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An exploration of the dangers of domination in Moliére's play "The school for wives" and Chekhov's play "Three Sisters".

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Introduction

Dianna Z J Gu World Literature An exploration of the dangers of domination in Moli�re's play "The school for wives" and Chekhov's play "Three Sisters". Domination is a prominent issue in Moli�re's The School for Wives, and Chekhov's Three Sisters. In each play, this concept is explored through characters that desire to obtain mastery over others. This desire can often be dangerous, not only to the victims, but also to the dominant, as the desire to have mastery can warp the qualities he or she may originally possess. In an exploration of the two plays we find domination conveyed through naturalistic and comic elements. In Chekhov's play we find domination in the genre of naturalistic drama, endeavouring to capture aspects of 'life'; for example, Natasha, a na�ve but bossy sister-in-law who seeks mastery over others and desires status in order to control others as mere pawns. By contrast, her husband, Andrei, has opportunities to dominate because of his gender but instead, chooses to abnegate control. Moli�re's comedy is more a depiction of 'art' than 'life' - it does not try to mirror 'life' in the fashion of naturalistic drama - but, instead, explores domination through farcical situations. ...read more.

Middle

Moli�re's motto "no truth without comedy and no comedy without truth" can thus be applied to these aspects of The School for Wives even though the ending undermines the effect of his barbs. The basic premise of the play is the protagonist's fear of humiliation and domination by a woman. In an attempt to overcome this, the protagonist, Arnolphe, goes to great lengths to create his 'perfect wife'. He believes that "A man who wants a perfect wife must make her for himself", which is, of course, in contempt of Agnes's rights as a human being. Even the servant, Georgette, feels that Agnes is kept in "a kind of human cage". Therefore, although the Moli�re play delineates some of the dangers of domination, Arnolphe's attempted mastery is most dangerous as it seeks to strip Agnes of all happiness. Nevertheless, the play is comedy, and the dangers are not excessive. The fairytale-like ending with the sudden arrival of the rich father, which is an element of 'farce' or fantasy, undoes the damage that has been done before; hence, no one is permanently hurt. The young couple enjoy happiness - we presume - and Arnolphe becomes more philosophical. ...read more.

Conclusion

Untold labour and money spent... then suddenly it falls and gets smashed. It was the same with Andrei..." His weaknesses send him into a downward spiral, beginning with disastrous marriage to Natasha, gambling, and then mortgaging the house. Andrei's dominating role is most dangerous as his actions place negative consequences on his sisters. The dangers of domination are illustrated to varying degrees in these plays. The difference in genre is partly responsible for this, although the delineation of characters, motives, and timeframes is also a significant factor. In Chekhov's play we see that damage caused by domination is often enduring, and this adds to the 'melancholy' we feel - there are no happy resolutions for the Prozorov family - 'life' beats on and things do not drastically change. Indeed, the play is left open-ended, implying Natasha's malicious character may perhaps worsen. In Moli�re's play, however, all danger is removed, as Agnes will enjoy happiness and riches, while Arnolphe sees his errors. The stock ending in "The School for Wives" is quite a common device in comic farces - all dilemmas being solved by the conclusion. Though Moli�re and Chekhov have each portrayed domination and its dangers, the genre of naturalistic theatre has allowed for a more disturbing presentation than the 'art' of comedy in Moli�re's play. ...read more.

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