs and ribbons
alone, there are certainly twenty pistoles spent, and twenty pistoles
brings in at least eighteen livres six sous eight deniers per annum,
at only eight per cent interest.
CLE. You are quite right.
HAR. Enough on this subject; let us talk of something else. (_Aside,
noticing_ CLÉANTE _and_ ÉLISE, _who make signs to one another_)
I believe they are making signs to one another to pick my pocket.
(_Aloud_) What do you mean by those signs?
ELI. We are hesitating as to who shall speak first, for we both have
something to tell you.
HAR. And I also have something to tell you both.
CLE. We wanted to speak to you about marriage, father.
HAR. The very thing I wish to speak to you about.
ELI. Ah! my father!
HAR. What is the meaning of that exclamation? Is it the word,
daughter, or the thing itself that frightens you?
CLE. Marriage may frighten us both according to the way you take it;
and our feelings may perhaps not coincide with your choice.
HAR. A little patience, if you please. You need not be alarmed. I know
what is good for you both, and you will have no reason to complain of
anything I intend to do. To begin at the beginning. (_To_
CLÉANTE) Do you know, tell me, a young person, called Marianne, who
lives not far from here?
CLE. Yes, father.
HAR. And you?
ELI. I have heard her spoken of.
HAR. Well, my son, and how do you like the girl?
CLE. She is very charming.
HAR. Her face?
CLE. Modest and intelligent.
HAR. Her air and manner?
CLE. Perfect, undoubtedly.
HAR. Do you not think that such a girl well deserves to be thought of?
CLE. Yes, father.
HAR. She would form a very desirable match?
CLE. Very desirable.
HAR. That there is every likelihood of her making a thrifty and
HAR. And that a husband might live very happily with her?
CLE. I have not the least doubt about it.
HAR. There is one little difficulty; I am afraid she has not the
fortune we might reasonably expect.
CLE. Oh, my father, riches are of little importance when one is sure
of marrying a virtuous woman.
HAR. I beg your pardon. Only there is this to be said: that if we do
not find as much money as we could wish, we may make it up in
CLE. That follows as a matter of course.
HAR. Well, I must say that I am very much pleased to find that you
entirely agree with me, for her modest manner and her gentleness have
won my heart; and I have made up my mind to marry her, provided I find
she has some dowry.
HAR. What now?
CLE. You are resolved, you say...?
HAR. To marry Marianne.
CLE. Who? you? you?
HAR. Yes, I, I, I. What does all this mean?
CLE. I feel a sudden dizziness, and I must withdraw for a little
HAR. It will be nothing. Go quickly into the kitchen and drink a large
glass of cold water, it will soon set you all right again.
SCENE VI.--HARPAGON, ÉLISE.
HAR. There goes one of your effeminate fops, with no more stamina than
a chicken. That is what I have resolved for myself, my daughter. As to
your brother, I have thought for him of a certain widow, of whom I
heard this morning; and you I shall give to Mr. Anselme.
ELI. To Mr. Anselme?
HAR. Yes, a staid and prudent man, who is not above fifty, and of
whose riches everybody speaks.
ELI. (_curtseying_). I have no wish to marry, father, if you
HAR. (_imitating_ ÉLISE). And I, my little girl, my darling, I
wish you to marry, if you please.
ELI. (_curtseying again_). I beg your pardon, my father.
HAR. (_again imitating_ ÉLISE). I beg your pardon, my daughter.
ELI. I am the very humble servant of Mr. Anselme, but (_curtseying
again_), with your leave, I shall not marry him.
HAR. I am your very humble servant, but (_again imitating_ ÉLISE)
you will marry him this very evening.
ELI. This evening?
HAR. This evening.
ELI. (_curtseying again_). It cannot be done, father.
HAR. (_imitating_ ÉLISE). It will be done, daughter.
ELI. No, I tell you.
HAR. Yes, I tell you.
ELI. You will never force me to do such a thing
HAR. I will force you to it.
ELI. I had rather kill myself than marry such a man.
HAR. You will not kill yourself, and you will marry him. But did you
ever see such impudence? Did ever any one hear a daughter speak in
such a fashion to her father?
ELI. But did ever anyone see a father marry his daughter after such a
HAR. It is a match against which nothing can be said, and I am
perfectly sure that everybody will approve of my choice.
ELI. And I know that it will be approved of by no reasonable person.
HAR. (_seeing_ VALÈRE). There is Valère coming. Shall we make him
judge in this affair?
HAR. You will abide by what he says?
ELI. Yes, whatever he thinks right, I will do.
SCENE VII.--VALÈRE, HARPAGON, ÉLISE.
HAR. Valère, we have chosen you to decide who is in the right, my
daughter or I.
VAL. It is certainly you, Sir.
HAR. But have you any idea of what we are talking about?
VAL. No; but you could not be in the wrong; you are reason itself.
HAR. I want to give her to-night, for a husband, a man as rich as he
is good; and the hussy tells me to my face that she scorns to take
him. What do you say to that?
VAL. What I say to it?
VAL. Eh! eh!
VAL. I say that I am, upon the whole, of your opinion, and that you
cannot but be right; yet, perhaps, she is not altogether wrong;
HAR. How so? Mr. Anselme is an excellent match; he is a nobleman, and
a gentleman too; of simple habits, and extremely well off. He has no
children left from his first marriage. Could she meet with anything
VAL. It is true. But she might say that you are going rather fast, and
that she ought to have at least a little time to consider whether her
inclination could reconcile itself to....
HAR. It is an opportunity I must not allow to slip through my fingers.
I find an advantage here which I should not find elsewhere, and he
agrees to take her without dowry.
VAL. Without dowry?
