Study Guide

The Miser Act 1, Scene 5

By Molière

Act 1, Scene 5

  • While Harpagon is giving his speech, his son Cléante and daughter Élise start talking at the back of the stage. Harpagon continues his speech and talks about how he has buried a box containing 10,000 crowns in gold in his garden.
  • While he is talking about his buried gold, Harpagon sees Cléante and Élise at the back of the stage and becomes worried that they've heard him talking about his buried gold. He demands to know what they want and whether they've just heard what he was saying.
  • Cléante assures him they heard nothing, but Harpagon doesn't believe him. The old man then tries to lie, saying that he was merely thinking out loud about how tough it is to hold onto money.
  • Cléante tells the old man that he has plenty of money, but Harpagon takes exception to this and orders his son never to let anyone around town know that he has money. He then criticizes Cléante for being so extravagant with his money and spending too much. In fact, Harpagon is convinced that the only way Cléante can walk around in such nice clothes is if he's been stealing from his Daddy.
  • Cléante says that the only money he has, he spends on clothes. Oh, and whatever money he has he gets from gambling. (Maybe in 17th Century France the house didn't always win?)
  • Élise tells Harpagon that she and Cléante have something that they want to talk to him about. But Harpagon says he also has something to say, and that he'll go first because he's the man in charge. It turns out he wants to talk about marriage.
  • Harpagon turns first to Cléante and asks him if he knows a young woman in the neighborhood named Mariane. Cléante says he does, and that he finds her charming and intelligent.
  • Harpagon also wants to know if Cléante thinks this woman would make a good wife, and again, Cléante heartily agrees.
  • But then Harpagon says great, because he intends on marrying Mariane. It turns out he's already made arrangements with the girl's mother, who consents to the match because Harpagon has money and the mother and daughter are desperate for money.
  • Cléante says he isn't feeling well, and leaves the room (probably to go throw up).

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