Outraged and disheartened by the vain flattery and calculated duplicity of his fellow men, Alceste declares that henceforth he will speak only the truth—no matter what offense this might give. His philosophic friend Philinte counsels him to temper his rashness, but Alceste claims that he can no longer tolerate the conventions of saying one thing to a person’s face and another behind his back. Ironically, Alceste is enamored of the young widow Celimene, whose malicious tongue and unceasing coquetry make her the embodiment of the very situation he professes to detest. Ultimately Alceste’s directness involves him in a lawsuit, and then a showdown with Celimene. But in the end it is Alceste who rejects the match when confidential letters are disclosed in which Celimene has set down scathing remarks about all her would-be lovers, Alceste included. Self-righteously he declares that he will renounce the world and seek a place where honesty can still flourish. As the curtain falls, however, the unruffled Philinte steps forward once more, taking Alceste in hand and urging him to accept things as they are and for what they are, pointing to the cynical moral that it is the wiser course to accept for the best what cannot be changed for the better.
This production of The Misanthrope was originally presented by the La Jolla Playhouse in August of 1989.
- Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL