Study Guide

The Miser Greed

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"Was there ever anything more cruel than the strict penny-pinching he forces us to live with, the unnatural parsimoniousness in which we are made to languish?" (1.2.17)

At the beginning of the play, Cléante curses his terrible fate of being stuck with such a greedy father. At the same time, though, you might say to Cléante, "Hey, if you want money, go out and earn it yourself." It's true that the play paints Harpagon as a villain, but would it really kill Cléante to find a source of income other than borrowing?

"What use will money be to us if it comes only when we are too old to enjoy it?" (1.2.17)

When Cléante complains about his father never giving him money, he implies that money is better spent on young people than on old people. That's why he doesn't care so much about the fact that one day, his father will die and he will inherit all the money. After all, money is only good if you can spend it while you're still young… as far as Cléante's concerned.

"It's difficult finding a safe hiding-place anywhere in this house. I don't trust strong-boxes." (1.4.1)

Harpagon is a greedy old dude. So greedy, in fact, that he doesn't even trust his money in a safe. After all, a robber would take one look at a safe and know that something valuable is in it. Good thinkin', H.

"There's just one little difficulty. I'm afraid she might not bring as much money with her as could be wished." (1.4.55)

Harpagon is preparing to marry a beautiful woman who is nearly 40 years younger than him. But what's the first thing on his mind? That he won't get much money for marrying her. You heard right. He wants to get paid for marrying this beautiful woman.

"But—no dowry!" (1.5.19)

Even though Élise has no interest in marrying M. Anselme, Harpagon is over the moon because M. Anselme is willing to marry her without a dowry. FYI, dowry is money that used to be given to a groom by the bride's family. For M. Anselme to not want a dowry is, for greedy Harpagon, a far better reason to marry off Élise than something worthless like her happiness.

"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)

When Cléante finds out that his father Harpagon is lending out money at ridiculously high interest rates, he scolds the old man for being immoral. Basically, H-bomb is taking advantage of people's desperation by agreeing to lend them money, and then making them pay through the nose for it.

"May you rot, you tight-fisted hound! Devil take the skinflint! He withstood all my best efforts." (2.5.70)

Frosine sounds like she's in a bit of a pickle with her upcoming lawsuit. But no matter how much she flatters Harpagon, she can't get him to open his wallet for her. The dude's just too greedy. And Frosine is angry, angry, angry.

"Valère, go and keep an eye on what's being served and please save as much of it as you can so that it can go back to the caterers." (3.9.11)

Even when he grudgingly does something nice for others, like have them over for dinner, Harpagon can't stop pinching pennies. He tells Valère to save as much of the leftover food as possible. He plans on sending the uneaten food back to the caterers for a refund, which, uh, sounds gross. How's that for thrift?

Harpagon: Tell him I'm busy. Tell him to come back another time. Brindavoine: He says he has some money for you. Harpagon: Excuse me. I won't be long. (3.13.2-4)

Harpagon has no time to speak to anyone unless it's about money. If someone has some dough for him, though, he'll drop what he's doing and run on over to chat it up.

"And I'll go and see my lovely money-box again." (5.6.24)

At the end of the play, all of the characters are happy that there are two weddings coming up. Harpagon, though, only cares about seeing his stolen moneybox again. His son and daughter are both going to get married and are happy as can be, but he couldn't care less because he's blinded by greed.

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