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The Misanthrope

The Misanthrope


by Molière

Analysis: Three-Act Plot Analysis

For a three-act plot analysis, put on your screenwriter’s hat. Moviemakers know the formula well: at the end of Act One, the main character is drawn in completely to a conflict. During Act Two, she is farthest away from her goals. At the end of Act Three, the story is resolved.

We know you Shmoopers like a bargain, so here's five for the price of three: since the play is in five acts, we're going to go ahead and follow Molière's lead.

Act I

They Go Together Like Limeade and Pickles

Thanks to a little dialogue between Alceste and Philinte, we know that Alceste hates everyone in the world except for his love, Célimène. Even though she is the opposite of everything he believes in and seems to be cheating on him, he can't get over her.

Act II

Ooh, Ooh! Pick Me!

After listening to Célimène and her friends talk smack about everyone they know, Alceste makes his mind up to force her to choose between him and all her friends, Parisian high culture, and the lifestyle to which she's accustomed. Gee. Sounds like a hard choice.


Exactly What She Seems

Everyone loves Célimène. Except for the people who hate her, like Arsinoé. Arsinoé really hates her, and tries to convince everyone that she's a big ol' hussy. In return, Célimène sets her up to be insulted by her (Arsinoé's) big crush, Alceste.

Act IV

We start with a tender love scene between Philinte and Éliante. That's refreshing. It goes quickly south, when Alceste discovers that Célimène's been writing little notes—if you know what we mean—to another dude.

We start hearing some things about Célimène. They are not nice things. In fact, they basically say that she is a two-timing hussy, and—surprise, surprise—they turn out to be true. All is revealed when some illicit love notes are found and the entire cast of characters gathers to spew insults at her.

Act V

Goodbye, Cruel World

Surprise, surprise—all the nasty rumors about Célimène turn out to be true. All is revealed when some illicit love notes are found and the entire cast of characters gathers to spew insults at her.

Her boyfriends all leave, except Alceste. He offers to run away with her and get married but she says no thanks. Meanwhile, wingman buddy (Philinte) and lady friend (Éliante) get together. Finally. Alceste is alone, like he always wanted to be … but, for some reason, Philinte and Éliante are running after him to drag him back to society.

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