Images de page
PDF
ePub

are still thriving. He has added new parts to his "répertoire.' He has become a medium, a thought-reader, a priest of the New Renaissance, or what not? The Maître Tailleur, in the person of his modern substitutes, still persuades his customers that their shoes do not hurt them, and that their stockings will stretch by wearing. The art of extracting 'pour-boires' is still carried on on the old lines, and is in no fear of extinction.

V. -THE TITLE OF THE PLAY.

6

It is easier to explain the title of this play than to translate it. The phrase 'bourgeois gentilhomme’ means the 'bourgeois' as, or in the character of, a “gentilhomme.' What, then, is the meaning of the two words—' bourgeois' and 'gentilhomme'?

Bourgeois.—In order to understand them we must go back to the old social order of France before the Revolution. 'Bourgeois' originally meant the inhabitant of the · Bourg' or fortified town, as opposed to the vilain' (villanus) or inhabitant of the open country. It then came to mean a citizen possessing civic rights—a burgess (cp. ' droit de bourgeoisie'). Then in a wider sense it came to be applied to the middle and lower middle classes in towns, consisting chiefly of persons connected with trade or manufacture. And hence it became to the aristocrat a depreciatory and contemptuous term, equivalent to “vulgar' or 'mean’; and to the mechanic it represented a status above him of somewhat selfish comfort and complacent arrogance. A French workman says 'le bourgeois' where an English workman says “the boss.'

Gentilhomme.—'Gentilhomme,' on the other hand, is not, as a rule, to be translated by “gentleman'-a somewhat elastic term in English. Nor is it strictly equivalent to 'nobleman,' as many who by birth would be titled 'gentilshommes' in France are commoners in England. In France society was divided into 'gentilshommes' or 'nobles' and roturiers (including 'bourgeois' and 'vilains '). The 'gentilshommes' were a class possessing not only titles and dignities, but also exemptions and privileges. These could be acquired by inheritance, ex officio, by royal patent, or by purchase. This, then, was the "upper class' of society, and represented much the same element in English society. That is to say, that the word 'gentilhomme' would be applicable not only to the titled class in England, but to the majority of those who have a legal right to the addition of 'esquire.' M. Littré translates 'gentry' by . petite noblesse,' and 'nobility' by ' grande noblesse.' The word 'bourgeois' calls up the idea of a homely, unostentatious life—as a rule industrious and virtuous, if somewhat narrow and

6

6

6

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

uncultured. The word 'gentilhomme'conveys a notion of a class despising work of any kind as degrading, amused and busied with trifles, and sometimes ready to stoop to much that is base in order to keep up the luxurious idleness which has become a necessity.

And so the title 'bourgeois gentilhomme' means "the man of the middle, trading class, trying to imitate the man of the upper, privileged class.' To translate it the citizen who apes the nobleman,' is hardly correct ; for citizen' does not, to a modern ear, convey the notion of bourgeois,' and 'nobleman’ is not equivalent to 'gentilhomme.' An English adaptation of the play might possibly be entitled “The Snob,' or My Lord Buggins,' or M. Jordan joins the Upper Ten,' or something of the sort.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

VI.-IMITATIONS, ETC. Some of Molière's plays-as, for instance, the Avare-are to a certain extent imitations. Others contain much that is derived or suggested from foreign sources. The Bourgeois Gentilhomme is a more original work. In the play itself we find little beyond verbal reminiscences or occasional analogies. The scene between M. Aristo- Jourdain and the Maître de Philosophie may have been phanes. suggested by the dialogue between Socrates and StrepStrepsiades. siades in the Clouds of Aristophanes. The tirade on the subject matter of Physics bears a close resemblance to a passage of Lucretius :

"Luna, dies et nox, et noctis signa severa,
Noctivagaeque faceis cæli, flammæque volanteis,
Nubila, sol, imbreis, nix, ventei, fulmina, grando,
Et rapidei fremitus, et murmura magna minarum.'

BOOK V. 1189-93. The 'Philological' dialogue was suggested by a book entitled

Discours Physique de la Parole, by a M. de Cordemoy, Cordenoy.

published two years before the Bourgeois Gentilhomme, and itself a translation of an earlier Latin work. The famous

passage, 'Il y a quarante ans que je dis de la prose sans Cte, de Soissons.

que j'en susse rien,' is, on the faith of a letter of Mme.

de Sévigné (12th July 1681) originally ascribed to the Comte de Soissons, who died in 1641. • Comment ! ma fille,' she writes, 'j'ai donc fait un sermon sans y penser! J'en suis autant étonnée que Monsieur le Comte de Soissons quand on lui découvrit qu'il faisait de la prose.' The play upon words, “Elle se porte

sur ses deux jambes' (Act III. v.) has been compared Terence.

to the cold reply in Terence's Eunuch (line 270) "Gnatho : Plurimâ salute Parmenonem summum suom inpertit Gnatho. Quid agitur ?-Parm. : Statur.' (Cp. Plautus, Pseud. 457.)

