Molière: Le Malade Imaginaire [The Hypochondriac]

(2228 words)
  • Julia Prest (St Andrews University)

It is difficult to separate Le Malade imaginaire from its early performance history. The pleasing and calculated irony of the eponymous Argan (originally played by Molière) complaining about Molière, for example, is far outweighed by the terrible and unwitting irony of Argan's superstitious and obsessive fear of death when we know that Molière fell ill during the fourth performance of the work and died later that night. As a result of this unhappy and poignant coincidence, some critics have tended to conflate Argan with Molière, suggesting that Argan really is ill or that Molière had written a bitter and personal attack on the medical profession. The first of these tendencies is particularly unhelpful. Argan is, as the …

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Prest, Julia. "Le Malade Imaginaire". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 13 September 2004
[, accessed 26 November 2015.]