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An exploration of the satiric representation of men’s perceptions of self in Chekhov’s Three Sisters and Molière’s The School For Wives

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Introduction

An exploration of the satiric representation of men's perceptions of self in Chekhov's Three Sisters and Moli�re's The School For Wives Perspective affects any judgement, and there is no more biased perspective on a person than from inside that person's mind. Self perceptions can become so grossly distorted that they only have a tenuous bearing on reality. This is an idea represented in the plays Three Sisters and The School For Wives, particularly within the male characters. The men often have the inclination for mental flights of fancy, seeing themselves as who they would like to be, rather than who they are. The School For Wives by Moli�re was written in 17th century France, and fits within the genre of French farce. Through the action of the play, Moli�re gives us an insight into the greatly distorted world of Arnolphe. Arnolphe has developed an unrealistic yet comforting perception of himself, stemming from his perceived status and respectability and, more importantly, his fear of cuckoldry. Throughout the play Moli�re constructs a variety of hilarious traps for Arnolphe to fall into, these downfalls serving to satirize Arnolphe. ...read more.

Middle

He positions Arnolphe so that he becomes a party to the plans of his enemies. However, despite his best efforts, his inside knowledge, and the apparent naivete of Agnes and Horace, he cannot stop them being together. Every apparent victory for Arnolphe is quickly overturned by the youthful determination of the lovers, or by simple chance. In the final scene it appears Arnolphe has triumphed, getting Horace engaged to an unknown girl. However, ironically, he has only sealed his defeat, as the girl is revealed to be Agnes. The infallible Arnolphe ends up overwhelmed by young love and pure chance: Moli�re implies his supposed intelligence and cunning mean nothing because everyone is fallible, contrary to Arnolphe's self perception. Moli�re ties up all the threads of the plot through a string of coincidences, as is typical of farces. In the final scene, all the characters finally meet and everything is exposed. The plot resolves so that everyone ends up with what is best for them. In Arnolphe's case, ironically, this is to remain unmarried. Moli�re highlights this comic irony when Chrysalde congratulates him for not getting married. ...read more.

Conclusion

Now it's quite different, unfortunately." She begins an affair with Vershinin, but Koolyghin remains unaware, often wondering "Where's Masha?" He works as a schoolteacher, and often uses Latin phrases: "In Vino Veritas", "Mens sana in corpore sano", flattering his perception of himself as intelligent and educated, when we see him as a simple countryman. Chekhov's dramatic irony in his treatment of Koolyghin is completely different from the comic satire of Moli�re. The ironic juxtaposition occurs gradually over the several years of the play, as we learn bits and pieces through the rambling dialogue. This is compared to the immediate comic juxtaposition of Moli�re, facilitated by the fast moving play and use of comic coincidence. Moli�re satirizes his central character Arnolphe in an overt, exaggerated way, in fitting with the play's farcical nature. Through Moli�re's ridicule of Arnolphe's obsession with absolute control over Agnes, we are presented with the idea that love and marriage should be spontaneous, rather than calculated. Chekhov targets several of his characters, sometimes satirizing quite obviously (Soliony's clucking), but often more subtly by contrasting perception and reality throughout the slow, sprawling structure of the play. Through Chekhov's satire, he introduces the idea that self perceptions can prohibit the kind of self understanding that leads to personal growth and improvement in life. ...read more.

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