Moliere's Misanthrope: A critique and reluctant defense of courtly life

Sylvie Romanowski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Moliere set he Misanthrope (1666) in an upper-class salon at a time when norms of politeness were being refined for the elite of French society. Moliere uses theatre, one of whose functions it is to re-enact social change for the spectators, to examine the evolving norms of sociability. Society's principal model and central institution was the court of Louis XIV. Alceste rebels against the demands for polite behavior demanded by courtly life, but at the same time hopes to marry the salon's head, Celimene. His criticisms are powerless to reform the salon members and to win Celimene, but the salon collapses due to inner tensions. Moliere thus shows the dangers of non-conformity to social norms of courtly life, even though these are often based on illusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-63
Number of pages15
JournalContemporary Theatre Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


  • Anti-court critique
  • Courtly life and honnetete
  • Critique and acceptance of social norms
  • Function of drama in society
  • Le Misanthrope
  • Moliere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


Dive into the research topics of 'Moliere's Misanthrope: A critique and reluctant defense of courtly life'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this