VAL. Ah! I have nothing more to say. A more convincing reason could
not be found; and she must yield to that.
HAR. It is a considerable saving to me.
VAL. Undoubtedly; this admits of no contradiction. It is true that
your daughter might represent to you that marriage is a more serious
affair than people are apt to believe; that the happiness or misery of
a whole life depends on it, and that an engagement which is to last
till death ought not to be entered into without great consideration.
HAR. Without dowry!
VAL. That must of course decide everything. There are certainly people
who might tell you that on such occasions the wishes of a daughter are
no doubt to be considered, and that this great disparity of age, of
disposition, and of feelings might be the cause of many an unpleasant
thing in a married life.
HAR. Without dowry!
VAL. Ah! it must be granted that there is no reply to that; who in the
world could think otherwise? I do not mean to say but that there are
many fathers who would set a much higher value on the happiness of
their daughter than on the money they may have to give for their
marriage; who would not like to sacrifice them to their own interests,
and who would, above all things, try to see in a marriage that sweet
conformity of tastes which is a sure pledge of honour, tranquillity
and joy; and that....
HAR. Without dowry!
VAL. That is true; nothing more can be said. Without dowry. How can
anyone resist such arguments?
HAR. (_aside, looking towards the garden_). Ah! I fancy I hear a
dog barking. Is anyone after my money. (_To_ VALÈRE) Stop here,
I'll come back directly.
SCENE VIII.--ÉLISE, VALÈRE.
ELI. Surely, Valère, you are not in earnest when you speak to him in
VAL. I do it that I may not vex him, and the better to secure my ends.
To resist him boldly would simply spoil everything. There are certain
people who are only to be managed by indirect means, temperaments
averse from all resistance, restive natures whom truth causes to rear,
who always kick when we would lead them on the right road of reason,
and who can only be led by a way opposed to that by which you wish
them to go. Pretend to comply with his wishes; you are much more
likely to succeed in the end, and....
ELI. But this marriage, Valère?
VAL. We will find some pretext for breaking it off.
ELI. But what pretext can we find if it is to be concluded to-night?
VAL. You must ask to have it delayed, and must feign some illness or
ELI. But he will soon discover the truth if they call in the doctor.
VAL. Not a bit of it. Do you imagine that a doctor understands what he
is about? Nonsense! Don't be afraid. Believe me, you may complain of
any disease you please, the doctor will be at no loss to explain to
you from what it proceeds.
SCENE IX--HARPAGON, ÉLISE, VALÈRE.
HAR. (_alone, at the farther end of the stage_). It is nothing,
VAL. (_not seeing_ HARPAGON). In short, flight is the last
resource we have left us to avoid all this; and if your love, dear
Élise, is as strong as.... (_Seeing_ HARPAGON) Yes, a daughter is
bound to obey her father. She has no right to inquire what a husband
offered to her is like, and when the most important question, "without
dowry," presents itself, she should accept anybody that is given her.
HAR. Good; that was beautifully said!
VAL. I beg your pardon, Sir, if I carry it a little too far, and take
upon myself to speak to her as I do.
HAR. Why, I am delighted, and I wish you to have her entirely under
your control. (_To_ ÉLISE) Yes, you may run away as much as you
like. I give him all the authority over you that heaven has given me,
and I will have you do all that he tells you.
VAL. After that, resist all my expostulations, if you can.
SCENE X.-HARPAGON, VALÈRE.
VAL. I will follow her, Sir, if you will allow me, and will continue
the lecture I was giving her.
HAR. Yes, do so; you will oblige me greatly.
VAL. She ought to be kept in with a tight hand.
HAR. Quite true, you must....
VAL. Do not be afraid; I believe I shall end by convincing her.
HAR. Do so, do so. I am going to take a short stroll in the town, and
I will come back again presently.
VAL. (_going towards the door through which_ ÉLISE _left, and
speaking as if it were to her_). Yes, money is more precious than
anything else in the world, and you should thank heaven that you have
so worthy a man for a father. He knows what life is. When a man offers
to marry a girl without a dowry, we ought to look no farther.
Everything is comprised in that, and "without dowry" compensates for
want of beauty, youth, birth, honour, wisdom, and probity.
HAR. Ah! the honest fellow! he speaks like an oracle. Happy is he who
can secure such a servant!
SCENE I.--CLÉANTE, LA FLÈCHE.
CLE. How now, you rascal! where have you been hiding? Did I not give
you orders to...?
LA FL. Yes, Sir, and I came here resolved to wait for you without
stirring, but your father, that most ungracious of men, drove me into
the street in spite of myself, and I well nigh got a good drubbing
into the bargain.
CLE. How is our affair progressing? Things are worse than ever for us,
and since I left you, I have discovered that my own father is my
LA FL. Your father in love?
CLE. It seems so; and I found it very difficult to hide from him what
I felt at such a discovery.
LA FL. He meddling with love! What the deuce is he thinking of? Does
he mean to set everybody at defiance? And is love made for people of
CLE. It is to punish me for my sins that this passion has entered his
LA FL. But why do you hide your love from him?
CLE. That he may not suspect anything, and to make it more easy for me
to fall back, if need be, upon some device to prevent this marriage.
What answer did you receive?
LA FL. Indeed, Sir, those who borrow are much to be pitied, and we
must put up with strange things when, like you, we are forced to pass
through the hands of the usurers.
CLE. Then the affair won't come off?
LA FL. Excuse me; Mr. Simon, the broker who was recommended to us, is
a very active and zealous fellow, and says he has left no stone
unturned to help you. He assures me that your looks alone have won his
CLE. Shall I have the fifteen thousand francs which I want?
