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Molire's THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES (posted 02-19-2015)

In 17th century France, Molière wrote The School for Wives (L’École des Femmes), which appeared at the Palais Royal as a Christmas novelty. It was the first time he had taken up the pen since marrying Armande, a French actress. It is remarkable that, in his new comedy, as in the one produced when his passion for her was growing upon him, he resorted to the ethics of marriage for his materials. 

The chief personage in the piece, Arnolphe, a wealthy middle-aged roué, has arrived at the conclusion—after a wide experience of womankind—that the best safeguard of a wife’s honor is extreme ignorance; that if she is not to befool her husband she must be a fool herself. No girl should know anything except how to sew, pray, spin and love the man to whom she is pledged. 

Arnolphe returns home after a ten-day absence. He has recently renamed himself “Monsieur de la Souche”. His friend Chrysalde has a few opposing opinions to share with him, his thoughts on Arnolphe's new name being one of them. He also warns him about the faultiness of his longtime plan of confining his ward, Agnès, to a convent to “be raised in ignorance of life” with the hope that someday she may be his innocent and dutiful wife. Arnolphe pays him no heed. Now that Agnès is of marrying age, he moves her into his house and plans to soon wed her. Horace, the son of Arnolphe’s dear friend Oronte, arrives at Arnolphe’s house and confesses he has fallen in love with a beautiful girl. She has told him of how her master, Monsieur de la Souche, keeps her hidden away from the world. Not knowing about Arnolphe’s new name, Horace confides to him his plan to steal away Agnès. Thus begins the game of scheming.

By Molière
Translated into English verse by
 Richard Wilbur
Directed by Kevin Moriarty 

September 2018
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