In my opinion, The Misanthrope by Moliere is perhaps one of the most relevant pieces ever written. Not only has it stood the test of time having first been performed on June 4th, 1666, but also having been interpreted in several ways without compromising the integrity of Moliere’s words or main concept. The play itself is a “comedy of manners” which means that it is meant to poke fun at the way the people act. The misanthrope in this play is also the protagonist, Alceste, who as one could surmise by the title, is not a very pleasant fellow. He likes to judge and criticize everyone around him in the French aristocracy. As a result, he is the one that everyone avoids and casts aside. He even judges the woman that he loves, Celimene, who despite being accepted wholeheartedly by her fellow aristocrats, seems to have more in common with Alceste than anyone cares to realize; she too is pretty much a self-centered, judgmental bitch. A self-centered, judgmental bitch who is being courted by 4 different men all pining for her love.
Does any of that sound somewhat familiar to you? I think that it should. After all, the popular bitchy girl in high school who has all the jocks chasing her tale is a stereotype that is sadly all too real in our culture. In January of 2008, The Maukingbird Theatre Company put on a production of The Misanthrope that showed exactly how diverse this play can be in it’s applicability, setting the play in the middle of the gay club culture. All the characters were played by men (much like in the original production).
Plays such as this, will always be relevant, and forever entertaining because we can all relate to it. Whether we are the ones who get judged of the ones that do the judging, there is something that will hopefully enlighten us all to the error of our ways; something that I think Moliere would be very happy about.