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Representation of Women in Plays - Book Report/Review Example

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The play Les Femmes Savantes by Moliere and Mme. de Sevigne's letters present similar yet somewhat contrasting representations of women. While Moliere preponderantly depicts women who are marred by an over-abundance of learning, the letters written by Mme…
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Representation of Women in Plays
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Representation of Women in Plays

Download file to see previous pages... Moliere's women are, for the most part, unable to display any virtue beyond those related to the home, and often neglect their home if an attempt is made to involve themselves in anything beyond. Within each text a complexity of representations within families exists. Women are displayed as belonging primarily in the home, yet the depiction of this by Mme. Sevigne extends the scope of women as she herself has given the world a view her impression of the domesticated life through a literary window. Moliere, on the other hand, is more consistent in his representation of women's place as in the home.
Sevigne's letters betray an underlying understanding of a woman's place as being in the home and her concerns as being with family life, especially the affairs and well-being of her children. Madame Sevigne is represented as a woman who is intensely interested in the affairs of her home. She writes diligently to her daughter, providing encouragement and levity, as well as advice about her health and general social wellbeing. Though her children are grown, she appears to still be interested in their personal development. She is, for example, available to aid her daughter in the care of her grandchild while her daughter prepares to have another child. She shows herself supremely concerned with and educated in the things with which women are (presumably) naturally prepared to handle, such as birth (and the business that surrounds it) and child-rearing. The skill, ease, and readiness with which she at once handles both the tasks of caring for her grandchild and facilitating comfort of her own child (who is expecting) would give evidence that Mme. de Sevign seeks to promote that women are at their best in the domestic setting.
Moliere appears to demonstrate a similar belief in his depiction of Philaminte, the maternal character in Les Femmes Savantes. However, he arrives at this picture obliquely as this female character is most concerned not with her children and home but with pedantry. Philaminte also resides in the home in which she has reared her children, yet she is unable to perform the duties of the household and keep her family together and in agreement. She is inordinately preoccupied with learning, and this prevents her from minding the things for which, according to the ideas of the time, she was best suited. About this the critic H. Gaston Hall writes, "since there was no possibility that any of Moliere's femmes savantes would ever use her knowledge or skills in a job outside the home, there is the question simply of the personal value of such activity" (1984). When she attempts to perform domestic duties, such as find a husband for her daughter Henriette, her efforts are tainted by her literary pretensions, and her affected genius is unable to detect falsehood in the mercenary suitor she chooses for her daughter. This hints at the idea that women are suited for childbearing and rearing, but nothing else. Several speeches by the other characters give the impression that Moliere sought to promote inculcate this idea through the writing of this play.
Chrysale, described as bon bourgeois at the beginning of the play, says of/to his wife: "Ne point aller chercher ce qu'on fait dans la lune, et vous meler un peu de ce qu'on fait chez vous, o nous voyons aller tout sens dessus dessous" (II. vii. 568-570). This demonstrates the woman's inability to manage her two interests, and implies that intellectual pursuits are too taxing on the female mind and detract ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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