Study Guide

The Miser Marriage

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"But I'm making excellent progress. I find the best way to get on the right side of people is to pretend to fall in with their view of things, agree with their principles, encourage their foibles and applaud whatever they do." (1.1.13)

In the play's opening scene, Valère reveals his intentions of marrying Élise. The only problem is that Élise's dad Harpagon will never let her marry a servant. So Valère swears to do everything in his power to make Harpagon like him, in hopes that he might one day get the old man's marriage blessing.

"Not yet. But my mind's made up [to marry Mariane], so once again I ask you not to try and talk me out of it." (1.2.7)

When Cléante tells Élise about his plans to marry Mariane, he expects her to try and talk him out of it. We're not sure why, but Cléante seems to be a bit defensive about his marriage prospects. Maybe it's because he has no money?

"There's just one little difficulty. I'm afraid she might not bring as much money with her as could be wished." (1.4.65)

Harpagon is pleased to be marrying a beautiful young woman, but he's still not satisfied. He wishes that the woman were not only young and beautiful, but also rich. That way, he would truly have all he wanted in a woman. Ok, guy. You're a sixty-something father of two. How warped is your opinion of yourself that you think you're an Adonis and a great catch?

"Provided I find that she has something of a dowry I have made up my mind to marry her myself." (1.4.69)

Harpagon tells his son that as long as Mariane has some kind of dowry (a payment to give him for marrying her), he's happy to be her husband. This is ridiculous, of course, because Mariane finds him absolutely repulsive. But then again, she and her mom are starved for income, so she has to at least consider the marriage.

"I have a certain widow in mind for your brother." (1.4.76)

Harpagon feels like, as the father of the house, it is his duty to find spouses for his two children. They might not be the best matches, but hey, at least they're the richest matches. For Cléante he has an older woman in mind. This is especially ridiculous considering that Harpagon plans on marrying a woman nearly 40 years younger than he is.

"And for you—I've chosen Seigneur Anselme." (1.4.76)

Much like he has chosen a widow for Cléante, Harpagon has chosen a rich older man named Anselme for his daughter Élise. He never asks her whether she likes this man, since as far as he's concerned Élise has no say in the matter.

"If you please father, I have no inclination to be married." (1.4.79)

Élise is usually respectful of her father's wishes. But marriage is for life, and there's no way she's willing to marry an older man she's never met. Get it, girl.

"I'll kill myself rather than marry a man like that!" (1.4.95)

When Harpagon commands her to do as he says, Élise vows to kill herself before she'll marry Anselme. As we find out later in the play, M. Anselme is actually a really stand-up dude, but Élise is madly in love with Valère.

"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)

When it comes to marriage, Cléante doesn't mess around. He's even willing to blackmail his father in front of a police officer. He basically says "The deal is really simple, Daddy. You give me the girl and I give you your money." It'd be awfully nice if Mariane had a voice in all of this, since she's not a piece of property. But hey, it's the 17th century.

"So be it. But now let us go and share our joy with your mother." (5.6.23)

At the end of the play, M. Anselme is overjoyed to find out that Valère and Mariane are his children. He's also happy to learn that they'll soon be marrying the people they love, and that he'll see his long-lost wife. This reaction lies in stark contrast to Harpagon, who's only interested in seeing his moneybox again.

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