First published: Les Précieuses ridicules, 1660 (English translation, 1732)
Locale: Paris, France
Plot: Comedy of manners
Time: Seventeenth century
Magdelon (mahg-duh-LOHN) and Cathos (kah-TOH), two romantic young ladies from the country, visiting in Paris. They are very affected, in the manner current in their day, and are full of coquetry and artificiality. Being so artificial themselves, they are completely taken in by two gentlemen's valets who pass themselves off to the girls as a marquis and a Viscount. The girls' language is at times so affected as to be practically incomprehensible.
La Grange (lah grahnzh) and Du Croisy (dew krwah-ZEE), two young men who pay court to the romantic young ladies. They are so disgusted with the affectations of the girls that they connive to have their valets disguise themselves as gallants and call on the ladies. After a time, they expose the valets and strip off their finery, telling the young ladies that if they are so beguiled by the servants, they must love them just as much without their masters' clothes.
The Marquis de Mascarille (mah-skah-REE) and Viscount Jodelet (zhoh-deh-LAY), valets to La Grange and Du Croisy, respectively. Delighted to pass themselves off to the romantic young ladies as men of quality, they call attention to their perfumed finery, compose absurd verses and songs, recount imaginary battle heroics, and boast of their noble connections. At the height of a dancing party, their masters enter, expose the ruse, and strip the valets of their fine clothes.
Gorgibus (gohr-zhee-BEWS), Magdelon's father and Cathos' uncle. He is completely confused and befuddled by the affectations of the two young ladies and cannot understand their insistence that La Grange and Du Croisy are too sincere and dull. He is angry and mortified to learn that the valets have tricked the two girls. Feeling disgraced by the trick, he curses foolishness, affectation, and romantic nonsense.