Le Misanthrope

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Le Misanthrope, ou l'Atrabilaire amoureux ("The Misanthrope, or the Cantankerous Lover") is a comedy in five acts by Molière (Jean Baptiste Poquelin de Molière, 1622-1673) [1],

Best known under its shorter title of Le Misanthrope

The original text

Regarded by many critics as Moliere's greatest play, it presents us with a study of the conflict between the human being's his own individuality and his needs as a social animal.

The play opened on 4 June 1666 in the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, Paris, presented by the King's Players.

Translations and adaptations

The play has been translated into numerous languages, and has been adapted, copied, travestied, etc over the ages.

The first English translation of Moliere's play was by John Ozell, (published in the six volumes of The Works of Monsieur de Molière by Bernard Lintot, 1714), and perhaps the best known 19th century translation in English is by Henri Van Laun (1820-1896)[2].

The first Broadway production of the play apparently took place on April 10–15, 1905 at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

Some sources consider the English verse translation by Richard Wilbur, entitled The Misanthrope, as the best English version available. This translation was first produced at the Poet's Theatre, Cambridge, Mass. on 25 October 1955.

Translated into Afrikaans as

Performance history in South Africa

1859: The first reference to a 19th century South African performance of The Misanthrope in F.C.L. Bosman (1980, pp. 124-5) is to a production by Charles Fraser in the Cape Town Theatre on 11 July of a play Bosman (or perhaps Fraser himself) calls The Misanthrope, or the Dropping Well of Knavesboro' by an unnamed author and an afterpiece called My Valet and I (Wilks). (Bosman suggests that the first play may have been the Ozell version of Le Misanthrope. However this is far more likely to have been a typographical or interpretive error, and that the plays being referred to are probably the Moliere play and The Charcoal Burner or the Dropping Well of Knaresborough by George Almar, performed sometime between 1835 and 1840.) Also performed that evening was My Valet and I (Wilks).

1859: Now called simply The Misanthrope, the play was performed again by Charles Fraser in the Cape Town Theatre on 4 August, this time accompanied by a scene from Richelieu (Bulwer-Lytton) and a song sung by F. Vernon

1977: Presented by CAPAB Drama at the Nico Malan Theatre, opening 18 March, directed by Robin Lake and starring Keith Grenville (Alceste}, John Whiteley (Philinte), Roger Dwyer (Oronte}, Rika Sennett (Célimène), Lois Butlin (Eliante), Helen Bourne (Arsinoé), Philip Godawa (Acaste), Peter Cartwright (Clitandre), Pippa Dyer (Basque), Peter Krummeck (A messenger), David Crichton (Alceste's valet) and Neville Thomas (Célimène's manservant). Designers Peter Krummeck (set), Jennifer Craig (costumes), John T. Baker (lighting). The performance was preceded by Love's the Best Doctor.






World Drama by Allardyce Nicoll. Harrap, 1949. 327-328.

The Misanthrope theatre programme, CAPAB 1977.

Photograph by Paul Alberts (1977 production), NELM.

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