Many plays from the 17th and 18th centuries just love manipulation. Plays from this era thrive on situations where half of the characters are in the dark and half are privy to important information. We all love us some gossip and intrigue, and the heavy doses of gossip and intrigue in 17th and 18th century plays are part of the reason that they've endured into the 21st century.
The only thing more satisfying than seeing manipulation in action is seeing manipulation in action against a hateful character. In The Miser, Harpagon can be every bit as Machiavellian as the other characters in this play, but we get the biggest thrill out of seeing him become the butt of a manipulative joke.
Questions About Manipulation
How does Harpagon show his ability to manipulate people? Pick one specific instance from the play and discuss how it shows Harpagon's cunning?
Do you think that it's good for Cléante, Frosine, and Mariane to plot behind Harpagon's back, or would things have been easier if they were upfront about Cléante's plans to marry Mariane?
How does Valère try to manipulate Harpagon? Does he succeed? Why or why not?
What are some of the negative consequences of Valère's attempts to get Harpagon to like him? How, for example, does it affect an auxiliary character like Master Jacques?
Chew on This
In The Miser, Molière sets up an interesting plotline involving Cléante's attempts to manipulate his father, but Moliere abandons this plotline in Act 4 in favor of a more traditional (and easier) deus ex machina ending.
The Miser shows us that manipulating other people is never the best way to get what we want. Honesty is the best policy.