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Title: L'ecole des maris. English - The School for Husbands
Author: Molière, 1622-1673
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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       *       *       *       *       *





_The School for Husbands_ was the first play in the title of which
the word "School" was employed, to imply that, over and above the
intention of amusing, the author designed to convey a special lesson to
his hearers. Perhaps Molière wished not only that the general public
should be prepared to find instructions and warnings for married men,
but also that they who were wont to regard the theatre as injurious, or
at best trivial, should know that he professed to educate, as well as to
entertain. We must count the adoption of similar titles by Sheridan and
others amongst the tributes, by imitation, to Molière's genius.

This comedy was played for the first time at Paris, on the 24th of June,
1661, and met with great success. On the 12th of July following it was
acted at Vaux, the country seat of Fouquet, before the whole court,
Monsieur, the brother of the King, and the Queen of England; and by them
also was much approved. Some commentators say that Molière was partly
inspired by a comedy of Lope de Vega. _La Discreta enamorada_, The
Cunning Sweetheart; also by a remodelling of the same play by Moreto,
_No puede ser guardar una muger_, One cannot guard a woman; but
this has lately been disproved. It appears, however, that he borrowed
the primary idea of his comedy from the _Adelphi_ of Terence; and
from a tale, the third of the third day, in the Decameron of Boccaccio,
where a young woman uses her father-confessor as a go-between for
herself and her lover. In the _Adelphi_ there are two old men of
dissimilar character, who give a different education to the children
they bring up. One of them is a dotard, who, after having for sixty
years been sullen, grumpy and avaricious, becomes suddenly lively,
polite, and prodigal; this Molière had too much common sense to imitate.

_The School for Husbands_ marks a distinct departure in the
dramatist's literary progress. As a critic has well observed, it
which give rise to situations in accordance with the ordinary operations
of human nature. Molière's method--the simple and only true one, and,
consequently, the one which incontestably establishes the original
talent of its employer--is this: At the beginning of a play, he
introduces his principal personages: sets them talking; suffers them to
betray their characters, as men and women do in every-day
life,--expecting from his hearers that same discernment which he has
himself displayed in detecting their peculiarities: imports the germ of
a plot in some slight misunderstanding or equivocal act; and leaves all
the rest to be effected by the action and reaction of the characters
which he began by bringing out in bold relief. His plots are thus the
plots of nature; and it is impossible that they should not be both
interesting and instructive. That his comedies, thus composed, are
besides amusing, results from the shrewdness with which he has selected
and combined his characters, and the art with which he arranges the
situations produced.

The character-comedies of Molière exhibit, more than any others, the
force of his natural genius, and the comparative weakness of his
artistic talent. In the exhibition and the evolution of character, he is
supreme. In the unravelling of his plots and the _dénouement_ of
his situations, he is driven too willingly to the _deus ex

_The School for Husbands_ was directed against one of the special
and prominent defects of society in the age and country in which Molière
lived. Domestic tyranny was not only rife, but it was manifested in one
of its coarsest forms. Sganarelle, though twenty years younger than
Ariste, and not quite forty years old, could not govern by moral force;
he relied solely on bolts and bars. Physical restraint was the safeguard
in which husbands and parents had the greatest confidence, not
perceiving that the brain and the heart are always able to prevail
against it. This truth Molière took upon himself to preach, and herein
he surpasses all his rivals; in nothing more than in the artistic device
by which he introduces the contrast of the wise and trustful Ariste,
_raisonneur_ as he is called in French, rewarded in the end by the
triumph of his more humane mode of treatment. Molière probably expresses
his own feelings by the mouth of Ariste: for _The School for
Husbands_ was performed on the 24th of June, 1661, and about eight
months later, on the 20th of February, 1662, he married Armande Béjart,
being then about double her age. As to Sganarelle in this play, he
ceases to be a mere buffoon, as in some of Molière's farces, and becomes
the personification of an idea or of a folly which has to be ridiculed.

Molière dedicated _The School for Husbands_ to the Duke of Orleans,
the King's only brother, in the following words:--


I here shew France things that are but little consistent. Nothing can be
so great and superb as the name I place in front of this book; and
nothing more mean than what it contains. Every one will think this a
strange mixture; and some, to express its inequality, may say that it is
like setting a crown of pearls and diamonds on an earthen statue, and
making magnificent porticos and lofty triumphal arches to a mean
cottage. But, my Lord, my excuse is, that in this case I had no choice
to make, and that the honour I have of belonging to your Royal Highness,
[Footnote: Molière was the chief of the troupe of actors belonging to
the Duke of Orleans, who had only lately married, and was not yet
twenty-one years old.] absolutely obliged me to dedicate to you the
first work that I myself published. [Footnote: _Sganarelle_ had
been borrowed by Neufvillenaine; _The Pretentious Ladies_ was only
printed by Molière, because the copy of the play was stolen from him;
_Don Garcia of Navarre_ was not published till after his death, in
1682.] It is not a present I make you, it is a duty I discharge; and
homages are never looked upon by the things they bring. I presumed,
therefore, to dedicate a trifle to your Royal Highness, because I could
not help it; but if I omit enlarging upon the glorious truths I might
tell of you, it is through a just fear that those great ideas would make
my offering the more inconsiderable. I have imposed silence on myself,
meaning to wait for an opportunity better suited for introducing such
fine things; all I intended in this epistle was to justify my action to
France, and to have the glory of telling you yourself, my Lord, with all
possible submission, that I am your Royal Highness' very humble, very
obedient, and very faithful servant,


In the fourth volume of the "Select Comedies of M. de Molière, London,
1732," the translation of _The School for Husbands_ is dedicated to
the Right Honourable the Lady Harriot Campbell, in the following


A _Comedy_ which came abroad in its Native Language, under the
Patronage of the _Duke_ of ORLEANS, Brother to the _King_ of
FRANCE, attempts now to speak English, and begs the Honour of Your
LADYSHIP'S Favour and Acceptance. That distinguishing good Sense, that
nice Discernment, that refined Taste of Reading and Politeness for which
Your LADYSHIP is so deservedly admir'd, must, I'm persuaded, make You
esteem _Molière_; whose way of expression is easy and elegant, his
Sentiments just and delicate, and his morals untainted: who constantly
combats Vice and Folly with strong Reason and well turn'd Ridicule; in
short, whose _Plays_ are all instructive, and tend to some useful
Purpose:--An Excellence sufficient to recommend them to your LADYSHIP.

As for this Translation, which endeavours to preserve the Spirit as well
as Meaning of the Original, I shall only say, that if it can be so happy
as to please Your LADYSHIP, all the Pains it cost me will be over-paid.

I beg Pardon for this Presumption, and am, with the greatest Respect
that's possible, _Madam, Your Ladyship's Most Obedient and most Humble


Sir Charles Sedley, well known through a history of a "frolick" which
Pepys relates in his "Diary," [Footnote: See Pepys' Diary, October 23,
1668.] wrote _The Mulberry Garden_, of which Langbaine, in his "An
Account of the Dramatick Poets," states "I dare not say that the
character of Sir John Everyoung and Sir Samuel Forecast are copies of
Sganarelle and Ariste in Molière's _l'École des Maris_; but I may
say, that there is some resemblance, though whoever understands both
languages will readily and with justice give our English wit the
preference; and Sir Charles is not to learn to copy Nature from the
French." This comedy, which was played by his Majesty's servants at the
Theatre Royal, 1688, is dedicated to the Duchess of Richmond and Lennox,
a lady who has "'scap'd (prefaces) very well hitherto," but, says Sir
Charles, "Madam, your time is come, and you must bear it patiently. All
the favour I can show you is that of a good executioner, which is, not
to prolong your pain." This play has two girls like Isabella, called
Althea and Diana, two like Leonor, Victoria and Olivia, and four lovers,
as well as a rather intricate plot. The Epilogue is amusing, and we give
the beginning of it:--

  Poets of all men have the hardest game,
  Their best Endeavours can no Favours claim.
  The Lawyer if o'erthrown, though by the Laws,
  He quits himself, and lays it on your Cause.
  The Soldier is esteem'd a Man of War,
  And Honour gains, if he but bravely dare.
  The grave Physician, if his Patient dye,
  He shakes his head, and blames Mortality.
  Only poor Poets their own faults must bear;
  Therefore grave Judges be not too severe.