LA FL. Yes, but under certain trifling conditions, which you must
accept if you wish the bargain to be concluded.
CLE. Did you speak to the man who is to lend the money?
LA FL Oh! dear no. Things are not done in that way. He is still more
anxious than you to remain unknown. These things are greater mysteries
than you think. His name is not by any means to be divulged, and he is
to be introduced to you to-day at a house provided by him, so that he
may hear from yourself all about your position and your family; and I
have not the least doubt that the mere name of your father will be
sufficient to accomplish what you wish.
CLE. Particularly as my mother is dead, and they cannot deprive me of
what I inherit from her.
LA FL. Well, here are some of the conditions which he has himself
dictated to our go-between for you to take cognisance of, before
anything is begun.
"Supposing that the lender is satisfied with all his securities, and
that the borrower is of age and of a family whose property is ample,
solid, secure, and free from all incumbrances, there shall be drawn up
a good and correct bond before as honest a notary as it is possible to
find, and who for this purpose shall be chosen by the lender, because
he is the more concerned of the two that the bond should be rightly
CLE. There is nothing to say against that.
LA FA. "The lender, not to burden his conscience with the least
scruple, does not wish to lend his money at more than five and a half
CLE. Five and a half per cent? By Jove, that's honest! We have nothing
to complain of,
LA FL. That's true.
"But as the said lender has not in hand the sum required, and as, in
order to oblige the borrower, he is himself obliged to borrow from
another at the rate of twenty per cent., it is but right that the said
first borrower shall pay this interest, without detriment to the rest;
since it is only to oblige him that the said lender is himself forced
CLE. The deuce! What a Jew! what a Turk we have here! That is more
than twenty-five per cent.
LA FL. That's true; and it is the remark I made. It is for you to
consider the matter before you act.
CLE. How can I consider? I want the money, and I must therefore accept
LA FL. That is exactly what I answered.
CLE. Is there anything else?
LA FL. Only a small item.
"Of the fifteen thousand francs which are demanded, the lender will
only be able to count down twelve thousand in hard cash; instead of
the remaining three thousand, the borrower will have to take the
chattels, clothing, and jewels, contained in the following catalogue,
and which the said lender has put in all good faith at the lowest
CLE. What is the meaning of all that?
LA FL. I'll go through the catalogue:--
"Firstly:--A fourpost bedstead, with hangings of Hungary lace very
elegantly trimmed with olive-coloured cloth, and six chairs and a
counterpane to match; the whole in very good condition, and lined with
soft red and blue shot-silk. Item:--the tester of good pale pink
Aumale serge, with the small and the large fringes of silk."
CLE. What does he want me to do with all this?
LA FL. Wait.
"Item:--Tapestry hangings representing the loves of Gombaud and Macée.
[Footnote: An old comic pastoral.] Item:--A large walnut table with
twelve columns or turned legs, which draws out at both ends, and is
provided beneath with six stools."
CLE. Hang it all! What am I to do with all this?
LA FL. Have patience.
"Item:--Three large matchlocks inlaid with mother-of-pearl, with rests
to correspond. Item:--A brick furnace with two retorts and three
receivers, very useful to those who have any taste for distilling."
CLE. You will drive me crazy.
LA FL. Gently!
"Item:--A Bologna lute with all its strings, or nearly all. Item:--A
pigeon-hole table and a draught-board, and a game of mother goose,
restored from the Greeks, most useful to pass the time when one has
nothing to do. Item:--A lizard's skin, three feet and a half in
length, stuffed with hay, a pleasing curiosity to hang on the ceiling
of a room. The whole of the above-mentioned articles are really worth
more than four thousand five hundred francs, and are reduced to the
value of a thousand crowns through the considerateness of the lender."
CLE. Let the plague choke him with his considerateness, the wretch,
the cut-throat that he is! Did ever anyone hear of such usury? Is he
not satisfied with the outrageous interest he asks that he must force
me to take, instead of the three thousand francs, all the old rubbish
which he picks up. I shan't get two hundred crowns for all that, and
yet I must bring myself to yield to all his wishes; for he is in a
position to force me to accept everything, and he has me, the villain,
with a knife at my throat.
LA FL. I see you, Sir, if you'll forgive my saying so, on the high-road
followed by Panurge [Footnote: The real hero in Rabelais' 'Pantagruel.']
to ruin himself--taking money in advance, buying dear, selling cheap,
and cutting your corn while it is still grass.
CLE. What would you have me do? It is to this that young men are
reduced by the accursed avarice of their fathers; and people are
astonished after that, that sons long for their death.
LA FL. No one can deny that yours would excite against his meanness
the most quiet of men. I have not, thank God, any inclination gallows-
ward, and among my colleagues whom I see dabbling in various doubtful
affairs, I know well enough how to keep myself out of hot water, and
how to keep clear of all those things which savour ever so little of
the ladder; but to tell you the truth, he almost gives me, by his ways
of going on, the desire of robbing him, and I should think that in
doing so I was doing a meritorious action.
CLE. Give me that memorandum that I may have another look at it.
SCENE II.--HARPAGON, MR. SIMON (CLÉANTE _and_ LA FLÈCHE _at the
back of the stage_).
SIM. Yes, Sir; it is a young man who is greatly in want of money; his
affairs force him to find some at any cost, and he will submit to all
HAR. But are you sure, Mr. Simon, that there is no risk to run in this
case? and do you know the name, the property, and the family of him
for whom you speak?
SIM. No; I cannot tell you anything for certain, as it was by mere
chance that I was made acquainted with him; but he will tell you
everything himself, and his servant has assured me that you will be
quite satisfied when you know who he is. All I can tell you is that
his family is said to be very wealthy, that he has already lost his
mother, and that he will pledge you his word, if you insist upon it,
that his father will die before eight months are passed.
