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And all that learning threw the common sense away
Monologue of Crizald from "The Learned Women' by JB Moliere
Many years ago, in France of Louis XIV, when according to our feminist historians the only valued personalities were Madame de Montespan and Madame de Recamier, the playwright and actor Jean -- Batiste Moliere wrote and staged the comedy "The Learned Women' considered by specialists as one of his best. In that comedy the intrigue takes place in the house of a wealthy merchant Crizald, whose wife Filaminta, sister Belize and older daughter Armanda are all immersed in education and enlightenment. His younger daughter Henrietta is of more domestic type and is in love with a young man Klitandre.
In the process of the play we find out that the three learned women, being people of means engage themselves in a vehement study process. All of them are nice, kind people but that perpetual process had taken over their senses. In his first monologue Crizald complains that they have a telescope in the attic where they "interfere with the Moon'business', that they "know all the constellations and many other useless things,' that the house is filled with everyone learning while everyday chores are not done, that the last housemaid had been fired because she did not follow proper grammar in her speaking, that instead a lot of very unpleasant people attend the house, most of them false intellectuals who seem sinister and prone to all kinds of conniving. All of that is true but Filaminta does not see it that way. From some point in time she considers herself the only power in the house, her husband is deemed unworthy of her enlightened presence and she has a goal to arrange for her younger daughter's marriage with one of those intellectuals, to make him a man of the house forever. Very soon we meet this inspirational individual Trissoten, who is all what Crizald says: he is a stupid, mean, greedy gold- digger and all people around see this clearly except for the enlightened ladies. man Klitandre, the young man who loves Henrietta, when talking about such kind of people uses a very revealing statement, "He is drunk with knowledge." That's maybe the most clear definition of the addiction Moliere had spotted and put out for the people to laugh at. And they laughed heartily. They laughed because they recognized the familiar issue. They laughed at the addiction of Filaminta.
Filaminta, the wife and mother, is anything but sinister. She is in fact a charming personality; honest, strong- willed, loyal to her family and incapable of malice. Her loved ones (except for one) know that and treat her with love and respect. No matter how she irritates them with her senseless behavior, none of them insults her; even the housemaid who had all the right to grudge still treats Filaminta nicely. It is obvious that they all love her dearly and know how good in heart she really is. But they also know that she became addicted and the story is about a family intervention.
The intervention eventually becomes necessary because addiction went out of control.
As I had mentioned above, Filaminta was neither bad nor an evil woman. She was though mediocre, selfish, vane and shallow, an adult child. At the same time she felt bored, had nothing to do and was desperate for playing games. In this she precluded two remarkable literary characters- Madame Bovary and Scarlett O'Hara. Both were weary of their surroundings, selfish and eager to do games which they mistook for "passions', while both were really rather mediocre and not developed spiritually.
Learning was a new game in town for the bored ladies of means and Filaminta fell into the trap. It was fashionable to learn no mater what and why. It was fashionable to talk about something enlightened: astronomy, poetry, etc. It was excitingm to talk with "educated men', who were so different from the ones she met every day. It was terrific to "poke into the Moon's business'. All of that was quite harmless at first and from the modern point of view could be considered as a person investigating her potential in the struggle for women's equality. But it was not that at all. It was what it was -- an addiction. Filaminta did not know why she was doing all that -- she did not have a goal. Then she started to seek for that goal and, lo-and -- behold, she found it in the process of arranging the house and the lives of all people around her according to that addiction. It is the same as an alcoholic hides bottles everywhere; Filaminta wanted EVERYTHING AND EVEYRONE to make her feel secure in her new endeavor. And that started to hurt people bad.
Con men did not come that house by chance. They came because they sniffed the disease. Their key was unlimited flattery. Filaminta drank those vulgar praises like Cool -Aid. They called her empowered, enlightened, superb. Her mediocre writings were proclaimed as revelations. If those con men had not eventually fought with each other and revealed their true goals she would have never found out the truth. The author though gave her that chance because, as all her family he dearly loved her.
The more Filaminta drank that poison the more harmful she became. She fired good servants thus depriving them of sustenance. She made her younger daughter miserable by pushing her marriage to a conman. She became more and more vehement. Thus the family decided to concoct a false ploy; right at the moment of the marriage contract she was told about an alleged family bankruptcy. The conman immediately refused to marry. Klitandre stepped in and in a culmination the young couple achieved happiness.
Filaminta seems bewildered but not shaken at the end. It is not clear if she reevaluates her goals. The author wisely leaves the matter open to us. But there is a very stern warning: one member of the family really rises severe discontent. The older daughter Armanda demonstrates malice: during the whole play she, unlike her mother wanted to destroy her sister's happiness due to pure envy and covert desire to possess that young man herself. She did not give a damn about learning and enlightenment: she used the addiction of her mother for her own practical purposes. The dream of Filaminta's mind created a monster.
Great plays live in ages. If JB lived now he would have said that Filamintas and Armandas had taken over while still not being enlightened. And he would have said it as I say now- with love and respect.