Flecknoe has also imitated several of the scenes of _The School for
Husbands_ in _The Damoiselles à la Mode_, which is a medley of
several of Molière's plays (see Introductory Notice to _The
Pretentious Young Ladies_).

James Miller has likewise followed, in _The Man of Taste_ (Act i.,
Scene 2). (see Introductory Notice to _The Pretentious Young
Ladies_), one scene of the first act of Molière's _The School for

Murphy, in _The School for Guardians_, has borrowed from three
plays of Molière. The main plot is taken from _The School for
Wives_; some incidents of the second act are taken from _The
Blunderer_ (see Introductory Notice to _The Blunderer_), but the
scenes in which Oldcastle and Lovibond state their intention of marrying
their wards, and the way in which one of the wards, Harriet, makes her
love known to Belford is taken from _The School for Husbands_,
though Leonor does not betray in the French comedy, as she does in the
English, the confidence placed in her. The French Isabella acts like
Harriet, but then she has a foolish and jealous guardian.

Wycherley in _The Country Wife_, probably acted in 1672 or 1673,
and which is partly an imitation of Molière's _School for Wives_,
has borrowed from _The School for Husbands_, the letter which
Isabella writes to Valère (Act ii., Scene 8), and also the scene in
which Isabella escapes disguised in her sister's clothes: but, of
course, to give an additional zest to the English play, the author makes
Pinchwife himself bring his wife to her lover, Horner. The scene hardly
bears transcribing. He has also partly imitated in _The Gentleman
Dancing-Master_, first performed in 1673, some scenes of _The
School for Husbands_.

Otway, in _The Soldier's Fortune_ (see Introductory Notice to
_Sganarelle, or The Self-Deceived Husband_), has borrowed from
Molière's _School for Husbands_ that part of his play in which Lady
Dunse makes her husband the agent for conveying a ring and a letter to
her lover.


  SGANARELLE, [Footnote: This part was played by Molière himself.
  In the inventory taken after Molière's death, and given by M. Soulié,
  we find: "A dress for _The School for Husbands_, consisting of
  breeches, doublet, cloak, collar, purse and girdle, all of a kind of
  brown coloured (_couleur de muse_) satin."]
          } _brothers_.

  VALÈRE, _lover to Isabella_.

  ERGASTE, _servant to Valère_.


  [Footnote: The original has _un Commissaire_, who in Molière's
  time, appears to have been a kind of inferior magistrate under the
  authority of the _Lieutenant-général de la Police_.
  The _Commissaires de Police_ were not established till 1699;
  and _The School for Husbands_ was played for the first time in 1661.]


            ) _sisters_.
  LÉONOR,   }

  LISETTE, _maid to Isabella_.




       *       *       *       *       *



SGAN. Pray, brother, let us talk less, and let each of us live as he
likes. Though you have the advantage of me in years, and are old enough
to be wise, yet I tell you that I mean to receive none of your reproofs;
that my fancy is the only counsellor I shall follow, and that I am quite
satisfied with my way of living.

AR. But every one condemns it.

SGAN. Yes, fools like yourself, brother.

AR. Thank you very much. It is a pleasant compliment.

SGAN. I should like to know, since one ought to hear everything, what
these fine critics blame in me.

AR. That surly and austere temper which shuns all the charms of society,
gives a whimsical appearance to all your actions, and makes everything
peculiar in you, even your dress.

SGAN. I ought then to make myself a slave in fashion, and not to put on
clothes for my own sake? Would you not, my dear elder brother--for,
Heaven be thanked, so you are, to tell you plainly, by a matter of
twenty years; and that is not worth the trouble of mentioning--would you
not, I say, by your precious nonsense, persuade me to adopt the fashions
of those young sparks of yours?

[Footnote: The original has _vos jeunes muguets_, literally "your
young lilies of the valley," because in former times, according to some
annotators, the courtiers wore natural or artificial lilies of the
valley in their buttonholes, and perfumed themselves with the essence of
that flower. I think that _muguet_ is connected with the old French
word _musguet_, smelling of musk. In Molière's time _muguet_
had become rather antiquated; hence it was rightly placed in the mouth
of Sganarelle, who likes to use such words and phrases. Rabelais employs
it in the eighth chapter of _Gargantua, un tas de muguets_, and it
has been translated by Sir Thomas Urquhart as "some fond wooers and
wench-courters." The fashion of calling dandies after the name of
perfumes is not rare in France. Thus Regnier speaks of them as
_marjolets_, from _marjolaine_, sweet marjoram; and Agrippa
d'Aubigné calls them _muscadins_ (a word also connected with the
old French _musguet_), which name was renewed at the beginning of
the first French revolution, and bestowed on elegants, because they
always smelled of musk.]

Oblige me to wear those little hats which provide ventilation for their
weak brains, and that flaxen hair, the vast curls whereof conceal the
form of the human face;

[Footnote: The fashion was in Molière's time to wear the hair, or wigs,
very long, and if possible of a fair colour, which gave to the young
fashionables, hence called _blondins_, an effeminate air.
Sganarelle addresses Valère (Act ii. Scene 9), likewise as _Monsieur
aux blonds cheveux_. In _The School for Wives_ (Act ii. Scene
6), Arnolphe also tells Agnès not to listen to the nonsense of these
_beaux blondins_. According to Juvenal (Satire VI.) Messalina put a
fair wig on to disguise herself. Louis XIV. did not begin to wear a wig
until 1673.]

those little doublets but just below the arms, and those big collars
falling down to the navel; those sleeves which one sees at table trying
all the sauces, and those petticoats called breeches; those tiny shoes,
covered with ribbons, which make you look like feather-legged pigeons;
and those large rolls wherein the legs are put every morning, as it were
into the stocks, and in which we see these gallants straddle about with
their legs as wide apart, as if they were the beams of a mill?

[Footnote: The original has _marcher écarquillés ainsi que des
volants_. Early commentators have generally stated that
_volants_ means here "the beams of a mill," but MM. Moland and E.
Despois, the last annotators of Molière, maintain that it stands for
"shuttlecock," because the large rolls (_canons_), tied at the knee
and wide at the bottom, bore a great resemblance to shuttlecocks turned
upside down. I cannot see how this can suit the words _marcher
écarquillés_, for the motion of the _canons_ of gallants,
walking or straddling about, is very unlike that produced by
shuttlecocks beaten by battledores; I still think "beams of a mill"
right, because, though the _canons_ did not look like beams of a
mill, the legs did, when in motion.]

I should doubtless please you, bedizened in this way; I see that you
wear the stupid gewgaws which it is the fashion to wear.

AR. We should always agree with the majority, and never cause ourselves
to be stared at. Extremes shock, and a wise man should do with his
clothes as with his speech; avoid too much affectation, and without
being in too great a hurry, follow whatever change custom introduces. I
do not think that we should act like those people who always exaggerate
the fashion, and who are annoyed that another should go further than
themselves in the extremes which they affect; but I maintain that it is
wrong, for whatever reasons, obstinately to eschew what every one
observes; that it would be better to be counted among the fools than to
be the only wise person, in opposition to every one else.

SGAN. That smacks of the old man who, in order to impose upon the world,
covers his grey hairs with a black wig.

AR. It is strange that you should be so careful always to fling my age
in my face, and that I should continually find you blaming my dress as
well as my cheerfulness. One would imagine that old age ought to think
of nothing but death, since it is condemned to give up all enjoyment;
and that it is not attended by enough ugliness of its own, but must
needs be slovenly and crabbed.

SGAN. However that may be, I am resolved to stick to my way of dress. In
spite of the fashion, I like my cap so that my head may be comfortably
sheltered beneath it; a good long doublet buttoned close, as it should

[Footnote: The young dandies in the beginning of the reign of Louis
XIV., wore slashed doublets, very tight and short.]

which may keep the stomach warm, and promote a healthy digestion; a pair
of breeches made exactly to fit my thighs; shoes, like those of our wise
ancestors, in which my feet may not be tortured: and he who does not
like the look of me may shut his eyes.

_conversing in an under-tone, unperceived_.

LEO. (_To Isabella_). I take it all on myself, in case you are

LIS. (_To Isabella_). Always in one room, seeing no one?

ISA. Such is his humour.

LEO. I pity you, sister.

LIS. (_To Léonor_). It is well for you, madam, that his brother is
of quite another disposition; fate was very kind in making you fall into
the hands of a rational person.