HAR. That is something. Charity, Mr. Simon, demands of us to gratify
people whenever we have it in our power.
LA FL. (_aside to_ CLÉANTE, _on recognising_ MR. SIMON).
What does this mean? Mr. Simon talking with your father!
CLE. (_aside to_ LA FLÈCHE). Has he been told who I am, and would
you be capable of betraying me?
SIM. (_to_ CLÉANTE _and_ LA FLÈCHE). Ah! you are in good
time! But who told you to come here? (_To_ HARPAGON) It was
certainly not I who told them your name and address; but I am of
opinion that there is no great harm done; they are people who can be
trusted, and you can come to some understanding together.
SIM. (_showing_ CLÉANTE). This is the gentleman who wants to
borrow the fifteen thousand francs of which I have spoken to you.
HAR. What! miscreant! is it you who abandon yourself to such excesses?
CLE. What! father! is it you who stoop to such shameful deeds?
(MR. SIMON _runs away, and_ LA FLÈCHE _hides himself_.)
SCENE III.--HARPAGON, CLÉANTE.
HAR. It is you who are ruining yourself by loans so greatly to be
CLE. So it is you who seek to enrich yourself by such criminal usury!
HAR. And you dare, after that, to show yourself before me?
CLE. And you dare, after that, to show yourself to the world?
HAR. Are you not ashamed, tell me, to descend to these wild excesses,
to rush headlong into frightful expenses, and disgracefully to
dissipate the wealth which your parents have amassed with so much
CLE. Are you not ashamed of dishonouring your station by such
dealings, of sacrificing honour and reputation to the insatiable
desire of heaping crown upon crown, and of outdoing the most infamous
devices that have ever been invented by the most notorious usurers?
HAR. Get out of my sight, you reprobate; get out of my sight!
CLE. Who is the more criminal in your opinion: he who buys the money
of which he stands in need, or he who obtains, by unfair means, money
for which he has no use?
HAR. Begone, I say, and do not provoke me to anger. (_Alone_)
After all, I am not very much vexed at this adventure; it will be a
lesson to me to keep a better watch over all his doings.
SCENE IV.--FROSINE, HARPAGON.
HAR. Wait a moment, I will come back and speak to you. (_Aside_)
I had better go and see a little after my money.
SCENE V.--LA FLÈCHE, FROSINE.
LA FL. (_without seeing_ FROSINE). The adventure is most comical.
Hidden somewhere he must have a large store of goods of all kinds, for
the list did not contain one single article which either of us
FRO. Hallo! is it you, my poor La Flèche? How is it we meet here?
LA FL. Ah! ah! it is you, Frosine; and what have you come to do here?
FRO. What have I come to do? Why! what I do everywhere else, busy
myself about other people's affairs, make myself useful to the
community in general, and profit as much as I possibly can by the
small talent I possess. Must we not live by our wits in this world?
and what other resources have people like me but intrigue and cunning?
LA FL. Have you, then, any business with the master of this house?
FRO. Yes. I am transacting for him a certain small matter for which he
is pretty sure to give me a reward.
LA FL. He give you a reward! Ah! ah! Upon my word, you will be 'cute
if you ever get one, and I warn you that ready money is very scarce
FRO. That may be, but there are certain services which wonderfully
touch our feelings.
LA FL. Your humble servant; but as yet you don't know Harpagon.
Harpagon is the human being of all human beings the least humane, the
mortal of all mortals the hardest and closest. There is no service
great enough to induce him to open his purse. If, indeed, you want
praise, esteem, kindness, and friendship, you are welcome to any
amount; but money, that's a different affair. There is nothing more
dry, more barren, than his favour and his good grace, and
"_give_" is a word for which be has such a strong dislike that he
never says _I give_, but _I lend, you a good morning_.
FRO. That's all very well; but I know the art of fleecing men. I have
a secret of touching their affections by flattering their hearts, and
of finding out their weak points.
LA FL. All useless here. I defy you to soften, as far as money is
concerned, the man we are speaking of. He is a Turk on that point, of
a Turkishness to drive anyone to despair, and we might starve in his
presence and never a peg would he stir. In short, he loves money
better than reputation, honour, and virtue, and the mere sight of
anyone making demands upon his purse sends him into convulsions; it is
like striking him in a vital place, it is piercing him to the heart,
it is like tearing out his very bowels! And if ... But here he comes
again; I leave you.
SCENE VI.--HARPAGON, FROSINE.
HAR. (_aside_). All is as it should be. (_To_ FROSINE) Well,
what is it, Frosine?
FRO. Bless me, how well you look! You are the very picture of health.
HAR. Who? I?
FRO. Never have I seen you looking more rosy, more hearty.
HAR. Are you in earnest?
FRO. Why! you have never been so young in your life; and I know many a
man of twenty-five who looks much older than you do.
HAR. And yet, Frosine, I have passed threescore.
FRO. Threescore! Well, and what then? You don't mean to make a trouble
of that, do you? It's the very flower of manhood, the threshold of the
prime of life.
HAR. True; but twenty years less would do me no harm, I think.
FRO. Nonsense! You've no need of that, and you are of a build to last
out a hundred.
HAR. Do you really think so?
FRO. Decidedly. You have all the appearance of it. Hold yourself up a
little. Ah! what a sign of long life is that line there straight
between your two eyes!
HAR. You know all about that, do you?
FRO. I should think I do. Show me your hand. [Footnote: Frosine
professes a knowledge of palmistry.] Dear me, what a line of life
there is there!
