Seventeenth-century French aristocrats felt pretty good about themselves. They were smart, they were sexy, they had awesome clothes (and hair), and they had great manners. (To your face.) And that's great and all, but it comes along with some pretty nasty traits, like hypocrisy, deceit, and betrayal. The Misanthrope has had just about enough of society manners. It wants aristocrats to maybe take off those wigs for a minute and just be real. But … maybe not too real.
Questions About Society and Class
Why is Alceste so obsessed with becoming a hermit? Will doing that let him escape from society? What seems to have gone wrong with his life that makes him think being a hermit is a better option?
Money and power are the driving forces of society as Molière portrays it. Does The Misanthrope seem to think that society can be organized a different way, or does living in a society mean that individuals have to compromise their values?
Where do you think Alceste sits on the societal totem pole? What about the rest of the characters? Who appears to be the leader of this society?
Chew on This
Molière suggests that society brings out the worst in people.
In The Misanthrope, social rules organize relationships between people and keep things moving smoothly.