THE MISANTHROPEJean – Baptiste Poquelin Moliѐre
What makes this performance valuable is that it clearly moved away from the light social comedy concentrating on the issue of what is it that nowadays in the civilised sense means to insists peevishly on principles, as we live in the times when many truths are pushed while we know in advance many of them to be superficial and false. This subtle task of the anti-hero that is also impossibly peevish and therapeutically provocative has been entrusted to Jerko Marčić, a studious actor who creates all of his roles in a thorough and thoughtful manner. Katarina Bistrović Darvaš followed him in a counterpoint of life simplicity and emotional warmth, as well as the gallery of reliable and vivid actors as Leon Lučev, Jasmin Mekić, Marija Tadić, Olivera Baljak, Dražen Mikulić and Davor Jureško.
Bojan Munjin, Novosti
In Igor Vuk Torbica’s stage «reading», Molière’s sentences sound quite contemporary and actual, inviting spectators to face their own truth and morals. The premiere audience rewarded The Misanthrope actors with great applause and ovation at the end.
Kim Cuculić, Novi list
The performance lasts 1 hour and 40 minutes.
We often forget the fact that Moliѐre also gave a subtitle to his The Misanthrope. His play originally bears the title Le Misantrophe ou l’Atrabilaire Amoreux. In my free translation this addition could mean a peevish lover – however, due to the semantic complexity of French, this subtitle could also be understood in the meaning of the one who loves to quarrel or the lover of peevishness. It is precisely in this or these dualities that we can notice the dual nature of Moliѐre’s writing. If we also take into account the rigid patterns of playwriting in his times, the fact that due to the royal sponsorship of his theatre projects Moliѐre often had to correct and tailor his works so that at least in the final scenes of his plays he would pardon and establish the morals and values of the system at the time, though possibly cynically.
Thus, in a number of Moliѐre’s works, it is actually not easy to penetrate the real nature of his favourite characters, we cannot take it uniformly, for example, whether it is of his own accord that he chooses to punish Don Juan in the end or whether to simply take it as a pragmatic end due to the dictate of those times. However, it is owing to this that Moliѐre’s works present a vast field of possibilities to unveil and re-interpret, a possibility of another view of the issue or characters. As each of his plays contains binary oppositions, cryptic corridors by which the author used to hide his own views, with some luck, the director of today has the opportunity to go down these corridors and consider Moliѐre’s work from other viewpoints.
The francophone philosopher Jacques Rousseau pointed out a few times that it is The Misanthrope that is Moliѐre’s best work, adding also that he felt hurt by the fact that the central character of Alceste is shown as a fool, someone the audience regularly laughs at the most. Such a criticism is not surprising if we take into account that it comes from Rousseau, who, as a leader political philosophy, regularly recognises a political dimension and ideological prosèdē. Though, thinking in this way, we could easily agree that the man who «speaks and insists on the truth» must be a good guy or at least a brave one, a revolutionary factor. However, Moliѐre was not a writer of ideological pretensions, of a political programme and rigid idealism. Wise as he was, he places the man himself into the centre of his observation, the man’s nature, his pathology and demonology.
In this respect, we cannot know what it was that Moliѐre actually thought of the Misanthrope character, just as we cannot slip into easy conclusions and fixed values, as is the one that follows from the assumed formula «truth equals fairness», before we first analyse which truth is it that is at stake, at what price and for what purposes or motives. It would be easy to look at Alceste as a tragic figure that, due to his unrestrained love of righteousness and inherent passion to speak the truth, in the end is left alone and made an outcast.
However, working on this staging, we found reasons to ask ourselves whether there is a possibility of Alceste’s nature to be just a more authentic, original and interesting mask of all the possible masks of those times or this one of today. What I was interested in was the man behind all this, the field and the centre out of which all his drives emerge as well as the issue whether the truth is exclusively a moral category, something that is uniformly accepted as a man’s good feature. I believe that Moliѐre himself has provided the opportunity for this by his skilfully ambivalent relationship with this character. It is due to such ambiguities of his writings that the key issue is whether nowadays we should smile relaxed watching his comedies or comprehend them in the light of analysis of the collective malignity of the society.
