Study Guide

Cléante in The Miser

By Molière

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The Romeo

Cléante has one main motive in this play, and that's his love for Mariane. We find out quickly that Cléante is the hopeless romantic type, saying things about Mariane like, "[To] see her is to love her. Nature never made anything lovelier and I was swept off my feet the moment I set eyes on her" (1.2.13). You can almost see him sighing and wiping down his forehead as he says it.

He is absolutely determined to be with Mariane no matter what his father thinks. He tells Élise, "If I find he's against it, I've decided to run away somewhere with my wonderful angel and make the best of whatever Heaven may send us" (1.2.7). In this sense, Cléante is quite the Romeo, vowing to do whatever it takes to make sure his heart gets what it wants in the end.

When he discovers that his father wants Mariane for himself, Cléante only becomes more defiant. When his father demands respect, Cléante responds, "This isn't a matter where a son must respect his father's wishes. Love is no respecter of persons" (4.3.40). As you can see, Cléante isn't going to respect his dad just because the old man is his father. He's going to blaze his own trail because he's an independent thinker with a big, mushy, romantic heart.

The Borrower

It's great that Cléante follows his heart and stands up to his father. The problem is that he lives in a world where people need money if they want to live their own lives. Money = independence in the world of Molière's The Miser. For Cléante, the only way to get money seems to be either winning at gambling (not exactly a dependable job) or borrowing it.

After all, he says, "What else can I do? This is what young men are reduced to by the damned stinginess of their fathers" (2.1.29). To be fair, Cléante would do well to take a little more responsibility for his finances, rather than always blaming his father for not showering him with loot. He seems to take this attitude especially far when he rhetorically asks, "Can anyone wonder if their sons want them dead?" (2.1.37). He's essentially saying he wishes Harpagon were dead so he could inherit his money. It's cool and all to be rebellious when your dad is a jerk, but it's not so cool to wish him dead.

Cléante takes a pretty strict moral stance against lenders. He's not a fan of lenders charging ridiculously high interest rates on their loans, because the only people who would agree to these rates are people in desperate situations. In Cléante's humble opinion, lenders who charge high interest rates are preying on (and profiting from) the desperation of others. And, as Cléante rhetorically asks his father, "Who is guiltier, in your opinion: the man who borrows because he needs the money, or the man who extorts money he does not need?" (2.2.20).

The answer for Cléante is the extortionist. In Cléante's mind, money exists to be spent, not hoarded. And it's downright immoral, he thinks, for people to be greedy and to hoard their money while other people have nothing.

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