Moliere Social Order of France
Moliere’s many plays had quite a few different themes going for them. While many writers did not like to get political with their classical literature, Moliere never hesitated to interject his opinion on a matter, especially when dealing with France. One issue that many of his works dealt with extensively was the social status in the country during his time. The Would-Be Gentleman and A Doctor Despite Himself are two works that specifically read like a commentary on this important theme. In these works and others, Moliere takes a cynical view on the ability or inability of the country’s people to elevate themselves from their slotted social status.
Moliere took a general distasteful position against those folks who tried to represent themselves as being something different than they actually were. This is especially clear in A Doctor Himself. The intention of that work was to poke fun at the doctors and the science of the time. Doctors made lots of money and because of that, they had a lot of power in society. Moliere found it funny that even with their large sum of money and supposedly elevated social status, these people still had to act phony in order to make themselves seem more important. This was something of a commentary on how the French social order was designed. People were constantly jockeying for position, so the appearance of power was often times more important than actually holding the power. This is why the doctors had to speak broken Latin to try to make themselves seem better than they were.
In general, this theme was one that permeated much of French society. The opportunity existed for people to take advantage of the new things that seventieth century life offered. Most people could not just readily use these resources, though. The upper crust of society had to take you seriously in order for you to really be an important part of the culture. This is why people were encouraged to do things that are somewhat out of character. Moliere’s funny play, The Would-Be Gentleman speaks to that, as well. This time, the criticism is not being lauded on a doctor, though. It is being thrown towards a man who was fake in the way that he dealt with people and how he presented himself to people.
This is an important theme that Moliere touches on throughout all of his work. No one was exempt from playing the game that was important in French society. From doctors and aristocrats to the common gentleman, the appearance of power was equally important to each of them. In some societies, only the upper class played the game of fake, feigned power. In France during Moliere’s time, everybody had to do it. From the lower class to the upper class, each and every person was doing their best to move up in society.
Though not a singular Moliere work touches on all of the problems in French society, they all combine to create a body of work that reads like a comedy. Moliere does not hold any punches in his work and that applies to just about everyone. Perhaps this meant that he was a cynical, critical guy. The more likely meaning, however, is that French society was one where games were the norm. It was a place where what happened in society was not what met the eye.