ISA. It is a wonder that he did not lock me up to-day, or take me with

LIS. I declare I would send him to the devil, with his Spanish ruff,

[Footnote: The Spanish ruff (_fraise_) was in fashion at the end of
Henri IV.'s reign; in the reign of Louis XIII., and in the beginning of
Louis XIV.'s, flat-lying collars, adorned with lace were worn, so that
those who still stuck to the Spanish ruff in 1661, were considered very
old-fashioned people.]

SGAN. (_Against whom Lisette stumbles_). Where are you going, if I
may ask?

LEO. We really do not know; I was urging my sister to talk a walk, and
enjoy this pleasant and fine weather; but...

SGAN. (_To Léonor_). As for you, you may go wherever you please.
(_To Lisette_). You can run off; there are two of you together.
(_To Isabella_). But as for you, I forbid you--excuse me--to go

AR. Oh, brother! let them go and amuse themselves.

SGAN. I am your servant, brother.

AR. Youth will...

SGAN. Youth is foolish, and old age too, sometimes.

AR. Do you think there is any harm in her being with Léonor?

SGAN. Not so; but with me I think she is still better.

AR. But...

SGAN. But her conduct must be guided by me; in short, I know the
interest I ought to take in it.

AR. Have I less in her sister's?

SGAN. By Heaven! each one argues and does as he likes. They are without
relatives, and their father, our friend, entrusted them to us in his
last hour, charging us both either to marry them, or, if we declined, to
dispose of them hereafter. He gave us, in writing, the full authority of
a father and a husband over them, from their infancy. You undertook to
bring up that one; I charged myself with the care of this one. You
govern yours at your pleasure. Leave me, I pray, to manage the other as
I think best.

AR. It seems to me...

SGAN. It seems to me, and I say it openly, that is the right way to
speak on such a subject. You let your ward go about gaily and stylishly;
I am content. You let her have footmen and a maid; I agree. You let her
gad about, love idleness, be freely courted by dandies; I am quite
satisfied. But I intend that mine shall live according to my fancy, and
not according to her own; that she shall be dressed in honest serge, and
wear only black on holidays; that, shut up in the house, prudent in
bearing, she shall apply herself entirely to domestic concerns, mend my
linen in her leisure hours, or else knit stockings for amusement; that
she shall close her ears to the talk of young sparks, and never go out
without some one to watch her. In short, flesh is weak; I know what
stories are going about. I have no mind to wear horns, if I can help it;
and as her lot requires her to marry me, I mean to be as certain of her
as I am of myself.

ISA. I believe you have no grounds for....

SGAN. Hold your tongue, I shall teach you to go out without us!

LEO. What, sir....

SGAN. Good Heavens, madam! without wasting any more words, I am not
speaking to you, for you are too clever.

LEO. Do you regret to see Isabella with us?

SGAN. Yes, since I must speak plainly; you spoil her for me. Your visits
here only displease me, and you will oblige me by honouring us no more.

LEO. Do you wish that I shall likewise speak my thoughts plainly to you?
I know not how she regards all this; but I know what effect mistrust
would have on me. Though we are of the same father and mother, she is
not much of my sister if your daily conduct produces any love in her.

LIS. Indeed, all these precautions are disgraceful. Are we in Turkey,
that women must be shut up? There, they say, they are kept like slaves;
this is why the Turks are accursed by God. Our honour, sir, is very weak
indeed, if it must be perpetually watched. Do you think, after all, that
these precautions are any bar to our designs? that when we take anything
into our heads, the cleverest man would not be but a donkey to us? All
that vigilance of yours is but a fool's notion; the best way of all, I
assure you, is to trust us. He who torments us puts himself in extreme
peril, for our honour must ever be its own protector. To take so much
trouble in preventing us is almost to give us a desire to sin. If I were
suspected by my husband, I should have a very good mind to justify his

SGAN. (_to Ariste_). This, my fine teacher, is your training. And
you endure it without being troubled?

AR. Brother, her words should only make you smile. There is some reason
in what she says. Their sex loves to enjoy a little freedom; they are
but ill-checked by so much austerity. Suspicious precautions, bolts and
bars, make neither wives nor maids virtuous. It is honour which must
hold them to their duty, not the severity which we display towards them.
To tell you candidly, a woman who is discreet by compulsion only is not
often to be met with. We pretend in vain to govern all her actions; I
find that it is the heart we must win. For my part, whatever care might
be taken, I would scarcely trust my honour in the hands of one who, in
the desires which might assail her, required nothing but an opportunity
of falling.

SGAN. That is all nonsense.

AR. Have it so; but still I maintain that we should instruct youth
pleasantly, chide their faults with great tenderness, and not make them
afraid of the name of virtue. Léonor's education has been based on these
maxims. I have not made crimes of the smallest acts of liberty, I have
always assented to her youthful wishes, and, thank Heaven, I never
repented of it. I have allowed her to see good company, to go to
amusements, balls, plays. These are things which, for my part I think
are calculated to form the minds of the young; the world is a school
which, in my opinion, teaches them better how to live than any book.
Does she like to spend money on clothes, linen, ribands--what then? I
endeavour to gratify her wishes; these are pleasures which, when we are
well-off, we may permit to the girls of our family. Her father's command
requires her to marry me; but it is not my intention to tyrannize over
her. I am quite aware that our years hardly suit, and I leave her
complete liberty of choice.

[Footnote: _The School for Husbands_ was played for the first time,
on the 24th of June, 1661, and Molière married Armande Béjart (see
Prefatory Memoir), on the 20th of February, 1662, when he was forty, and
she about twenty years old. It is therefore not unreasonable to suppose
that the words he places in the mouth of Ariste are an expression of his
own feelings.]

If a safe income of four thousand crowns a-year, great affection and
consideration for her, may, in her opinion, counterbalance in marriage
the inequality of our age, she may take me for her husband; if not she
may choose elsewhere. If she can be happier without me, I do not object;
I prefer to see her with another husband rather than that her hand
should be given to me against her will.

SGAN. Oh, how sweet he is! All sugar and honey!

AR. At all events, that is my disposition; and I thank Heaven for it. I
would never lay down these strict rules which make children wish their
parents dead.

SGAN. But the liberty acquired in youth is not so easily withdrawn later
on; all those feelings will please you but little when you have to
change her mode of life.

AR. And why change it?

SGAN. Why?

AR. Yes.

SGAN. I do not know.

AR. Is there anything in it that offends honour?

SGAN. Why, if you marry her, she may demand the same freedom which she
enjoyed as a girl?

AR. Why not?

SGAN. And you so far agree with her as to let her have patches and

AR. Doubtless.

SGAN. To let her gad about madly at every ball and public assembly?

AR. Yes, certainly.

SGAN. And the beaux will visit at your house?

AR. What then?

SGAN. Who will junket and give entertainments?

AR. With all my heart.

SGAN. And your wife is to listen to their fine speeches?

AR. Exactly.

SGAN. And you will look on at these gallant visitors with a show of

AR. Of course.

SGAN. Go on, you old idiot. (_To Isabella_). Get indoors, and hear
no more of this shameful doctrine.


AR. I mean to trust to the faithfulness of my wife, and intend always to
live as I have lived.

SGAN. How pleased I shall be to see him victimized!

AR. I cannot say what fate has in store for me; but as for you, I know
that if you fail to be so, it is no fault of yours, for you are doing
everything to bring it about.

SGAN. Laugh on, giggler! Oh, what a joke it is to see a railer of nearly

LEO. I promise to preserve him against the fate you speak of, if he is
to receive my vows at the altar. He may rest secure; but I can tell you
I would pass my word for nothing if I were your wife.

LIS. We have a conscience for those who rely on us; but it is
delightful, really, to cheat such folks as you.

SGAN. Hush, you cursed ill-bred tongue!

AR. Brother, you drew these silly words on yourself. Good bye. Alter
your temper, and be warned that to shut up a wife is a bad plan. Your

SGAN. I am not yours.


Oh, they are all well suited to one another! What an admirable family. A
foolish old man with a worn-out body who plays the fop; a girl-mistress
and a thorough coquette; impudent servants;--no, wisdom itself could not
succeed, but would exhaust sense and reason, trying to amend a household
like this. By such associations, Isabella might lose those principles of
honour which she learned amongst us; to prevent it, I shall presently
send her back again to my cabbages and turkeys.


VAL. (_Behind_). Ergaste, that is he, the Argus whom I hate, the
stern guardian of her whom I adore.

SGAN. (_Thinking himself alone_). In short, is there not something
wonderful in the corruption of manners now-a-days?

VAL. I should like to address him, if I can get a chance, and try to
strike up an acquaintance with him.

SGAN. (_Thinking himself alone_). Instead of seeing that severity
prevail which so admirably formed virtue in other days, uncontrolled and
imperious youth here-about assumes... (_Valère bows to Sganarelle from
a distance_).

VAL. He does not see that we bow to him.

ERG. Perhaps his blind eye is on this side. Let us cross to the right.

SGAN. I must go away from this place. Life in town only produces in

VAL. (_Gradually approaching_). I must try to get an introduction.

SGAN. (_Hearing a noise_). Ha! I thought some one spoke...
(_Thinking himself alone_). In the country, thank Heaven, the
fashionable follies do not offend my eyes.

ERG. (_To Valère_). Speak to him.

SGAN. What is it?... my ears tingle... There, all the recreations of our
girls are but... (_He perceives Valère bowing to him_). Do you bow
to me?

ERG. (_To Valère_). Go up to him.

SGAN. (_Not attending to Valère_). Thither no coxcomb comes.
(_Valère again bows to him_). What the deuce!... (_He turns and
sees Ergaste bowing on the other side_). Another? What a great many

VAL. Sir, my accosting you disturbs you, I fear?

SGAN. That may be.

VAL. But yet the honour of your acquaintance is so great a happiness, so
exquisite a pleasure, that I had a great desire to pay my respects to

SGAN. Well.

VAL. And to come and assure you, without any deceit, that I am wholly at
your service.

SGAN. I believe it.

VAL. I have the advantage of being one of your neighbours, for which I
thank my lucky fate.

SGAN. That is all right.

VAL. But, sir. do you know the news going the round at Court, and
thought to be reliable?

SGAN. What does it matter to me?

VAL. True; but we may sometimes be anxious to hear it? Shall you go and
see the magnificent preparations for the birth of our Dauphin, sir?

[Footnote: The Dauphin, the son of Louis XIV. was born at Fontainebleau,
on the 1st of November, 1661; _The School for Husbands_ was first
acted on the 24th of June of the same year; hence Molière ventures to
prophesy about the Dauphin's birth.]

SGAN. If I feel inclined.

VAL. Confess that Paris affords us a hundred delightful pleasures which
are not to be found elsewhere. The provinces are a desert in comparison.
How do you pass your time?

SGAN. On my own business.

VAL. The mind demands relaxation, and occasionally gives way, by too
close attention to serious occupations. What do you do in the evening
before going to bed?

SGAN. What I please.

VAL. Doubtless no one could speak better. The answer is just, and it
seems to be common sense to resolve never to do what does not please us.
If I did not think you were too much occupied, I would drop in on you
sometimes after supper.

SGAN. Your servant.


VAL. What do you think of that eccentric fool?

ERG. His answers are abrupt and his reception is churlish.

VAL. Ah! I am in a rage.

ERG. What for?

VAL. Why am I in a rage? To see her I love in the power of a savage, a
watchful dragon, whose severity will not permit her to enjoy a single
moment of liberty.

ERG. That is just what is in your favour. Your love ought to expect a
great deal from these circumstances. Know, for your encouragement, that
a woman watched is half-won, and that the gloomy ill-temper of husbands
and fathers has always promoted the affairs of the gallant. I intrigue
very little; for that is not one of my accomplishments. I do not pretend
to be a gallant; but I have served a score of such sportsmen, who often
used to tell me that it was their greatest delight to meet with churlish
husbands, who never come home without scolding,--downright brutes, who,
without rhyme or reason, criticise the conduct of their wives in
everything, and, proudly assuming the authority of a husband, quarrel
with them before the eyes of their admirers. "One knows," they would
say, "how to take advantage of this. The lady's indignation at this kind
of outrage, on the one hand, and the considerate compassion of the
lover, on the other, afford an opportunity for pushing matters far
enough." In a word, the surliness of Isabella's guardian is a
circumstance sufficiently favourable for you.

VAL. But I could never find one moment to speak to her in the four
months that I have ardently loved her.

ERG. Love quickens people's wits, though it has little effect on yours.
If I had been...

VAL. Why, what could you have done? For one never sees her without that
brute; in the house there are neither maids nor men-servants whom I
might influence to assist me by the alluring temptation of some reward.

ERG. Then she does not yet know that you love her?

VAL. It is a point on which I am not informed. Wherever the churl took
this fair one, she always saw me like a shadow behind her; my looks
daily tried to explain to her the violence of my love. My eyes have
spoken much; but who can tell whether, after all, their language could
be understood?

ERG. It is true that this language may sometimes prove obscure, if it
have not writing or speech for its interpreter.

VAL. What am I to do to rid myself of this vast difficulty, and to learn
whether the fair one has perceived that I love her? Tell me some means
or other.

ERG. That is what we have to discover. Let us go in for a while--the
better to think over it.



SGAN. That will do; I know the house, and the person, simply from the
description you have given me.

ISA. (_Aside_). Heaven, be propitious, and favour to-day the artful
contrivance of an innocent love!

SGAN. Do you say they have told you that his name is Valère?

ISA. Yes.

SGAN. That will do; do not make yourself uneasy about it. Go inside, and
leave me to act. I am going at once to talk to this young madcap.

ISA. (_As she goes in_). For a girl, I am planning a pretty bold
scheme. But the unreasonable severity with which I am treated will be my
excuse to every right mind.


(_Knocks at the door of Valère's house_). Let us lose no time; here
it is. Who's there? Why, I am dreaming! Hulloa, I say! hulloa somebody!
hulloa! I do not wonder, after this information, that he came up to me
just now so meekly. But I must make haste, and teach this foolish


SGAN. (_To Ergaste, who has come out hastily_). A plague on the
lubberly ox! Do you mean to knock me down--coming and sticking yourself
in front of me like a post?

VAL. Sir, I regret...

SGAN. Ah! you are the man I want.

VAL. I, sir?

SGAN. You. Your name is Valère, is it not?

VAL. Yes.

SGAN. I am come to speak to you if you will allow me.

VAL. Can I have the happiness of rendering you any service?

SGAN. No; but I propose to do you a good turn. That is what brings me to
your house.

VAL. To my house, sir!

SGAN. To your house. Need you be so much astonished?

VAL. I have good reason for it; I am delighted with the honour...

SGAN. Do not mention the honour, I beseech you.

VAL. Will you not come in?

SGAN. There is no need.

VAL. I pray you, enter.

SGAN. No, I will go no further.

VAL. As long as you stay there I cannot listen to you.

SGAN. I will not budge.

VAL. Well, I must yield. Quick, since this gentleman is resolved upon
it, bring a chair.

SGAN. I am going to talk standing.

VAL. As if I could permit such a thing!

SGAN. What an intolerable delay!

VAL. Such incivility would be quite unpardonable.

SGAN. Nothing can be so rude as not to listen to people who wish to
speak to us.

VAL. I obey you, then.

SGAN. You cannot do better. (_They make many compliments about putting
on their hats_). So much ceremony is hardly necessary. Will you
listen to me?

VAL. Undoubtedly, and most willingly.

SGAN. Tell me: do you know that I am guardian to a tolerably young and
passably handsome girl who lives in this neighbourhood, and whose name
is Isabella?

VAL. Yes.

SGAN. As you know it, I need not tell it to you. But do you know,
likewise, that as I find her charming, I care for her otherwise than as
a guardian, and that she is destined for the honour of being my wife?

VAL. No!

SGAN. I tell it you, then; and also that it is as well that your
passion, if you please, should leave her in peace.

VAL. Who?--I, sir?

SGAN. Yes, you. Let us have no dissembling.

VAL. Who has told you that my heart is smitten by her?

SGAN. Those who are worthy of belief.

VAL. Be more explicit.

SGAN. She herself.

VAL. She!

SGAN. She. Is not that enough? Like a virtuous young girl, who has loved
me from childhood, she told me all just now; moreover, she charged me to
tell you, that, since she has everywhere been followed by you, her
heart, which your pursuit greatly offends, has only too well understood
the language of your eyes; that your secret desires are well known to
her; and that to try more fully to explain a passion which is contrary
to the affection she entertains for me, is to give yourself needless

VAL. She, you say, of her own accord, makes you...

