Can we avoid falling in love? The answer is no.
Can we be sure that this love will be happy? The answer is still no.
Can we think that love will be rewarded with love in return? Of course not.
So what do you think? So much the worse –
This is the sad lesson learned by Arnolphe.
The School for wives is a classic play – very classic, it dates from the 17th century in France, that of Louis XIV who invented Versailles to castrate the aristocrats and the Theatre of the Palais Royal to let the great mocking laughter of Monsieur Molière resound.
The main male character, Arnolphe, was afraid of women. He was afraid of their frivolity. He was afraid of being deceived.
But he wanted a woman – in his bed. A woman of his own, who would have tears in her eyes of gratitude because he had given her the grace to marry him.
How could he do that?
Above all, not to look for a “real” woman. Those are mean as hell.
He had an idea: he was in charge of the education of an orphan girl.
He educated Agnes out of the world – out of the mirrors – out of the boys especially and even further away from the girls, those bitches who could have taught her that she was pretty.
When she was old enough, he decided to marry her.
The pity is that Agnes was really innocent and did not see the evil anywhere.
She didn’t see the harm in meeting a handsome guy at mass and feeling her heart turn for him.
She didn’t see the harm in her guardian proposing marriage to her – she didn’t even imagine that he was proposing marriage to her.
A man who was almost his father – it was impossible.
Agnes was ingenuous. And she is very well known by those who want to become actresses, because they have to pronounce the very famous sentence of Agnes: The little cat is dead.
She only has her little cat in life, Agnes, to know what it means to love.
So she is really sad.
But she has just discovered the beautiful face of the one she will love – so she is a little less sad.
She understood that her guardian wanted to hurt her, so she tries as best she can to escape him – sadness is good to escape marriage.
It’s a comedy – and it’s not.
It’s a very strange comedy.
There are complete passages taken from the farces, with sticks that “rain down”, misunderstandings and lovers hiding in closets.
And there is this very bitter little music that tells us that love is a dirty joke, that it makes you as crazy as it does mean.
And of course, since it is about the thorny relationships between men and women – or more exactly between some men and some women who will never understand each other – this play resonates for us in a very contemporary way.
Are we still able to laugh about it?
Or are we going to side with the bigots who wanted to crush Molière and suppress his play? All bets are off.