Study Guide

The Misanthrope Friendship

By Molière

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Since you embrace this indiscriminate vice,
Your friendship comes at far too cheap a price;
I spurn the easy tribute of a heart
Which will not set the worthy man apart:
I choose, Sir, to be chosen; and in fine,
The friend of mankind is no friend of mine. (1.1.61)

It's not enough for Alceste to hate people; he demands that his friends hate people, too. At this point, you have to wonder why anyone would even want to be his friend.

And that it's always been my dearest desire
To be the friend of one I so admire.
I hope to see my love of merit requited,
And you and me in friendship's bond united.
I'm sure you won't refuse—if I may be frank—
A friend of my devotedness—and rank. (1.2.6)

Oronte is making Alceste an offer of friendship that he can't refuse. Well, except that Alceste does actually refuse it, because he would probably rather be shot execution-style by Marlon Brando himself than lie about a poem being good when it's not.

And swear that I will prize our friendship dearly.
Give me your hand. And now, Sir, if you choose,
We'll make our vows. (1.2.29)

Oh, great, Oronte's about to make a vow. Guess how much his promises are worth? Pretty much zero, just like justice, morals, love, and friendship. Whew, The Misanthrope sure is … misanthropic.

Sir, it's a very great honor you extend:
But friendship is a sacred thing, my friend;
It would be profanation to bestow
The name of friend on one you hardly know.
All parts are better played when well-rehearsed;
Let's put off friendship, and get acquainted first. (1.2.35)

Alceste seems to be more serious about friendship than love, since we're pretty sure he didn't move this slowly with Célimène. Or at least he wouldn't, if she'd even let him get near her.

These friendships that you calculate so nicely…(2.3.19)

Yeah so, Célimène doesn't have real friends. Just "calculated" ones. What does that tell you about her?

Damis, his uncle, is admired no end.
What's your opinion, Madam?
Why, he's my friend.
He seems a decent fellow, and rather clever.
He works too hard at cleverness, however.
I hate to see him sweat and struggle so
To fill his conversation with bons mots. (2.5.84)

So, basically Célimène is saying that Damis is working too hard to be cool. Okay, fine, that's a valid thing to say about someone. But check it out: first, she says that he's her friend. With friends like Célimène, we don't think Damis needs enemies. Stone cold, my friend. Stone cold.

Madam, the flame of friendship ought to burn
Brightest in matters of the most concern,
And as there's nothing which concerns us more
Than honor, I have hastened to your door
To bring you, as your friend, some information
About the status of your reputation. (3.5.4)

What's this "flame of friendship" that's making Arsinoé so eager to come chill with Célimène? It's a flame of something but it sure isn't friendship. Sounds a little more like jealousy to us.

Well, it was one of your friends, Sir, anyway.
He warned you to begone, and he suggested
That if you stay, you may well be arrested. (4.4.37)

Check it out: the word friend has lost its meaning so much by this point in the play that the guard about to drag Alceste away actually becomes a "friend."

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