SGAN. Yes, makes me come to you and give you this frank and plain
message; also, that, having observed the violent love wherewith your
soul is smitten, she would earlier have let you know what she thinks
about you if, perplexed as she was, she could have found anyone to send
this message by; but that at length she was painfully compelled to make
use of me, in order to assure you, as I have told you, that her
affection is denied to all save me; that you have been ogling her long
enough; and that, if you have ever so little brains, you will carry your
passion somewhere else. Farewell, till our next meeting. That is what I
had to tell you.

VAL. (_Aside_). Ergaste, what say you to such an adventure?

SGAN. (_Aside, retiring_). See how he is taken aback!

ERG. (_In a low tone to Valère_). For my part, I think that there
is nothing in it to displease you; that a rather subtle mystery is
concealed under it; in short, that this message is not sent by one who
desires to see the love end which she inspires in you.

SGAN. (_Aside_). He takes it as he ought.

VAL. (_In a low tone to Ergaste_). You think it a mystery...

ERG. Yes.... But he is looking at us; let us get out of his sight.


How his face showed his confusion! Doubtless he did not expect this
message. Let me call Isabella; she is showing the fruits which education
produces on the mind. Virtue is all she cares for; and her heart is so
deeply steeped in it, that she is offended if a man merely looks at her.


ISA. (_Aside, as she enters_). I fear that my lover, full of his
passion, has not understood my message rightly! Since I am so strictly
guarded, I must risk one which shall make my meaning clearer.

SGAN. Here I am, returned again.

ISA. Well?

SGAN. Your words wrought their full purpose; I have done his business.
He wanted to deny that his heart was touched; but when I told him I came
from you, he stood immediately dumbfounded and confused; I do not
believe he will come here any more.

ISA. Ah, what do you tell me? I much fear the contrary, and that he will
still give us more trouble.

SGAN. And why do you fear this?

ISA. You had hardly left the house when, going to the window to take a
breath of air, I saw a young man at yonder turning, who first came, most
unexpectedly, to wish me good morning, on the part of this impertinent
man, and then threw right into my chamber a box, enclosing a letter,
sealed like a love-letter.

[Footnote: The original has _un poulet_, literally "a chicken,"
because love-letters were folded so as to represent a fowl, with two
wings; this shape is now called _cocotte_, from _coq_, and,
though no longer used to designate a billet-doux, is often employed in
familiar phraseology, in speaking of a girl who does not lead a moral

I meant at once to throw it after him; but he had already reached the
end of the street. I feel very much annoyed at it.

SGAN. Just see his trickery and rascality!

ISA. It is my duty quickly to have this box and letter sent back to this
detestable lover; for that purpose I need some one; for I dare not
venture to ask yourself...

SGAN. On the contrary, darling, it shows me all the more your love and
faithfulness; my heart joyfully accepts this task. You oblige me in this
more than I can tell you.

ISA. Take it then.

SGAN. Well, let us see what he has dared to say to you.

ISA. Heavens! Take care not to open it!

SGAN. Why so?

ISA. Will you make him believe that it is I? A respectable girl ought
always to refuse to read the letters a man sends her. The curiosity
which she thus betrays shows a secret pleasure in listening to
gallantries. I think it right that this letter should be peremptorily
returned to Valère unopened, that he may the better learn this day the
great contempt which my heart feels for him; so that his passion may
from this time lose all hope, and never more attempt such a

SGAN. Of a truth she is right in this! Well, your virtue charms me, as
well as your discretion. I see that my lessons have borne fruit in your
mind; you show yourself worthy of being my wife.

ISA. Still I do not like to stand in the way of your wishes. The letter
is in your hands, and you can open it.

SGAN. No, far from it. Your reasons are too good; I go to acquit myself
of the task you impose upon me; I have likewise to say a few words quite
near, and will then return hither to set you at rest.


How delighted I am to find her such a discreet girl! I have in my house
a treasure of honour. To consider a loving look treason, to receive a
love-letter as a supreme insult, and to have it carried back to the
gallant by myself! I should like to know, seeing all this, if my
brother's ward would have acted thus, on a similar occasion. Upon my
word, girls are what you make them... Hulloa! (_Knocks at Valère's


ERG. Who is there?

SGAN. Take this; and tell your master not to presume so far as to write
letters again, and send them in gold boxes; say also that Isabella is
mightily offended at it. See, it has not even been opened. He will
perceive what regard she has for his passion, and what success he can
expect in it.


VAL. What has that surly brute just given you?

ERG. This letter, sir, as well as this box, which he pretends that
Isabella has received from you, and about which, he says, she is in a
great rage. She returns it to you unopened. Read it quickly, and let us
see if I am mistaken.

VAL. (_Reads_). "_This letter will no doubt surprise you; both
the resolution to write to you and the means of conveying it to your
hands may be thought very bold in me; but I am in such a condition, that
I can no longer restrain myself. Well-founded repugnance to a marriage
with which I am threatened in six days, makes me risk everything; and in
the determination to free myself from it by whatever means, I thought I
had rather choose you than despair. Yet do not think that you owe all to
my evil fate; it is not the constraint in which I find myself that has
given rise to the sentiments I entertain for you; but it hastens the
avowal of them, and makes me transgress the decorum which the
proprieties of my sex require. It depends on you alone to make me
shortly your own; I wait only until you have declared your intentions to
me before acquainting you with the resolution I have taken; but, above
all remember that time presses, and that two hearts, which love each
other, ought to understand even the slightest hint._"

ERG. Well, sir, is not this contrivance original? For a young girl she
is not so very ignorant. Would one have thought her capable of these
love stratagems?

VAL. Ah, I consider her altogether adorable. This evidence of her wit
and tenderness doubles my love for her, and strengthens the feelings
with which her beauty inspires me....

ERG. Here comes the dupe; think what you will say to him.


SGAN. (_Thinking himself alone_). Oh, thrice and four times blessed
be the law which forbids extravagance in dress!

[Footnote: It is remarkable that Louis XIV., who was so extravagant
himself in his buildings, dress, and general expenses published sixteen
laws against luxury; the law Sganarelle speaks of was promulgated
November 27th, 1660, against the use of _guipures, cannetilles,
paillettes_, etc., on men's dresses.]

No longer will the troubles of husbands be so great! women will now be
checked in their demands. Oh, how delighted I am with the King for this

[Footnote: The original has _décri_ a proclamation which forbade
the manufacturing, sale or wearing, of certain fabrics.]

How I wish, for the peace of the same husbands, that he would forbid
coquetry, as well as lace, and gold or silver embroidery. I have bought
the law on purpose, so that Isabella may read it aloud; and, by and by,
when she is at leisure, it shall be our entertainment after supper.
(_Perceiving Valère_). Well, Mr. Sandy-hair, would you like to send
again love-letters in boxes of gold? You doubtless thought you had found
some young flirt, eager for an intrigue, and melting before pretty
speeches. You see how your presents are received! Believe me, you waste
your powder and shot. Isabella is a discreet girl, she loves me and your
love insults her. Aim at some one else, and be off!

VAL. Yes, yes; your merits, to which everyone yields, are too great an
obstacle, sir. Though my passion be sincere, it is folly to contend with
you for the love of Isabella.

SGAN. It is really folly.

VAL. Be sure I should not have yielded to the fascination of her charms,
could I have foreseen that this wretched heart would find a rival so
formidable as yourself.

SGAN. I believe it.

VAL. Now I know better than to hope; I yield to you, sir, and that too
without a murmur.

SGAN. You do well.

VAL. Reason will have it so; for you shine with so many virtues, that I
should be wrong to regard with an angry eye the tender sentiments which
Isabella entertains for you.

SGAN. Of course.

VAL. Yes, yes, I yield to you; but at least I pray you,--and it is the
only favour, sir, begged by a wretched lover, of whose pangs this day
you are the sole cause,--I pray you, I say, to assure Isabella that, if
my heart has been burning with love for her these three months, that
passion is spotless, and has never fostered a thought at which her
honour could be offended.


VAL. That, relying solely on my heart's choice, my only design was to
obtain her for my wife, if destiny had not opposed an obstacle to this
pure flame in you, who captivated her heart.

SGAN. Very good.

VAL. That, whatever happens, she must not think that her charms can ever
be forgotten; that to whatever decrees of Heaven I must submit, my fate
is to love her to my last breath; and that, if anything checks my
pursuit, it is the just respect I have for your merits.

[Footnote: We are of course to read between the lines: "If there is
anything which could strengthen my resolution to save her, it is the
natural detestation which I feel for you."]

