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Sganarelle, or, the Self-Deceived Husband   By: (1622-1673)

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SGANARELLE; OU, LE COCU IMAGINAIRE

COMÉDIE EN UN ACTE.

SGANARELLE: OR THE SELF DECEIVED HUSBAND.

A COMEDY IN ONE ACT.

( THE ORIGINAL IN VERSE .)

28TH MAY, 1660.

INTRODUCTORY NOTICE.

Six months after the brilliant success of the Précieuses Ridicules , Molière brought out at the Théâtre du Petit Bourbon a new comedy, called Sganarelle, ou le Cocu Imaginaire , which I have translated by Sganarelle, or the self deceived Husband . It has been said that Molière owed the first idea of this piece to an Italian farce, Il Ritratto ovvero Arlichino cornuto per opinione , but, as it has never been printed, it is difficult to decide at the present time whether or not this be true. The primary idea of the play is common to many commedia dell' arte , whilst Molière has also been inspired by such old authors as Noël Du Fail, Rabelais, those of the Quinze joyes de Mariage , of the Cent nouvelles Nouvelles , and perhaps others.

The plot of Sganarelle is ingenious and plausible; every trifle becomes circumstantial evidence, and is received as conclusive proof both by the husband and wife. The dialogue is sprightly throughout, and the anxious desire of Sganarelle to kill his supposed injurer, whilst his cowardice prevents him from executing his valorous design, is extremely ludicrous. The chief aim of our author appears to have been to show how dangerous it is to judge with too much haste, especially in those circumstances where passion may either augment or diminish the view we take of certain objects. This truth, animated by a great deal of humour and wit, drew crowds of spectators for forty nights, though the play was brought out in summer and the marriage of the young king kept the court from Paris.

The style is totally different from that employed in the Précieuses Ridicules , and is a real and very good specimen of the style gaulois adapted to the age in which Molière lived. He has often been blamed for not having followed up his success of the Précieuses Ridicules by a comedy in the same style, but Molière did not want to make fresh enemies. It appears to have been a regular and set purpose with him always to produce something farcical after a creation which provoked either secret or open hostility, or even violent opposition.

Sganarelle appears in this piece for the first time, if we except the farce, or rather sketch, of the Médecin volant , where in reality nothing is developed, but everything is in mere outline. But in Sganarelle Molière has created a character that is his own just as much as Falstaff belongs to Shakespeare, Sancho Panza to Cervantes, or Panurge to Rabelais. Whether Sganarelle is a servant, a husband, the father of Lucinde, the brother of Ariste, a guardian, a faggot maker, a doctor, he always represents the ugly side of human nature, an antiquated, grumpy, sullen, egotistical, jealous, grovelling, frightened character, ever and anon raising a laugh on account of his boasting, mean, morose, odd qualities. Molière was, at the time he wrote Sganarelle , more than thirty years old, and could therefore no longer successfully represent Mascarille as the rollicking servant of the Blunderer .

This farce was published by a certain Mr. Neufvillenaine, who was so smitten by it that, after having seen it represented several times, he knew it by heart, wrote it out, and published it, accompanied by a running commentary, which is not worth much, and preceded by a letter to a friend in which he extols its beauties. Molière got, in 1663, his name inserted, instead of that of Neufvillenaine, in the privilége du roi .

Mr. Henry Baker, the translator of this play, in the "Select Comedies of M. de Molière, London, 1732," oddly dedicates it to Miss Wolstenholme [Footnote: I suppose the lady was a descendant of Sir John Wolstenholme, mentioned in one of the notes of Pepy's Diary, Sept... Continue reading book >>




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