Places: The Affected Young Ladies

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Les Précieuses ridicules, 1660 (English translation, 1732)

First produced: 1659

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Comedy of manners

Time of work: Seventeenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Paris

*Paris. Affected Young Ladies, TheCapital of France and fashion capital of Western Europe. To pinpoint the place represented in his play, Molière deliberately wrote the name of Paris into his dialogue many times. For example, when Mascarille asks several young ladies what they think of Paris, one of them replies that Paris is the “great bureau of marvels, the center of good taste, wit, and gallantry.” It is the sophisticated manners of the great city at the zenith of France’s ancien régime that are satirized as much as the naïve young women who are victims of a practical joke.

Stage settings in Molière’s plays were always minimalistic, partly because he never knew where his plays would be performed. Often the plays were taken from town to town over muddy roads and performed in tennis courts, in private homes, or even outdoors. The primitive travel conditions made it impossible to transport elaborate scenery and furniture. In The Affected Young Ladies the stage is so barren that characters must call for chairs to be brought for their visitors. However, the elaborate gowns worn by the young ladies and the extravagant costumes worn by the Marquis de Mascarille and Viscount Jodelet would establish that the scene represented was a mansion in the capital city.

It was important to Molière to make it clear to audiences that his comedy was taking place in a specific location, a city where fantastic fashions appeared and disappeared with remarkable swiftness. His provincial young ladies are made ridiculous because their affectations have been superseded by new affectations which can only be learned at court.

BibliographyBacker, Dorothy. Precious Women. New York: Basic Books, 1974. A historical study that shows that preciousness (préciosité) was an early feminist literary movement. Explains that Molière made fun only of the pretentious and not truly creative precious writers who were his contemporaries.Lawrence, Francis L. Molière: The Comedy of Unreason. New Orleans: Tulane University Press, 1968. Explores conflicts between rational and irrational characters in Molière’s comedies, and examines parody and comic representations of love in The Affected Young Ladies.Wadsworth. Philip A. Molière and the Italian Theatrical Tradition. 2d ed. Birmingham, Ala.: Summa Publications, 1987. Analyzes the profound influence on Molière of Italian actors and playwrights. Discusses the importance of nonverbal gestures and wordplay in The Affected Young Ladies.Walker, Hallam. Molière. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1990. Contains an excellent introduction to Molière’s comedies and an annotated bibliography of important critical studies on the playwright. Also examines the role of parody and social satire in The Affected Young Ladies.Yarrow, P. J. A Literary History of France. Vol. 2 in The Seventeenth Century: 1600-1715. London: Ernest Benn, 1967. A general history of seventeenth century French literature that includes one chapter with a very clear introduction to Molière’s plays. Yarrow discusses role reversal and the conflict between illusion and reality in The Affected Young Ladies.
Categories: Places