Produced by Delphine Lettau, Charles Franks and the people at DP
THE LEARNED WOMEN
(LES FEMMES SAVANTES)
TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH PROSE.
WITH SHORT INTRODUCTIONS AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
CHARLES HERON WALL
The comedy of ‘Les Femmes Savantes’ was acted on March 11, 1692 (see
vol. i. p. 153).
Molière acted the part of Chrysale.
CHRYSALE, an honest bourgeois
PHILAMINTE, wife to CHRYSALE
ARMANDE & HENRIETTE, their daughters
ARISTE, brother to CHRYSALE
BÉLISE, his sister
CLITANDRE, lover to HENRIETTE
TRISSOTIN, a wit
VADIUS, a learned man
MARTINE, a kitchen-maid
LÉPINE, servant to CHRYSALE
JULIEN, servant to VADIUS
THE LEARNED WOMEN.
SCENE I.—ARMANDE, HENRIETTE.
ARM. What! Sister, you will give up the sweet and enchanting title of
maiden? You can entertain thoughts of marrying! This vulgar wish can
enter your head!
HEN. Yes, sister.
ARM. Ah! Who can bear that “yes”? Can anyone hear it without feelings
HEN. What is there in marriage which can oblige you, sister, to….
ARM. Ah! Fie!
ARM. Fie! I tell you. Can you not conceive what offence the very
mention of such a word presents to the imagination, and what a
repulsive image it offers to the thoughts? Do you not shudder before
it? And can you bring yourself to accept all the consequences which
this word implies?
HEN. When I consider all the consequences which this word implies, I
only have offered to my thoughts a husband, children, and a home; and
I see nothing in all this to defile the imagination, or to make one
ARM. O heavens! Can such ties have charms for you?
HEN. And what at my age can I do better than take a husband who loves
me, and whom I love, and through such a tender union secure the
delights of an innocent life? If there be conformity of tastes, do you
see no attraction in such a bond?
ARM. Ah! heavens! What a grovelling disposition! What a poor part you
act in the world, to confine yourself to family affairs, and to think
of no more soul-stirring pleasures than those offered by an idol of a
husband and by brats of children! Leave these base pleasures to the
low and vulgar. Raise your thoughts to more exalted objects; endeavour
to cultivate a taste for nobler pursuits; and treating sense and
matter with contempt, give yourself, as we do, wholly to the
cultivation of your mind. You have for an example our mother, who is
everywhere honoured with the name of learned. Try, as we do, to prove
yourself her daughter; aspire to the enlightened intellectuality which
is found in our family, and acquire a taste for the rapturous
pleasures which the love of study brings to the heart and mind.
Instead of being in bondage to the will of a man, marry yourself,
sister, to philosophy, for it alone raises you above the rest of
mankind, gives sovereign empire to reason, and submits to its laws the
animal part, with those grovelling desires which lower us to the level
of the brute. These are the gentle flames, the sweet ties, which
should fill every moment of life. And the cares to which I see so many
women given up, appear to me pitiable frivolities.
HEN. Heaven, whose will is supreme, forms us at our birth to fill
different spheres; and it is not every mind which is composed of
materials fit to make a philosopher. If your mind is created to soar
to those heights which are attained by the speculations of learned
men, mine is fitted, sister, to take a meaner flight and to centre its
weakness on the petty cares of the world. Let us not interfere with
the just decrees of Heaven; but let each of us follow our different
instincts. You, borne on the wings of a great and noble genius, will
inhabit the lofty regions of philosophy; I, remaining here below, will
taste the terrestrial charms of matrimony. Thus, in our several paths,
we shall still imitate our mother: you, in her mind and its noble
longings; I, in her grosser senses and coarser pleasures; you, in the
productions of genius and light, and I, sister, in productions more
ARM. When we wish to take a person for a model, it is the nobler side
we should imitate; and it is not taking our mother for a model,
sister, to cough and spit like her.
HEN. But you would not have been what you boast yourself to be if our
mother had had only her nobler qualities; and well it is for you that
her lofty genius did not always devote itself to philosophy. Pray,
leave me to those littlenesses to which you owe life, and do not, by
wishing me to imitate you, deny some little savant entrance into the
ARM. I see that you cannot be cured of the foolish infatuation of
taking a husband to yourself. But, pray, let us know whom you intend
to marry; I suppose that you do not aim at Clitandre?
HEN. And why should I not? Does he lack merit? Is it a low choice I