SGAN. That is wisely spoken; I shall go at once to repeat these words,
which will not be disagreeable to her. But, if you will listen to me,
try to act so as to drive this passion from your mind. Farewell.

ERG. (_To Valeère_). The excellent dupe!


I feel a great pity for this poor wretch, so full of affection. But it
is unfortunate for him to have taken it into his head to try to storm a
fortress which I have captured.

(_Sganarelle knocks at his door_.)


SGAN. Never did lover display so much grief for a love-letter returned
unopened! At last he loses all hope, and retires. But he earnestly
entreated me to tell you, that, at least, in loving you, he never
fostered a thought at which your honour could be offended, and that,
relying solely on his heart's choice, his only desire was to obtain you
for a wife, if destiny had not opposed an obstacle to his pure flame,
through me, who captivated your heart; that, whatever happens, you must
not think that your charms can ever be forgotten by him; that, to
whatever decrees of Heaven he must submit, his fate is to love you to
his last breath; and that if anything checks his pursuit, it is the just
respect he has for my merits. These are his very words; and, far from
blaming him, I think him a gentleman, and I pity him for loving you.

ISA. (_Aside_). His passion does not contradict my secret belief,
and his looks have always assured me of its innocence.

SGAN. What do you say?

ISA. That it is hard that you should so greatly pity a man whom I hate
like death; and that, if you loved me as much as you say, you would feel
how he insults me by his addresses.

SGAN. But he did not know your inclinations; and, from the uprightness
of his intentions, his love does not deserve...

ISA. Is it good intentions, I ask, to try and carry people off? Is it
like a man of honour to form designs for marrying me by force, and
taking me out of your hands? As if I were a girl to live after such a

SGAN. How?

ISA. Yes, yes, I have been informed that this base lover speaks of
carrying me off by force; for my part, I cannot tell by what secret
means he has learned so early that you intend to marry me in eight days

[Footnote: In the letter which Isabella writes to Valère (see page 279),
she speaks of a marriage with which she is threatened in six days. This
is, I suppose, a pious fraud, to urge Valère to make haste, for here she
mentions "eight days."]

at the latest, since it was only yesterday you told me so. But they say
that he intends to be beforehand with you, and not let me unite my lot
to yours.

SGAN. That is a bad case.

ISA. Oh, pardon me! He is eminently a gentleman, who only feels towards

SGAN. He is wrong; and this is past joking.

ISA. Yes, your good nature encourages his folly. If you had spoken
sharply to him just now, he would have feared your rage and my
resentment; for even since his letter was rejected, he mentioned this
design which has shocked me. As I have been told, his love retains the
belief that it is well received by me; that I dread to marry you,
whatever people may think, and should be rejoiced to see myself away
from you.

SGAN. He is mad!

ISA. Before you, he knows how to disguise; and his plan is to amuse you.
Be sure the wretch makes sport of you by these fair speeches. I must
confess that I am very unhappy. After all my pains to live honourably,
and to repel the addresses of a vile seducer, I must be exposed to his
vexatious and infamous designs against me!

SGAN. There, fear nothing.

ISA. For my part I tell you that if you do not strongly reprove such an
impudent attempt, and do not find quickly means of ridding me of such
bold persecutions, I will abandon all, and not suffer any longer the
insults which I receive from him.

SGAN. Do not be so troubled, my little wife. There, I am going to find
him, to give him a good blowing up.

ISA. Tell him at least plainly, so that it may be in vain for him to
gainsay it, that I have been told of his intentions upon good authority;
that, after this message, whatever he may undertake, I defy him to
surprise me; and, lastly, that, without wasting any more sighs or time,
he must know what are my feelings for you; that, if he wishes not to be
the cause of some mischief, he should not require to have the same thing
told twice over.

SGAN. I will tell him what is right.

ISA. But all this in such a way as to show him that I really speak

SGAN. There, I will forget nothing, I assure you.

ISA. I await your return impatiently. Pray, make as much haste as you
can. I pine when I am a moment without seeing you.

SGAN. There, ducky, my heart's delight, I will return immediately.


Was there ever a girl more discreet and better behaved? Oh, how happy I
am! and what a pleasure it is to find a woman just after my own heart!
Yes, that is how our women ought to be, and not, like some I know,
downright flirts, who allow themselves to be courted, and make their
simple husbands to be pointed at all over Paris. (_Knocks at Valère's
door_). Hulloa, my enterprising, fine gallant!


VAL. Sir, what brings you here again?

SGAN. Your follies.

VAL. How?

SGAN. You know well enough what I wish to speak to you about. To tell
you plainly, I thought you had more sense. You have been making fun of
me with your fine speeches, and secretly nourish silly expectations.
Look you, I wished to treat you gently; but you will end by making me
very angry. Are you not ashamed, considering who you are, to form, such
designs as you do? to intend to carry off a respectable girl, and
interrupt a marriage on which her whole happiness depends?

VAL. Who told you this strange piece of news, sir?

SGAN. Do not let us dissimulate; I have it from Isabella, who sends you
word by me, for the last time, that she has plainly enough shown you
what her choice is; that her heart, entirely mine, is insulted by such a
plan; that she would rather die than suffer such an outrage; and that
you will cause a terrible uproar, unless you put an end to all this

VAL. If she really said what I have just heard, I confess that my
passion has nothing more to expect. These expressions are plain enough
to let me see that all is ended; I must respect the judgment she has

SGAN. If... You doubt it then, and fancy all the complaints that I have
made to you on her behalf are mere pretences! Do you wish that she
herself should tell you her feelings? To set you right, I willingly
consent to it. Follow me; you shall hear if I have added anything, and
if her young heart hesitates between us two. (_Goes and knocks at his
own door_).


ISA. What! you bring Valère to me! What is your design? Are you taking
his part against me? And do you wish, charmed by his rare merits, to
compel me to love him, and endure his visits?

SGAN. No, my love; your affection is too dear to me for that; but he
believes that my messages are untrue; he thinks that it is I who speak,
and cunningly represent you as full of hatred for him, and of tenderness
for me; I wish, therefore, from your own mouth, infallibly to cure him
of a mistake which nourishes his love.

ISA. (_To Valère_). What! Is not my soul completely bared to your
eyes, and can you still doubt whom I love?

VAL. Yes, all that this gentleman has told me on your behalf, Madam,
might well surprise a man; I confess I doubted it. This final sentence,
which decides the fate of my great love, moves my feelings so much that
it can be no offence if I wish to have it repeated.

ISA. No. no, such a sentence should not surprise you. Sganarelle told
you my very sentiments; I consider them to be sufficiently founded on
justice, to make their full truth clear. Yes, I desire it to be known,
and I ought to be believed, that fate here presents two objects to my
eyes, who, inspiring me with different sentiments, agitate my heart. One
by a just choice, in which my honour is involved, has all my esteem and
love; and the other, in return for his affection, has all my anger and
aversion. The presence of the one is pleasing and dear to me, and fills
me with joy; but the sight of the other inspires me with secret emotions
of hatred and horror. To see myself the wife of the one is all my
desire; and rather than belong to the other, I would lose my life. But I
have sufficiently declared my real sentiments; and languished too long
under this severe torture. He whom I love must use diligence to make him
whom I hate lose all hope, and deliver me by a happy marriage, from a
suffering more terrible than death.

SGAN. Yes, darling, I intend to gratify your wish.

ISA. It is the only way to make me happy.

SGAN. You shall soon be so.

ISA. I know it is a shame for a young woman, so openly to declare her

SGAN. No, no.

ISA. But, seeing what my lot is, such liberty must be allowed me; I can,
without blushing, make so tender a confession to him whom I already
regard as a husband.

SGAN. Yes, my poor child, darling of my soul!

ISA. Let him think, then, how to prove his passion for me.

SGAN. Yes, here, kiss my hand.

ISA. Let him, without more sighing, hasten a marriage which is all I
desire, and accept the assurance which I give him, never to listen to
the vows of another. (_She pretends to embrace Sganarelle, and gives
her hand to Valère to kiss_).

[Footnote: This stage play is imitated by Congreve in _The Old
Bachelor_, (Act iv., Scene 22) when Mrs. Fondlewife goes and hangs
upon her husband's neck and kisses him; whilst Bellmour kisses her hand
behind Fondlewife's back.]

SGAN. Oh, oh, my little pretty face, my poor little darling, you shall
not pine long, I promise you. (_To Valère_). There, say no more.
You see I do not make her speak; it is me alone she loves.