FRO. Don't you see how far this line goes?
HAR. Well, and what does it mean?
FRO. What does it mean? There ... I said a hundred years; but no, it
is one hundred and twenty I ought to have said.
HAR. Is it possible?
FRO. I tell you they will have to kill you, and you will bury your
children and your children's children.
HAR. So much the better! And what news of our affair?
FRO. Is there any need to ask? Did ever anyone see me begin anything
and not succeed in it? I have, especially for matchmaking, the most
wonderful talent. There are no two persons in the world I could not
couple together; and I believe that, if I took it into my head, I
could make the Grand Turk marry the Republic of Venice. [Footnote: Old
enemies. The Turks took Candia from the Venetians in 1669, after a war
of twenty years.] But we had, to be sure, no such difficult thing to
achieve in this matter. As I know the ladies very well, I told them
every particular about you; and I acquainted the mother with your
intentions towards Marianne since you saw her pass in the street and
enjoy the fresh air out of her window.
HAR. What did she answer...?
FRO. She received your proposal with great joy; and when I told her
that you wished very much that her daughter should come to-night to
assist at the marriage contract which is to be signed for your own
daughter, she assented at once, and entrusted her to me for the
HAR. You see, Frosine, I am obliged to give some supper to Mr.
Anselme, and I should like her to have a share in the feast.
FRO. You are quite right. She is to come after dinner to pay a visit
to your daughter; then she means to go from here to the fair, and
return to your house just in time for supper.
HAR. That will do very well; they shall go together in my carriage,
which I will lend them.
FRO. That will suit her perfectly.
HAR. But I say, Frosine, have you spoken to the mother about the dowry
she can give her daughter? Did you make her understand that under such
circumstances she ought to do her utmost and to make a great
sacrifice? For, after all, one does not marry a girl without her
bringing something with her.
FRO. How something! She is a girl who will bring you a clear twelve
thousand francs a year?
HAR. Twelve thousand francs a year?
FRO. Yes! To begin with, she has been nursed and brought up with the
strictest notions of frugality. She is a girl accustomed to live upon
salad, milk, cheese, and apples, and who consequently will require
neither a well served up table, nor any rich broth, nor your
everlasting peeled barley; none, in short, of all those delicacies
that another woman would want. This is no small matter, and may well
amount to three thousand francs yearly. Besides this, she only cares
for simplicity and neatness; she will have none of those splendid
dresses and rich jewels, none of that sumptuous furniture in which
girls like her indulge so extravagantly; and this item is worth more
than four thousand francs per annum. Lastly, she has the deepest
aversion to gambling; and this is not very common nowadays among
women. Why, I know of one in our neighbourhood who lost at least
twenty thousand francs this year. But let us reckon only a fourth of
that sum. Five thousand francs a year at play and four thousand in
clothes and jewels make nine thousand; and three thousand francs which
we count for food, does it not make your twelve thousand francs?
HAR. Yes, that's not bad; but, after all, that calculation has nothing
real in it.
FRO. Excuse me; is it nothing real to bring you in marriage a great
sobriety, to inherit a great love for simplicity in dress, and the
acquired property of a great hatred for gambling?
HAR. It is a farce to pretend to make up a dowry with all the expenses
she will not run into. I could not give a receipt for what I do not
receive; and I must decidedly get something.
FRO. Bless me! you will get enough; and they have spoken to me of a
certain country where they have some property, of which you will be
HAR. We shall have to see to that. But, Frosine, there is one more
thing that makes me uneasy. The girl is young, you know; and young
people generally like those who are young like themselves, and only
care for the society of the young. I am afraid that a man of my age
may not exactly suit her taste, and that this may occasion in my
family certain complications that would in nowise be pleasant to me.
FRO. Oh, how badly you judge her! This is one more peculiarity of
which I had to speak to you. She has the greatest detestation to all
young men, and only likes old people.
HAR. Does she?
FRO. I should like you to hear her talk on that subject; she cannot
bear at all the sight of a young man, and nothing delights her more
than to see a fine old man with a venerable beard. The oldest are to
her the most charming, and I warn you beforehand not to go and make
yourself any younger than you really are. She wishes for one sixty
years old at least; and it is not more than six months ago that on the
very eve of being married she suddenly broke off the match on learning
that her lover was only fifty-six years of age, and did not put on
spectacles to sign the contract.
HAR. Only for that?
FRO. Yes; she says there is no pleasure with a man of fifty-six; and
she has a decided affection for those who wear spectacles.
HAR. Well, this is quite new to me.
FRO. No one can imagine how far she carries this. She has in her room
a few pictures and engravings, and what do you imagine they are? An
Adonis, a Cephalus, a Paris, an Apollo? Not a bit of it! Fine
portraits of Saturn, of King Priam, of old Nestor, and of good father
Anchises on his son's shoulders.
HAR. That's admirable. I should never have guessed such a thing; and I
am very pleased to hear that she has such taste as this. Indeed had I
been a woman, I should never have loved young fellows.
FRO. I should think not. Fine trumpery indeed, these young men, for
any one to fall in love with. Fine jackanapes and puppies for a woman
to hanker after. I should like to know what relish anyone can find in
HAR. Truly; I don't understand it myself, and I cannot make out how it
is that some women dote so on them.
FRO. They must be downright idiots. Can any one be in his senses who
thinks youth amiable? Can those curly-pated coxcombs be men, and can
one really get attached to such animals?
HAR. Exactly what I say every day! With their effeminate voices, their
three little bits of a beard turned up like cat's whiskers, their tow
wigs, their flowing breeches and open breasts!
FRO. Yes; they are famous guys compared with yourself. In you we see
something like a man. There is enough to satisfy the eye. It is thus
that one should be made and dressed to inspire love.
