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The Learned Women

By       Message Mark Sashine     Permalink
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  And all that learning threw the   common sense away

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  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.

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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.

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The writer is 57 years old, semi- retired engineer, PhD, PE, CEM. I write fiction on a regular basis and I am also 10 years on OEN.

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