Igor Vuk Torbica, director
Pondering on Moliѐre’s text, I have often been stuck in re-examining the truth that his characters tell, as well as its impact on others, paresis in short. Namely, paresis is a figure of speech of antique rhetoric that the speaker uses when he or she openly speaks of uneasy truths regarding individuals or society while only the speaker who takes the risk of telling the truth is considered to be a paresist. Take the example of a teacher who is not considered to be a paresist when she tells a truth to the children she teaches while there is no doubt regarding that truth. On the other hand, when a person who is addressing a «sovereign» is telling him that his tyranny is opposed to justice, she takes a risk telling the truth.
Thus, which of Moliѐre’s characters is a paresist? And how to recognise him/her? As we cannot imagine democracy without paresis, it seems perplexing that the very nature of democracy endangers the existence of truthful speech. In such circumstances where all speak freely, it is still necessary to find someone to direct these judgments, make them legitimate in the interest of al the involved. Then we ask ourselves if “too much” truth can be told and which instance is it when too much truth is replaced with irrationality, also how much truth is necessary to be excluded from the conversation and the possibility to make decisions?
At the same time, in considering reasons and motivations of truthful speech, it becomes important to emphasise one of the features of paresis, the one that manifests in developing a friendly relationship in which people reconsider each other to see if they are worth a friendship, taking into account three conditions for realising that aim: 1) epistêmê (understanding) – all that one says to a friend is always said believing it to be true; 2) eúnoia (enthusiasm) – friends are not made out of interest but out of love and 3) parrhēsia (sincerity) – to a friend you can say all that you think, without fear or shame.
Understanding, enthusiasm and sincerity. Can Moliѐre’s protagonists achieve this?
Nataša Antulov, dramaturge
«I may not be able to help you as, you know, I tell people everything into their faces.»
Jean – Baptiste Poquelin Moliѐre: THE MISANTHROPE
Moliѐre’s The Misanthrope was staged for the first time in Paris in 1666. Three hundred and fifty one years afterwards, after exactly three and a half centuries of performing, interpreting and re-interpreting of unsurpassable lines of this, according to many, creator of classical comedy, its recognition takes place again, as it usually is the case with canonical texts in which there is always a parallel reflection of the past, present and future. Centuries that divide us from the times of his feverish theatre activities have not mitigated the severity and persuasiveness of his criticism. Many of Moliѐre’s contemporaries recognised themselves in his characters. One of them, not long after Moliѐre’s death, wrote down: «Moliѐre’s mockery was so strong that it had the effect of blows of a whip; the one who was struck seemed to have become infected as no one could have come close to him.» If there is any truth in it that The Misanthrope is Moliѐre’s play that contains most of his autobiographical elements and that its central character, Alceste, figures as a kind of writer’s alter ego, then Moliѐre must have put on trial his own relentless struggle, while he exposed his aspirations to the possibly most severe criticism until then.
The Misanthrope is a precise study of the carefully coded social interaction within which each player knows the rules of behaviour very well, yet choosing to stick to them until the moment he or she finds it right. Nothing has changed since the times of the French court of Louis XIV. Our passions are still futile, we are not immune to jealousy and vanity, we fear not being accepted and always infallibly criticise others for our own weaknesses. Although it could be this that makes us human while from the distance only we observe the ideal of truth, beauty, fairness, love, freedom and some other abstractions there somewhere on the horizon of our own expectations. This could be why Moliѐre, this undoubtedly genius of comedy and master of characterising, does not focus on the flaw through the character of Alceste, but quite contrary, on the virtue, surrounding it with diverse dangerous, yet so human flaws. Telling the truth, insisting on open and direct expression of one’s views, disclosing social hypocrisy, and renouncing any form of lying are definitely activities that have the potential to create a positive change. However, in the course of this struggle Moliѐre infallibly detects how easy it is for an opinion to change into judgement, pride into arrogance, consistency into stubbornness, questioning all those points in which misanthropy and sincerity meet. This is why Moliѐre’s final decision for Alceste to leave the society that is not strong enough to bear the truth, speaks much more of Alceste himself than the society that he keeps criticising, directing us to the idea that it is only in the desert that we can live the ideal of truth, it being an abstraction. Sometimes man can seek the right make a mistake as well.
Jelena Kovačić, Croatian drama company director