HAR. Then you think I am pretty well?
FRO. Pretty well! I should think so; you are charming, and your face
would make a beautiful picture. Turn round a little, if you please.
You could not find anything better anywhere. Let me see you walk. You
have a well-shaped body, free and easy, as it should be, and one which
gives no sign of infirmity.
HAR. I have nothing the matter to speak of, I am thankful to say. It
is only my cough, which returns from time to time. [Footnote: Molière
makes use even of his own infirmities. Compare act i. scene iii. This
cough killed him at last.]
FRO. That is nothing, and coughing becomes you exceedingly well.
HAR. Tell me, Frosine, has Marianne seen me yet? Has she not noticed
me when I passed by?
FRO. No; but we have had many conversations about you. I gave her an
exact description of your person, and I did not fail to make the most
of your merit, and to show her what an advantage it would be to have a
husband like you.
HAR. You did right, and I thank you very much for it.
FRO. I have, Sir, a small request to make to you. I am in danger of
losing a lawsuit for want of a little money (HARPAGON _looks
grave_), and you can easily help me with it, if you have pity upon
me. You cannot imagine how happy she will be to see you. (HARPAGON
_looks joyful_.) Oh! how sure you are to please her, and how sure
that antique ruff of yours is to produce a wonderful effect on her
mind. But, above all, she will be delighted with your breeches
fastened to your doublet with tags; that will make her mad after you,
and a lover who wears tags will be most welcome to her.
HAR. You send me into raptures, Frosine, by saying that.
FRO. I tell you the truth, Sir; this lawsuit is of the utmost
importance for me. (HARPAGON _looks serious again_.) If I lose
it, I am for ever ruined; but a very small sum will save me. I should
like you to have seen the happiness she felt when I spoke of you to
her. (HARPAGON _looks pleased again_.) Joy sparkled in her eyes
while I told her of all your good qualities; and I succeeded, in
short, in making her look forward with the greatest impatience to the
conclusion of the match.
HAR. You have given me great pleasure, Frosine, and I assure you I....
FRO. I beg of you, Sir, to grant me the little assistance I ask of
you. (HARPAGON _again looks grave_.) It will put me on my feet
again, and I shall feel grateful to you for ever.
HAR. Good-bye; I must go and finish my correspondence.
FRO. I assure you, Sir, that you could not help me in a more pressing
HAR. I will see that my carriage is ready to take you to the fair.
FRO. I would not importune you so if I were not compelled by
HAR. And I will see that we have supper early, so that nobody may be
FRO. Do not refuse me the service; I beg of you. You can hardly
believe, Sir, the pleasure that....
HAR. I must go; somebody is calling me. We shall see each other again
by and by.
FRO. (_alone_). May the fever seize you, you stingy cur, and send
you to the devil and his angels! The miser has held out against all my
attacks; but I must not drop the negotiation; for I have the other
side, and there, at all events, I am sure of a good reward.
SCENE I.--HARPAGON, CLÉANTE, ÉLISE, VALÈRE; DAME CLAUDE (_holding a
broom_), MASTER JACQUES, LA MERLUCHE, BRINDAVOINE.
HAR. Here, come here, all of you; I must give you orders for by and
by, and arrange what each one will have to do. Come nearer, Dame
Claude; let us begin with you. (_Looking at her broom._) Good;
you are ready armed, I see. To you I commit the care of cleaning up
everywhere; but, above all, be very careful not to rub the furniture
too hard, for fear of wearing it out. Besides this, I put the bottles
under your care during supper, and if any one of them is missing, or
if anything gets broken, you will be responsible for it, and pay it
out of your wages.
JAC. (_aside_). A shrewd punishment that.
HAR. (_to_ DAME CLAUDE.) Now you may go.
SCENE II.--HARPAGON, CLÉANTE, ÉLISE, VALÈRE, MASTER JACQUES,
BRINDAVOINE, LA MERLUCHE.
HAR. To you, Brindavoine, and to you, La Merluche, belongs the duty of
washing the glasses, and of giving to drink, but only when people are
thirsty, and not according to the custom of certain impertinent
lackeys, who urge them to drink, and put the idea into their heads
when they are not thinking about it. Wait until you have been asked
several times, and remember always to have plenty of water.
JAC. (_aside_). Yes; wine without water gets into one's head.
LA MER. Shall we take off our smocks, Sir?
HAR. Yes, when you see the guests coming; but be very careful not to
spoil your clothes.
BRIND. You know, Sir, that one of the fronts of my doublet is covered
with a large stain of oil from the lamp.
LA MER. And I, Sir, that my breeches are all torn behind, and that,
saving your presence....
HAR. (_to_ LA MERLUCHE). Peace! Turn carefully towards the wall,
and always face the company. (_To_ BRINDAVOINE, _showing him
how he is to hold his hat before his doublet, to hide the stain of
oil_) And you, always hold your hat in this fashion when you wait
on the guests.
SCENE III.--HARPAGON; CLÉANTE, ÉLISE, VALÈRE, MASTER JACQUES.
HAR. As for you, my daughter, you will look after all that is cleared
off the table, and see that nothing is wasted: this care is very
becoming to young girls. Meanwhile get ready to welcome my lady-love,
who is coming this afternoon to pay you a visit, and will take you off
to the fair with her. Do you understand what I say?
ELI. Yes, father.
SCENE IV.--HARPAGON, CLÉANTE, VALÈRE, MASTER JACQUES.
HAR. And you, my young dandy of a son to whom I have the kindness of
forgiving what happened this morning, mind you don't receive her
coldly, or show her a sour face.