VAL. Well, Madam, well, this is sufficient explanation. I learn by your
words what you urge me to do; I shall soon know how to rid your presence
of him who so greatly offends you.

ISA. You could not give me greater pleasure. For, to be brief, the sight
of him is intolerable. It is odious to me, and I detest it so much...

SGAN. Eh! Eh!

ISA. Do I offend you by speaking thus? Do I...

SGAN. Heavens, by no means! I do not say that. But in truth, I pity his
condition; you show your aversion too openly.

ISA. I cannot show it too much on such an occasion.

VAL. Yes, you shall be satisfied; in three days your eyes shall no
longer see the object which is odious to you.

ISA. That is right. Farewell.

SGAN. (_To Valère_): I pity your misfortune, but...

VAL. No, you will hear no complaint from me. The lady assuredly does us
both justice, and I shall endeavour to satisfy her wishes. Farewell.

SGAN. Poor fellow! his grief is excessive. Stay, embrace me: I am her
second self. (_Embraces Valère_)


SGAN. I think he is greatly to be pitied.

ISA. Not at all.

SGAN. For the rest, your love touches me to the quick, little darling,
and I mean it shall have its reward. Eight days are too long for your
impatience; to-morrow I will marry you, and will not invite...

ISA. To-morrow!

SGAN. You modestly pretend to shrink from it; but I well know the joy
these words afford you; you wish it were already over.

ISA. But...

SGAN. Let us get everything ready for this marriage.

ISA. (_Aside_), Heaven! Inspire me with a plan to put it off!


SCENE I.--ISABELLA, _alone_.

Yes, death seems to me a hundred times less dreadful than this fatal
marriage into which I am forced; all that I am doing to escape its
horrors should excuse me in the eyes of those who blame me. Time
presses; it is night; now, then, let me fearlessly entrust my fate to a
lover's fidelity.


SGAN. (_Speaking to those inside the house_). Here I am once more;
to-morrow they are going, in my name...

ISA. O Heaven!

SGAN. Is it you, darling? Where are you going so late? You said when I
left you that, being rather tired, you would shut yourself up in your
room; you even begged that on my return I would let you be quiet till
to-morrow morning....

ISA. It is true; but...

SGAN. But what?

ISA. You see I am confused; I do not know how to tell you the reason.

SGAN. Why, whatever can it be?

ISA. A wonderful secret! It is my sister who now compels me to go out,
and who, for a purpose for which I have greatly blamed her, has borrowed
my room, in which I have shut her up.

SGAN. What?

ISA. Could it be believed? She is in love with that suitor whom we have

SGAN. With Valère?

ISA. Desperately! Her passion is so great that I can compare it with
nothing; you may judge of its violence by her coming here alone, at this
hour, to confide to me her love, and to tell me positively that she will
die if she does not obtain the object of her desire; that, for more than
a year, a secret intercourse has kept up the ardour of their love; and
that they had even pledged themselves to marry each other when their
passion was new.

SGAN. Oh, the wretched girl!

ISA. That, being informed of the despair into which I had plunged the
man whom she loves to see, she came to beg me to allow her to prevent a
departure which would break her heart; to meet this lover to-night under
my name, in the little street on which my room looks, where
counterfeiting my voice, she may utter certain tender feelings, and
thereby tempt him to stay; in short, cleverly to secure for herself the
regard which it is known he has for me.

SGAN. And do you think this...

ISA. I? I am enraged at it. "What," said I, "sister, are you mad? Do you
not blush to indulge in such a love for one of those people who change
every day? To forget your sex, and betray the trust put in you by the
man whom Heaven has destined you to marry?"

SGAN. He deserves it richly; I am delighted by it.

ISA. Finally my vexation employed a hundred arguments to reprove such
baseness in her, and enable me to refuse her request for to-night; but
she became so importunate, shed so many tears, heaved so many sighs,
said so often that I was driving her to despair if I refused to gratify
her passion, that my heart was brought to consent in spite of me; and,
to justify this night's intrigue, to which affection for my own sister
made me assent, I was about to bring Lucretia to sleep with me, whose
virtues you extol to me daily; but you surprised me by your speedy

SGAN. No, no, I will not have all this mystery at my house. As for my
brother, I might agree to it; but they may be seen by some one in the
street, and she whom I am to honour with my body must not only be modest
and well-born; she must not even be suspected. Let us send the miserable
girl away, and let her passion...

ISA. Ah, you would overwhelm her with confusion, and she might justly
complain of my want of discretion. Since I must not countenance her
design, at least wait till I send her away.

SGAN. Well, do so.

ISA. But above all, conceal yourself, I beg of you, and be content to
see her depart without speaking one word to her.

SGAN. Yes, for your sake I will restrain my anger; but as soon as she is
gone, I will go and find my brother without delay. I shall be delighted
to run and tell him of this business.

ISA. I entreat you, then, not to mention my name. Good night; for I
shall shut myself in at the same time.

SGAN. Till to-morrow, dear... How impatient I am to see my brother, and
tell him of his plight! The good man has been victimized, with all his

[Footnote: The original has _phébus_, which is often used for a
swollen and pretentious style, because it is said that a work on the
chase, written in the fourteenth century by Gaston, Count of Foix, in
such a style, was called _Miroir de Phébus_. It is more probable
that the word _phébus_, meaning showy language, is derived from the
Greek _phoibos_, brilliant.]

I would not have this undone for twenty crowns!

ISA. (_Within_). Yes, sister, I am sorry to incur your displeasure;
but what you wish me to do is impossible. My honour, which is dear to
me, would run too great a risk. Farewell, go home before it is too late.

SGAN. There she goes, fretting finely, I warrant. Let me lock the door,
for fear she should return.

ISA. (_Going out disguised_). Heaven! abandon me not in my resolve!

SGAN. Whither can she be going? Let me follow her.

ISA. (_Aside_). Night, at least, favours me in my distress.

SGAN. (_Aside_). To the gallant's house! What is her design?


VAL. (_Coming out quickly_). Yes, yes; I will this night make some
effort to speak to... Who is there?

ISA. (_To Valère_). No noise, Valère; I have forestalled you; I am

SGAN. (_Aside_). You lie, minx; it is not she. She is too staunch
to those laws of honour which you forsake; you are falsely assuming her
name and voice.

ISA. (_To Valère_). But unless by the holy bonds of matrimony...

VAL. Yes; that is my only purpose; and here I make you a solemn promise
that to-morrow I will go wherever you please to be married to you.

SGAN. (_Aside_). Poor deluded fool!

VAL. Enter with confidence. I now defy the power of your duped Argus;
before he can tear you from my love, this arm shall stab him to the
heart a thousand times.


Oh, I can assure you I do not want to take from you a shameless girl, so
blinded by her passion. I am not jealous of your promise to her; if I am
to be believed, you shall be her husband. Yes, let us surprise him with
this bold creature. The memory of her father, who was justly respected,
and the great interest I take in her sister, demand that an attempt, at
least, should be made to restore her honour. Hulloa, there! (_Knocks
at the door of a magistrate_).

[Footnote: See page 261, note 5.]


MAG. What is it?

SGAN. Your servant, your worship. Your presence in official garb is
necessary here. Follow me, please, with your lantern-bearer.

MAG. We were going...

SGAN. This is a very pressing business.

MAG. What is it?

SGAN. To go into that house and surprise two persons who must be joined
in lawful matrimony. It is a girl with whom I am connected, and whom,
under promise of marriage, a certain Valère has seduced and got into his
house. She comes of a noble and virtuous family, but...

MAG. If that is the business, it was well you met us, since we have a
notary here.

SGAN. Sir?

NOT. Yes, a notary royal.

MAG. And what is more, an honourable man.

SGAN. No need to add that. Come to this doorway; make no noise, but see
that no one escapes. You shall be fully satisfied for your trouble, but
be sure and do not let yourself be bribed.

MAG. What! do you think that an officer of justice...

SGAN. What I said was not meant as a reflection on your position. I will
bring my brother here at once; only let the lantern-bearer accompany me.
(_Aside_). I am going to give this placable man a treat. Hulloa!
(_Knocks at Ariste's door_).

       *       *       *       *       *


AR. Who knocks? Why, what do you want, brother?

SGAN. Come, my fine teacher, my superannuated buck; I shall have
something pretty to show you.

AR. How?

SGAN. I bring you good news.

