Misanthrope- Honesty in One of the Best Term Paper
Excerpt from Term Paper :
In one of the best plays of Moliere, The Misanthrope, we come across honesty as the main theme, which has been carefully incorporated to show the adverse effects of tactless honesty and the consequences of complete lack of honesty. The play was written in the 17th century and the society it depicts is the one that prefers flattery to honesty and conceit to modesty. Despite the fact that the play was meant for audiences of 17th century, it amazingly retains a universal appeal because of the treatment that Moliere extends to the central theme of honesty in the play.
The play revolves around four important characters, Alceste, Celimene, Philinte and Eliante. It is through the characters of Alceste and Celimene that the author conveys his views on honesty. Philinte serves the important purpose of balancing honesty and deceit by adopting a middle path, which is both sensible and practical. Alceste is the protagonist of the play who is a man of rather unfriendly disposition and t5his unfriendliness emerges from his desire to be complete and even bluntly honest about everything.
While honesty is much appreciated everywhere, it is important to use tact while being honest or else a person risks alienation from society. This is the message of the play and Alceste has been used to show that a person's obsession with honest can backfire if it is not covered with certain degree of tact and diplomacy. A
man needs to handle truth delicately but this is what Alceste refuses to understand. The result is a disaster as during the course of the play, he wins more enemies than friends because not everyone can see him as an honest person and most consider him an insensitive misanthrope. On one occasion, he expresses his views on the society that thrives on deceit and conceit in these words:
All are corrupt; there's nothing to be seen
In court or town but aggravates my spleen.
A fall into deep gloom and melancholy
When I survey the scene of human folly,
Finding on every hand base flattery,
Injustice, fraud, self-interest, treachery....
Ah, it's too much; mankind has grown so base, mean to break with the whole human race.
Although honesty is what Alceste desires and promotes, the man is incapable of mixing honest opinion with a little tact and doesn't realize that his honest views are seen as insensitive remarks that actually hurt others. To call Alceste a misanthrope would be utterly wrong because he is not 'an enemy of the mankind' in any sense of the word (Rousseau, 37). He doesn't hate others but only detests the evil in them. His only flaw is that he is les tolerant of other people's shortcomings than Philinte who fortunately understands that there exists a delicate line between honesty and rudeness.
Rousseau asserts that Alceste's brand of honesty is grounded in a sincere desire to remove evil from the society. Alceste is an honest man who is disliked by many because…
Sources Used in Documents:
Rousseau, Jean Jacques "Letter to M. D'Alembert on the Theatre" (1758).
Moliere. The Misanthrope and Tartuffe. Trans. Richard Wilbur. New York, 1954.
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