CLE. Receive her coldly! And why should I?
HAR. Why? why? We know pretty well the ways of children whose fathers
marry again, and the looks they give to those we call stepmothers. But
if you wish me to forget your last offence, I advise you, above all
things, to receive her kindly, and, in short, to give her the
heartiest welcome you can.
CLE. To speak the truth, father, I cannot promise you that I am very
happy to see her become my stepmother; but as to receiving her
properly, and as to giving her a kind welcome, I promise to obey you
in that to the very letter.
HAR. Be careful you do, at least.
CLE. You will see that you have no cause to complain.
HAR. You will do wisely.
SCENE V.--HARPAGON, VALÈRE, MASTER JACQUES.
HAR. Valère, you will have to give me your help in this business. Now,
Master Jacques, I kept you for the last.
JAC. Is it to your coachman, Sir, or to your cook you want to speak,
for I am both the one and the other?
HAR. To both.
JAC. But to which of the two first?
HAR. To the cook.
JAC. Then wait a minute, if you please.
(JACQUES _takes off his stable-coat and appears dressed as a
HAR. What the deuce is the meaning of this ceremony?
JAC. Now I am at your service.
HAR. I have engaged myself, Master Jacques, to give a supper to-night.
JAC. (_aside_). Wonderful!
HAR. Tell me, can you give us a good supper?
JAC. Yes, if you give me plenty of money.
HAR. The deuce! Always money! I think they have nothing else to say
except money, money, money! Always that same word in their mouth,
money! They always speak of money! It's their pillow companion, money!
VAL. Never did I hear such an impertinent answer! Would you call it
wonderful to provide good cheer with plenty of money? Is it not the
easiest thing in the world? The most stupid could do as much. But a
clever man should talk of a good supper with little money.
JAC. A good supper with little money?
JAC. (_to_ VALÈRE). Indeed, Mr. Steward, you will oblige me
greatly by telling me your secret, and also, if you like, by filling
my place as cook; for you keep on meddling here, and want to be
HAR. Hold your tongue. What shall we want?
JAC. Ask that of Mr. Steward, who will give you good cheer with little
HAR. Do you hear? I am speaking to you, and expect you to answer me.
JAC. How many will there be at your table?
HAR. Eight or ten; but you must only reckon for eight. When there is
enough for eight, there is enough for ten.
VAL. That is evident.
JAC. Very well, then; you must have four tureens of soup and five side
dishes; soups, entrées....
HAR. What! do you mean to feed a whole town?
HAR. (_clapping his hand on_ MASTER JACQUES' _mouth_). Ah!
Wretch! you are eating up all my substance.
HAR. (_again putting his hand on_ JACQUES' _mouth_). More
VAL. (_to_ JACQUES). Do you mean to kill everybody? And has your
master invited people in order to destroy them with over-feeding? Go
and read a little the precepts of health, and ask the doctors if there
is anything so hurtful to man as excess in eating.
HAR. He is perfectly right.
VAL. Know, Master Jacques, you and people like you, that a table
overloaded with eatables is a real cut-throat; that, to be the true
friends of those we invite, frugality should reign throughout the
repast we give, and that according to the saying of one of the
ancients, "We must eat to live, and not live to eat."
HAR. Ah! How well the man speaks! Come near, let me embrace you for
this last saying. It is the finest sentence that I have ever heard in
my life: "We must live to eat, and not eat to live." No; that isn't
it. How do you say it?
VAL. That we must eat to live, and not live to eat.
HAR. (_to_ MASTER JACQUES). Yes. Do you hear that? (_To_
VALÈRE) Who is the great man who said that?
VAL. I do not exactly recollect his name just now.
HAR. Remember to write down those words for me. I will have them
engraved in letters of gold over the mantel-piece of my dining-room.
VAL. I will not fail. As for your supper, you had better let me manage
it. I will see that it is all as it should be.
HAR. Do so.
JAC. So much the better; all the less work for me.
HAR. (_to_ VALÈRE). We must have some of those things of which it
is not possible to eat much, and that satisfy directly. Some good fat
beans, and a pâté well stuffed with chestnuts.
VAL. Trust to me.
HAR. Now, Master Jacques, you must clean my carriage.
JAC. Wait a moment; this is to the coachman. (JACQUES _puts on his
coat_.) You say....
HAR. That you must clean my carriage, and have my horses ready to
drive to the fair.
JAC. Your horses! Upon my word, Sir, they are not at all in a
condition to stir. I won't tell you that they are laid up, for the
poor things have got nothing to lie upon, and it would not be telling
the truth. But you make them keep such rigid fasts that they are
nothing but phantoms, ideas, and mere shadows of horses.
HAR. They are much to be pitied. They have nothing to do.
JAC. And because they have nothing to do, must they have nothing to
eat? It would be much better for them, poor things, to work much and
eat to correspond. It breaks my heart to see them so reduced; for, in
short, I love my horses; and when I see them suffer, it seems as if it
were myself. Every day I take the bread out of my own mouth to feed
them; and it is being too hard-hearted, Sir, to have no compassion
upon one's neighbour.
HAR. It won't be very hard work to go to the fair.
JAC. No, Sir. I haven't the heart to drive them; it would go too much
against my conscience to use the whip to them in the state they are
in. How could you expect them to drag a carriage? They have not even
strength enough to drag themselves along.
VAL. Sir, I will ask our neighbour, Picard, to drive them;
particularly as we shall want his help to get the supper ready.
JAC. Be it so. I had much rather they should die under another's hand
than under mine.
VAL. Master Jacques is mightily considerate.
JAC. Mr. Steward is mightily indispensable.
JAC. Sir, I can't bear these flatteries, and I can see that, whatever
this man does, his continual watching after the bread, wine, wood,
salt, and candles, is done but to curry favour and to make his court
to you. I am indignant to see it all; and I am sorry to hear every day
what is said of you; for, after all, I have a certain tenderness for
you; and, except my horses, you are the person I like most in the
HAR. And I would know from you, Master Jacques, what it is that is
said of me.
JAC. Yes, certainly, Sir, if I were sure you would not get angry with
HAR. No, no; never fear.
JAC. Excuse me, but I am sure you will be angry.
HAR. No, on the contrary, you will oblige me. I should be glad to know
what people say of me.
JAC. Since you wish it, Sir, I will tell you frankly that you are the
laughing-stock of everybody; that they taunt us everywhere by a
thousand jokes on your account, and that nothing delights people more
than to make sport of you, and to tell stories without end about your
stinginess. One says that you have special almanacks printed, where
you double the ember days and vigils, so that you may profit by the
fasts to which you bind all your house; another, that you always have
a ready-made quarrel for your servants at Christmas time or when they
leave you, so that you may give them nothing. One tells a story how
not long since you prosecuted a neighbour's cat because it had eaten
up the remainder of a leg of mutton; another says that one night you
were caught stealing your horses' oats, and that your coachman,--that
is the man who was before me,--gave you, in the dark, a good sound
drubbing, of which you said nothing. In short, what is the use of
going on? We can go nowhere but we are sure to hear you pulled to
pieces. You are the butt and jest and byword of everybody; and never
does anyone mention you but under the names of miser, stingy, mean,
niggardly fellow and usurer.
HAR. (_beating_ JACQUES). You are a fool, a rascal, a scoundrel,
and an impertinent wretch.
JAC. There, there! Did not I know how it would be? You would not
believe me. I told you I should make you angry if I spoke the truth?
HAR. Learn how to speak.
SCENE VI.--VALÈRE, MASTER JACQUES.
VAL. (_laughing_). Well, Master Jacques, your frankness is badly
rewarded, I fear.
JAC. S'death! Mr. Upstart, you who assume the man of consequence, it
is no business of yours as far as I can see. Laugh at your own
cudgelling when you get it, and don't come here and laugh at mine.
VAL. Ah! Master Jacques, don't get into a passion, I beg of you.
JAC. (_aside_). He is drawing in his horns. I will put on a bold
face, and if he is fool enough to be afraid of me, I will pay him back
somewhat. (_To_ VALÈRE) Do you know, Mr. Grinner, that I am not
exactly in a laughing humour, and that if you provoke me too much, I
shall make you laugh after another fashion. (JACQUES _pushes_
VALÈRE _to the farther end of the stage, threatening him_.)
VAL. Gently, gently.
JAC. How gently? And if it does not please me to go gently?
VAL. Come, come! What are you about?
JAC. You are an impudent rascal.
VAL. Master Jacques....
JAC. None of your Master Jacques here! If I take up a stick, I shall
soon make you feel it.
VAL. What do you mean by a stick? (_Drives back_ JACQUES _in
JAC. No; I don't say anything about that.
VAL. Do you know, Mr. Conceit, that I am a man to give you a drubbing
in good earnest?
JAC. I have no doubt of it.
VAL. That, after all, you are nothing but a scrub of a cook?
JAC. I know it very well.
VAL. And that you don't know me yet?
JAC. I beg your pardon.
VAL. You will beat me, you say?
JAC. I only spoke in jest.
VAL. I don't like your jesting, and (_beating_ JACQUES) remember
that you are but a sorry hand at it.
JAC. (_alone_). Plague take all sincerity; it is a bad trade. I
give it up for the future, and will cease to tell the truth. It is all
very well for my master to beat me; but as for that Mr. Steward, what
right has he to do it? I will be revenged on him if I can.
SCENE VII.--MARIANNE, FROSINE, MASTER JACQUES.
FRO. Do you know if your master is at home?
JAC. Yes, he is indeed; I know it but too well.
FRO. Tell him, please, that we are here.
SCENE VIII.--MARIANNE, FROSINE.
MAR. Ah! Frosine, how strange I feel, and how I dread this interview!
FRO. Why should you? What can you possibly dread?
MAR. Alas! can you ask me? Can you not understand the alarms of a
person about to see the instrument of torture to which she is to be
FRO. I see very well that to die agreeably, Harpagon is not the
torture you would embrace; and I can judge by your looks that the fair
young man you spoke of to me is still in your thoughts.
MAR. Yes, Frosine; it is a thing I do not wish to deny. The respectful
visits he has paid at our house have left, I confess, a great
impression on my heart.
FRO. But do you know who he is?
MAR. No, I do not. All I know is that he is made to be loved; that if
things were left to my choice, I would much rather marry him than any
other, and that he adds not a little to the horrible dread that I have
of the husband they want to force upon me.
FRO. Oh yes! All those dandies are very pleasant, and can talk
agreeably enough, but most of them are as poor as church mice; and it
is much better for you to marry an old husband, who gives you plenty
of money. I fully acknowledge that the senses somewhat clash with the
end I propose, and that there are certain little inconveniences to be
endured with such a husband; but all that won't last; and his death,
believe me, will soon put you in a position to take a more pleasant
husband, who will make amends for all.
MAR. Oh, Frosine! What a strange state of things that, in order to be
happy, we must look forward to the death of another. Yet death will
not fall in with all the projects we make.
FRO. You are joking. You marry him with the express understanding that
he will soon leave you a widow; it must be one of the articles of the
marriage contract. It would be very wrong in him not to die before
three months are over. Here he is himself.
MAR. Ah! dear Frosine, what a face!