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The Miser


L'Avare is a 1668 five-act satirical comedy by French playwright Molière. Its title is usually translated as The Miser when the play is performed in English.

The play was first performed in 1668 at the Palais Royal in a period when Molière's company was, on the one hand, under considerable establishment pressure to modify its output, but on the other hand, under the protection of Louis XIV himself. Little is known about the original performance, although it is said that Molière himself played Harpagon, utilising his by this point chronic cough and gait to humorous effect.

The Miser's plot, involving a rich moneylender called Harpagon, whose feisty children long to escape from his penny-pinching household and marry their respective lovers, is a comedy of manners to which the 17th-century French upper classes presumably objected. It is less savage, however, and somewhat less realistic than Molière's earlier play, Tartuffe, which attracted a storm of criticism on its first performance.

The play is also notable for the way in which it sends up certain theatrical conventions. Many comedies from the Elizabethan period and onwards contain asides which are delivered by characters to the audience and which the other actors ignore. In L'Avare, however, characters generally demand to know who exactly these asides are being delivered to.

The play's ending is also self-consciously ridiculous, mocking the French idea of comedy to better the comical effect of the play and its parts, while still taking in hand the tragedy of Harpagon and his life.

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