[ocr errors]

But The Mama

Mme. Jourdain's speech on ill-assorted marriages bears a strong analogy to that of Teresa, Sancho Panza's wife (Quixote,

Don Quixote. Part II, c. v.), when they were consulting as to the marriage of their daughter Mary.

The idea of the Turkish disguise and language was without doubt suggested by Rotrou's play, La Sour (see note

Rotrou. on 74, 20). A Frenchman who had spent several years in the East, the Chevalier d'Arvieux, declares in his memoirs that the Turkish ceremony was an idea of the king's. His

d'Arvieux. Majesty ordered me,' says d'Arvieux, “to join Messieurs de Molière and de Lulli, in order to compose a stage piece in which might be introduced something of the dress and manners of the Turks. For that purpose I went to the village of Auteuil, where M. de Molière had a very pretty house. It was there that we worked at the piece which one can see in the works of Molière under the title of the Bourgeois Gentilhomme.' D’Arvieux's collaboration was probably limited to a few suggestions as to the dress and language of the stage Turks, if it extended so far.

It is difficult to say whence Molière derived the Mamamouchi scene, if it be not due to his own imagination. most editors of this play have quoted a case in point, mouchi to show that it is not so entirely absurd and improb- scene. able as it might seem. In 1686, only sixteen years after the first performance of the Bourgeois Gentilhomme, a wealthy priest of Caen, the Abbé de St. Martin, was persuaded by his friends that the King of Siam, after reading his works, Marquis de had raised him to the dignity of a mandarin with the title of Marquis de Miskou. The details of his installation were, it seems, still more grotesque and humorous than those of the Bourgeois Gentilhomme. They were described at full length in a work published at the Hague in 1730, entitled Mandarinade, or Comic History of the Mandarinade of the Abbé de St. Martin, Marquis of Miskou, D.D., and Prothonotary of the Holy See. The abbé bore his title to the end of his life.

Imitations in English.—The chief English imitations of the Bourgeois Gentilhomme are the following

Mamamouchi or the Citizen turned Gentleman, by Ravenscroft. Also Scaramouch, a Philosopher, Harlequin and School-Boy, Bravo, Merchant and Magician, by the same. Love and a Bottle, 1699. In this play Farquhar has borrowed a few scenes. Mockmode is a character modelled on M. Jourdain.

In the Commissary, by Foote, 1765, Zachary Fungus is a very analogous character to M. Jourdain.

LE BOURGEOIS GENTILHOMME.

COMÉDIE-BALLET

DE

MOLIÈRE

Representée pour la première fois, à Chambord, le 14 Octobre 1670.

*

*

*

PERSONNAGES ET ACTEURS.

Acteurs. MONSIEUR JOURDAIN, bourgeois .

MOLIÈRE. MADAME JOURDAIN, sa femme

HUBERT. LUCILE, fille de M. Jourdain

Mlle. MOLIÈRE. CLÉONTE, amoureux de Lucile

LA GRANGE. DORIMÈNE, marquise

Mlle. DEBRIE. DORANTE, comte, amant de Dorimène

LA THORILLIÈRE. NICOLE, servante de M. Jourdain

Mlle. BEAUVAL.
COVIELLE, valet de Cléonte .
UN MAÎTRE DE MUSIQUE
UN ÉLÈVE du Maître de Musique

GAYE.
UN MAÎTRE À DANSER
UN MAÎTRE D'ARMES

DEBRIE.
UN MAÎTRE DE PHILOSOPHIE

DU CROISY.
UN MAÎTRE TAILLEUR
UN GARÇON TAILLEUR

Deux LAQUAIS, PLUSIEURS MUSICIENS, MUSICIENNES, JOUEURS D'INSTRUMENTS, DANSEURS, CUISINIERS, GARÇONS TAILLEURS, ET AUTRES PERSONNAGES DES INTERMÈDES DU BALLET.

*

*

*

[ocr errors]

*

[ocr errors]

*

*

*

*

*

La scène est à Paris, dans la maison de M. Jourdain.

« PrécédentContinuer »