MoliA]re wrote, directed, and starred in comedies for public and court audiences in seventeenth-century France. He is perennially successful, but perennially subject to critical controversy: do his plays aim to do more than make audiences laugh? This book focuses on a group of characters in the plays, the interpretation of whose role lies at the heart of any answer to this question. For over a century critics have baptised them 'raisonneurs'. They are characters who engage with some of MoliA]re's most foolish protagonists, but they have been variously interpreted as exponents of wisdom or as ridiculous bores. This book argues that new light can be shed on the words and actions of these characters, and so on the tenor of the plays as a whole, by detailed contextual analysis of the dramaturgical and comic structures in which they operate. They have never before been treated so exhaustively. They emerge neither as the mouthpieces of common sense nor as pompous fools, but as thoughtful, witty, and resourceful friends of the foolish protagonists whom MoliA]re himself played. The book takes into account what is known of the performance styles of MoliA]re's troupe of actors as well as engaging closely with the text of the plays and the critical debate to date. Some of MoliA]re's most teasingly problematic plays are held up to fresh scrutiny, including L'Ecole des femmes, Le Tartuffe, Le Misanthrope, and Le Malade imaginaire. The book is written with scholars, students, and interested theatre-goers in mind. This is the first book-length treatment of the topic.
Michael Hawcroft brings a new perspective to the field of Moliere studies... throw[ing] new and substantial light on a much misunderstood figure in Moliere's theatre Muriel Zagha, Times Literaru Supplement
1: The Raisonneurs and the Critics
2: L'École des maris: the raisonneur as brother and sparring partner
3: L'École des femmes: the raisonneur as friend and counsellor
4: Tartuffe: the raisonneur as brother-in-law and polemicist
5: Le Misanthrope: the raisonneur as friend and rival
6: Le Malade imaginaire: the raisonneur as brother and impresario