Study Guide

The Miser Madness

By Molière

Madness

"I'll lock up whatever I want to and stand guard whenever I please. I never saw such a set of prying eyes, forever snooping on everything I do!" (1.3.11)

When it comes to his money, Harpagon is real paranoid. In his first appearance in the play, he tells a young man named La Flèche to get out of his house because he doesn't want people spying on him and trying to find out where his money is. What Harpagon doesn't realize is that La Flèche never cared about his money at first, but now wants to steal it out of pure spite because of the way Harpagon is acting.

"Wait! You're not walking off with anything of mine are you?" (1.3.17)

When he tells La Flèche to get out of his house, La Flèche agrees and starts to go. But as he leaves, Harpagon is worried that the young man has already stolen something. He won't let La Flèche leave without a proper strip search, so you can see how Harpagon's paranoia backs him into a corner. He's unhappy no matter how people act.

"All the same, I'm not sure it was very wise to bury in the garden the ten thousand crowns I was paid yesterday." (1.4.1)

Even Harpagon has to question his own decision to bury a bunch of cash in his garden so that no one will find it. It's a little excessive, and probably not even as safe as keeping his money in a vault of some kind.

"Villain, give me back my money! Oh, it's me! I'm losing my mind." (4.7.1)

At one point during his fit over his stolen money, Harpagon even grabs his own hand and thinks he has caught the thief. But only a second later, he realizes that it's his own hand. This mistake leads him to think that he's losing his mind, and at this point, the audience is inclined to agree with him.

"In the end, I can't go on, I'm as good as dead and buried." (4.7.1)

For Harpagon, there's no going on without his money. As far as he's concerned, he's deader than a doornail. A sane person might think, "I'll have to make do." But not ol' Harpagon. His obsession goes way beyond the realm of rational thought, which is what makes his relationship to money so cray cray.

"I look around but I can't see anyone who doesn't make me suspicious." (4.7.1)

And heeeeeres paranoia, Johnny. Suspicion toward others is probably the number one symptom of Harpagon's madness throughout this play. He doesn't trust anyone, not even his children, to be within earshot of him when he even thinks about his hidden money. Once his money is taken, he suspects absolutely everyone in his house and the surrounding city. He doesn't seem to realize, though, that he's going to have to be reasonable and narrow down the list of suspects if he's ever going to find the culprit.

"I'll hang every last one of them. And if I don't get my money back, I'll hang myself as well!" (4.7.1)

To get his money back, Harpagon is actually willing to hang every person in Paris. And don't think that the old man is exaggerating here. He'd probably do it if he could. Besides that, he plans on committing suicide if he doesn't get his money back. Who needs therapy? Harpagon needs therapy.

"Stop thief! Murderers! Assassins! Justice, merciful heaven!" (4.7.1)

When he finds out that someone has stolen his moneybox, Harpagon screams out that a murder has been committed. This just goes to show how he connects his body directly to his money—to harm one is to harm the other. Having his cash box taken from his yard is, in his crazy brain, nothing less than having his heart pulled out of his chest.

"Everybody. I want you to arrest the whole city and the suburbs too." (5.1.12)

When the officer asks him whom he suspects took his money, Harpagon turns to the audience and says that he suspects "everybody." This is a funny moment for the crowd, but the fact that Harpagon is actually turning toward them helps show how his mind is floating away from the "real world" that exists within the play.

"Oh Seigneur Anselme, you see before you the most unfortunate of men. All kinds of trouble and complications have arisen over the contract you have come to sign! I have suffered mortal blows, one to my fortune and one to my honour." (5.5.2)

Everyone is entitled to a little exaggeration now and then. But with Harpagon, we can never be totally sure whether he's exaggerating because the guy seems downright hysterical throughout the second half of The Miser. In this instance, he claims that he's been mortally wounded in both his wallet and his honor. Now this is definitely a metaphor, right? Right? Maybe. There are times when the old man seems to think he's actually dying from the shock of losing his money.

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