Study Guide

The Miser Manipulation

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"I'll say! You're irresistible. Your face is a picture. Give us a little twirl would you?" (2.5.52)

Frosine knows how to get men to give her money: compliment, compliment, compliment. She doesn't know what she's up against with Harpagon, though, because no matter how much flattery she lays on, she never even comes close to getting him to open his wallet to her.

"I can't abide flatterers, sir, and I can see what he's up to […]" (3.1.72)

Master Jacques actually has a soft spot for Harpagon, even though the old man treats him terribly. Master Jacques hates seeing Harpagon being manipulated by the brown-nosing Valère. Jacques realizes that Valère just sucks up to the old man in order to get into his good books. Also, all of Valère's flattery makes the work of the other servants (like Jacques) way harder.

"All the same, I cannot bring myself to say that I am overjoyed at the prospect that you might be thinking of becoming my stepmother." (3.7.3)

Harpagon thinks that Cléante objects to his marriage because he doesn't want anyone replacing his mother. But in truth, Cléante is in love with the bride-to-be Mariane. Telling her that he doesn't support the marriage is his secret way of saying—in front of his father—that he thinks he should be the person marrying Mariane.

"No, no Madame! It's in such lovely hands. It's a present from my father." (3.7.28)

Cléante loves to annoy his father, and there's no better way for him to do this than to make his father lose money. In this instance, he takes a ring off his father's finger and gives it to Mariane as a present from Harpagon. Harpagon would never give away anything that valuable. But in order to save face, he has to go along with Cléante's manipulation.

"What we really need is to arrange things so that he turns you down, and for that to happen we need to find a way of making him take a dislike to you, Mariane." (4.1.18)

According to Frosine, Cléante and Mariane will never be able to get Harpagon to let Mariane go. They figure that the only way they will ever get it to happen is to somehow make Mariane seem ugly and blah. This is a great little scheme, but Molière doesn't pursue it at all. Instead, he has Harpagon find out about Cléante's attraction to Mariane, and the whole plan sinks before anything can come of it.

"What's this? My son kissing the hand of his stepmother-to-be! And the stepmother-to-be is not putting up much resistance." (4.2.1)

Harpagon isn't a fool. He knows something fishy is going on when he sees Cléante kissing Mariane's hand. Harpagon, in fact, eventually uses his intelligence to turn things around on Cléante and manipulate Cléante into revealing his true feelings for Mariane.

"Gentlemen, it only remains for you to put your heads together. You are now in complete agreement. If you were at daggers drawn, it was all because you were failing to understand each other." (4.4.29)

Master Jacques is one of the most prolific manipulators in this play, but he doesn't really do it that well. He misleadingly tells Cléante and Harpagon that they agree with each other, even it's obvious that they will figure out the truth in less than a minute.

"Your father's strong-box. I've pinched it!" (4.6.9)

La Flèche isn't all that interested in Harpagon's money until the old man starts to get on his nerves. Then, La Fléche decides that he's going to steal the old man's money simply out of spite. The theft will come in handy, since this moneybox will eventually be Cléante's trump card in blackmailing Harpagon.

"Oh, if you're going by size, it was a small one. When I said it was big, I was going by what was in it." (5.2.41)

Master Jacques lies about seeing Valère steal Harpagon's moneybox in order to get revenge for an earlier beat-down. But when it comes time for him to actually describe the moneybox, he stumbles and makes a fool of himself. That's what he gets for being a substandard manipulator.

"Stop worrying father, you can drop all your accusations. I have news of your money and am here to tell you that you will get it back—on condition that you let me marry Mariane." (5.6.1)

Cléante isn't messing around here. He's willing to straight up blackmail his father into giving him Mariane in exchange for his box of money. And let's not forget that Cléante is doing this in front of a cop, so he's definitely pretty brazen when it comes to getting his dad to do what he wants.

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