"L' école des femmes" is a very well-known comedy written by Molière (1622-1673) in 1662. At first sight, it appears to be the epitome of the classical comedy of mistakes. Despite that, this short play also deals with a topic that was highly controversial during Molière's life, women's education. The author of this book seamlessly incorporates that theme into the plot, making the reader reflect on it even without realizing he is doing that. To start with, I would like to outline the plot of "L' école des femmes". It is simple, but shows that a play doesn't need to be too complicated in order to entertain. The main character is Arnolphe, an old man who having had lots of affairs with married women, distrust women in general. The strange thing is that in spite of that Arnolphe still wants to get married, provided (of course) that he can find a woman he can trust with his honour. After much pondering, he finds a seemingly perfect solution for his problem: to marry a woman without too much education, so she won't know how to deceive him ("Épouser une sotte est pour n'etre point sot"). According to Arnolphe, a dumb woman is a honest woman. Having arrived to that conclusion, he decides to take a young orphan, Agnès, under his wing. Arnolphe educates Agnès according to his ideas: not too much studying, a lot of sewing and praying. The years go by, and Agnès grows into a beautiful but profoundly ignorant young woman. Arnolphe is ready to marry her, but something unexpected happens: a new character appears. That character is Horace, a young and handsome man who falls madly in love with Agnès and begins to court her, to Arnolphe's desperation and Agnès' happiness. What will happen?. Well, you need to read "L' école des femmes" in order to know that. What I can tell you, though, is that I really enjoyed reading this play, notwithstanding the fact that there were some that are no longer used in modern French. That made reading this play a little bit more difficult, although there was an abundance of footpages that explain the meaning of those words perfectly well, something that clarified my doubts. What is more, this edition includes a chronology of Molière's life, and several interesting studies regarding this play, something that helps to reader to understand "L' école des femmes", and the context in which it was written. On the whole, I think that "L' école des femmes" is worth the time and effort of reading it. Molière wrote a perfectly good comedy, but he also took a stand regarding what kind of education should be given to women. He did that throughout the story, and also in a phrase said by one of the secondary characters, who says that "Une femme d'esprit peut trahir son devoir; mais il faut, pour le moins, qu'elle ose le vouloir; et la stupide au sien peut manquer d`ordinaire sans en avoir l`envie, et sans penser le faire". I completely agree with that, and I recommend this book as a play to enjoy, but also as a message to ponder... Belen Alcat
Molière's genius provides the reader with a fantastic insight into the way women were percieved in 16th century society - whilst dealing with a sobering topic, minor characters lighten the mood, entertaining the audience. The protagonists are caricatures in themselves:Agnès is the epitome of innocence, whilst Arnolphe is masterfully portrayed as malicious. The play is centred around the theme of 'cuckolds', but ends joyfully, with human instinct triumphing over Arnolphe's wicked schemes. Well worth reading, in my opinion!