The Would-Be Gentleman Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Molière

First published: 1671 as Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (English translation, 1675)

Genre: Drama

Locale: Paris, France

Plot: Comedy of manners

Time: Seventeenth century

Monsieur Jourdain (zhohr-DAHN), a rich, forty-year-old tradesman. Ashamed of and denying his father's occupation, he tries to pass as a gentleman through elaborate spending of his wealth. He has a “sweet income and visions of nobility and grandeur,” says his music master, “though he is an ignorant cit.” In addition to his music master, he has also in attendance a dancing master, a fencing master, and a philosophy master, and through their instructions he hopes to ape persons of quality. He wants concerts every week but would add a marine trumpet to the chamber music strings. He stages elaborate serenades and fireworks to impress a marchioness. He sends her his diamond ring through a count who uses the ring and money borrowed from Jourdain to court the marchioness for himself. He is vain and childish about his fine clothes, even though he is uncomfortable in them, and he has two lackeys in attendance whom he keeps busy putting on and taking off his gown so that he can show off his new breeches and vest underneath. He is completely befuddled by the philosophy master's explanation of—and rejects instruction in—logic (he wants something prettier), morality (he wants passion whenever he wants it), and Latin, but he is entranced to learn of the placing of tongue and lips in the pronunciation of vowels and consonants and is delighted to hear that he has been speaking prose all his life. After he has heard some speech supposed to be Turkish, he apes the flowery Oriental manner in his own discourse, to the amusement of all. Because his wife realizes how ridiculous he is, he calls her names and damns her impertinence.

Madame Jourdain, his wife, a woman of rare good sense who knows that her husband is making a fool of himself and scolds him accordingly. She dislikes his parties and his guests. Her ideas concerning her daughter's marriage to Cleonte are sensible. She does not want her son-in-law to be able to reproach his wife for her parents or her grandchildren to be ashamed to call her grandmother. By taking literally the statements of the count and by replying to them, she shows a keen sense of humor. She holds the marchioness in scorn and scolds her for making a fool of Jourdain. She makes her maid her confidante and partner in her efforts to bring sense into the house.

Nicole (nee-koh-LEH), the maid, also a sensible woman and trusted by her mistress. She ridicules and laughs at Jourdain's clothes; when she cannot stop laughing, despite his commands, she requests a beating rather than choke herself trying to stop. Her bold, frank comments on Jourdain's guests earn for her blows and evil epithets from her master. Her witty gaiety is her fine quality.

Dorante (doh-RAHNT), a count who flatters Jourdain and calls him his friend. He offers to get Jourdain admitted to court entertainments. These attentions enable him to borrow money from Jourdain, pay his numerous bills, and make gifts to the marchioness he is wooing, even to the point of using Jourdain's diamond ring as a gift to the lady from himself. He is a clever trickster who avails himself of every opportunity that Jourdain's foolishness provides.

Cleonte (klay-OHNT), a young man in love with Jourdain's daughter but despised by her father because of his ordinary birth, though favored by her mother as a sensible fellow eminently suitable as a son-in-law. With noble frankness, he admits his army service and his working parents, and he says that he neither is nor pretends to be a gentleman. He is sincere in his love, and after a lovers' misunderstanding is upset until both he and his servant, with whom he is friendly, are reconciled with their loves.

Covielle (koh-VYEHL), a servant to Cleonte, in love with and loved by Nicole. When he and Cleonte make up an amusing inventory of their beloveds' qualities and shortcomings, Covielle speaks out boldly to his master on the subject. It is Covielle who plans and stages the farcical “Son of the Great Turke” masquerade that unites the lovers. Even Dorante is impressed by his cleverness and subtlety.

Lucile (lew-see-LYAH), the daughter of the Jourdains. Because of her love for Cleonte, she refuses to marry her father's choice of a husband, a real gentleman. Her happy turn of wit is shown in her clever play with Nicole about their feelings for Cleonte and Covielle.

Dorimène (doh-ree-MEHN), a marchioness and a widow, loved by Dorante. Although she has accompanied him to Jourdain's house, she does not favor going because she knows nobody there. Although Madame Jourdain, on her surprise entrance at a dinner Monsieur Jourdain is giving to impress the nobility, rails at her, she blames Dorante for the unpleasantness. She finally and sensibly decides to marry Dorante before he ruins himself with the many gifts he brings her.

Amusic master, a dancing master, a fencing master, and a philosophy master, Jourdain's tutors, who rail at and ridicule one another. At the same time, they ridicule Jourdain and similar dupes. All are vain of their own arts.

A master tailor, who is clever at turning aside Jourdain's complaints about the clothes made for him by saying that the colors and patterns, as well as the tight shoes, are the fashion among gentlemen.

A journeyman tailor, who is clever at getting money from Jourdain by raising him in rank with each remark addressed to him.

Categories: Characters