AR. What is it?

SGAN. Where is your Léonor, pray?

AR. Why this question? She is, as I think, at a friend's house at a

SGAN. Eh! Oh yes! Follow me; you shall see to what ball Missy is gone.

AR. What do you mean?

SGAN. You have brought her up very well indeed. It is not good to be
always finding fault; the mind is captivated by much tenderness; and
suspicious precautions, bolts, and bars, make neither wives nor maids
virtuous; we cause them to do evil by so much austerity; their sex
demands a little freedom. Of a verity she has taken her fill of it, the
artful girl; and with her, virtue has grown very complaisant.

AR. What is the drift of such a speech?

SGAN. Bravo, my elder brother! it is what you richly deserve; I would
not for twenty pistoles that you should have missed this fruit of your
silly maxims. Look what our lessons have produced in these two sisters:
the one avoids the gallants, the other runs after them.

AR. If you will not make your riddle clearer...

SGAN. The riddle is that her ball is at Valère's; that I saw her go to
him under cover of night, and that she is at this moment in his arms.

AR. Who?

SGAN. Léonor.

AR. A truce to jokes, I beg of you.

SGAN. I joke... He is excellent with his joking! Poor fellow! I tell
you, and tell you again, that Valère has your Léonor in his house, and
that they had pledged each other before he dreamed of running after

AR. This story is so very improbable...

SGAN. He will not believe it, even when he sees it. I am getting angry;
upon my word, old age is not good for much when brains are wanting!

(_Laying his finger on his forehead_).

AR. What! brother, you mean to...

SGAN. I mean nothing, upon my soul! Only follow me. Your mind shall be
satisfied directly. You shall see whether I am deceiving you, and
whether they have not pledged their troth for more than a year past.

AR. Is it likely she could thus have agreed to this engagement without
telling me?--me! who in everything, from her infancy, ever displayed
towards her a complete readiness to please, and who a hundred times
protested I would never force her inclinations.

SGAN. Well, your own eyes shall judge of the matter. I have already
brought here a magistrate and a notary. We are concerned that the
promised marriage shall at once restore to her the honour she has lost;
for I do not suppose you are so mean-spirited as to wish to marry her
with this stain upon her, unless you have still some arguments to raise
you above all kinds of ridicule.

AR. For my part, I shall never be so weak as wish to possess a heart in
spite of itself. But, after all, I cannot believe...

SGAN. What speeches you make! Come, this might go on for ever.


MAG. There is no need to use any compulsion here, gentlemen. If you wish
to have them married, your anger may be appeased on the spot. Both are
equally inclined to it; Valère has already given under his hand a
statement that he considers her who is now with him as his wife.

AR. The girl...

MAG. Is within, and will not come out, unless you consent to gratify
their desires.


VAL. (_At the window of his house_). No, gentlemen; no man shall
enter here until your pleasure be known to me. You know who I am; I have
done my duty in signing the statement, which they can show you. If you
intend to approve of the marriage, you must also put your names to this
agreement; if not, prepare to take my life before you shall rob me of
the object of my love.

SGAN. No, we have no notion of separating you from her. (_Aside_).
He has not yet been undeceived in the matter of Isabella. Let us make
the most of his mistake.

AR. (_To Valère_). But is it Léonor?

SGAN. Hold your tongue!

AR. But...

SGAN. Be quiet!

AR. I want to know...

SGAN. Again! Will you hold your tongue, I say?

VAL. To be brief: whatever be the consequence, Isabella has my solemn
promise; I also have hers; if you consider everything, I am not so bad a
match that you should blame her.

AR. What he says is not...

SGAN. Be quiet! I have a reason for it. You shall know the mystery.
(_To Valére_). Yes, without any more words, we both consent that
you shall be the husband of her who is at present in your house.

MAG. The contract is drawn up in those very terms, and there is a blank
for the name, as we have not seen her. Sign. The lady can set you all at
ease by-and-by.

VAL. I agree to the arrangement.

SGAN. And so do I, with all my heart. (_Aside_). We will have a
good laugh presently. (_Aloud)_. There, brother, sign; yours the
honour to sign first.

AR. But why all this mystery...

SGAN. The deuce! what hesitation. Sign, you simpleton.

AR. He talks of Isabella, and you of Léonor.

SGAN. Are you not agreed, brother, if it be she, to leave them to their
mutual promises?

AR. Doubtless.

SGAN. Sign, then; I shall do the same.

AR. So be it. I understand nothing about it.

SGAN. You shall be enlightened.

MAG. We will soon return.

(_Exeunt Magistrate and Notary into Valeère's house_).

SGAN. (_To Ariste_). Now, then, I will give you a cue to this
intrigue. (_They retire to the back of the stage_).


LEO. Ah, what a strange martyrdom! What bores all those young fools
appear to me! I have stolen away from the ball, on account of them.

LIS. Each of them tried to make himself agreeable to you.

LEO. And I never endured anything more intolerable. I should prefer the
simplest conversation to all the babblings of these say-nothings.

[Footnote: The original has _contes bleus_, literally "blue
stories" because old tales, such as _The Four Sons of Aymon,
Fortunatus, Valentine and Orson_ were formerly sold, printed on
coarse paper and with blue paper cover; a kind of popular, but not
political, "blue-books."]

They fancy that everything must give way before their flaxen wigs, and
think they have said the cleverest witticism when they come up, with
their silly chaffing tone, and rally you stupidly about the love of an
old man. For my part, I value more highly the affection of such an old
man than all the giddy raptures of a youthful brain. But do I not see...

SGAN (_To Ariste_). Yes, so the matter stands. (_Perceiving
Léonor_). Ah, there she is, and her maid with her.

AR. Léonor, without being angry, I have reason to complain. You know
whether I have ever sought to restrain you, and whether I have not
stated a hundred times that I left you full liberty to gratify your own
wishes; yet your heart, regardless of my approval, has pledged its
faith, as well as its love, without my knowledge. I do not repent of my
indulgence; but your conduct certainly annoys me; it is a way of acting
which the tender friendship I have borne you does not merit.

LEO. I know not why you speak to me thus; but believe me, I am as I have
ever been; nothing can alter my esteem for you; love for any other man
would seem to me a crime; if you will satisfy my wishes, a holy bond
shall unite us to-morrow.

AR. On what foundation, then, have you, brother...

SGAN. What! Did you not come out of Valère's house? Have you not been
declaring your passion this very day? And have you not been for a year
past in love with him?

LEO. Who has been painting such pretty pictures of me? Who has been at
the trouble of inventing such falsehoods?


ISA. Sister, I ask you generously to pardon me, if, by the freedom I
have taken, I have brought some scandal upon your name. The urgent
pressure of a great necessity, suggested to me, some time ago, this
disgraceful stratagem. Your example condemns such an escapade; but
fortune treated us differently. (_To Sganarelle_). As for you, sir,
I will not excuse myself to you. I serve you much more than I wrong you.
Heaven did not design us for one another. As I found I was unworthy of
your love, and undeserving of a heart like yours, I vastly preferred to
see myself in another's hands.

VAL. (_To Sganarelle_). For me, I esteem it my greatest glory and
happiness to receive her, sir, from your hands.

AR. Brother, you must take this matter quietly. Your own conduct is the
cause of this. I can see it is your unhappy lot that no one will pity
you, though they know you have been made a fool of.

LIS. Upon my word, I am glad of this. This reward of his mistrust is a
striking retribution.

LEO. I do not know whether the trick ought to be commended; but I am
quite sure that I, at least, cannot blame it.

ERG. His star condemns him to be a cuckold; it is lucky for him he is
only a retrospective one.

SGAN. (_Recovering from the stupor into which he had been
plunged_). No, I cannot get the better of my astonishment. This
faithlessness perplexes my understanding. I think that Satan in person
could be no worse than such a jade! I could have sworn it was not in
her. Unhappy he who trusts a woman after this! The best of them are
always full of mischief; they were made to damn the whole world. I
renounce the treacherous sex for ever, and give them to the devil with
all my heart!

ERG. Well said.

AR. Let us all go to my house. Come, M. Valère, tomorrow we will try to
appease his wrath.

LIS. (_To the audience_). As for you, if you know any churlish
husbands, by all means send them to school with us.

[Footnote: This is the last time Molière directly addressed the audience
at the end of one of his plays; in _Sganarelle_ he did it for the
first time.]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "L'ecole des maris. English - The School for Husbands" ***

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