Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Moliere)
Moliere's The Misanthrope is a drama which was influenced by the dramatic form of the "commedia della arte" developed in the French theater before him. The technique of such drama is to show 'type' characters who show excessive amount of traits of one kind like selfishness, insincerity in love, loving to criticize the whole world, laziness and so on. The Misanthrope also represents such fixed types of characters like vain poet, coquettish widow, prudish spinster, impractical misanthrope and the like. The dramatic situation or background is also very much static; it is the house of a woman where the action begins and ends.
The dialogue in this play, which is characterized by its poetic, aphoristic and witty elements, is perhaps the most striking things in its dramatic techniques. The lively repartee (quick and clever talk and response) in the dialogue of the play is also another important dramatic technique. Combined with that, the poetic language with all the aphorism makes the drama so interesting. In fact, there is not much interesting action in the play; but it is the powerful dialogue that sustains our interest and embodies the whole theme and conflict of the drama.
The plot of this play is almost insignificant if we consider the plot as a series of actions leading the central character from one definite situation to another significant situation. In this drama, there is the plot, but it is only used as an instrument to expose the weakness of the central character as well as the weaknesses of the others. The debates in the dialogue are much more important than any other element of the play. In terms of the qualities of the plot, the dramatist has also observed the unities of time, place and action. The actions are limited to one day and one place, namely, the house of Celimene in Paris. The action is also limited in the subjects of the love intrigues of the characters; it is in the process of their involvement in the love intrigues that their weaknesses are exposed. Besides, the breaking up of the acts into multiple scenes is also one important feature in the dramatic technique in this play.
The style of acting in this drama is considerably realistic. However, the poetic and rather formal nature of the language prevents the drama from sounding natural. When we read the drama we feel that the delivery of the dialogue sounds rather artificial; but that is a part of the technique of the dialogue. The French audience was conscious of this formal nature of the dramatic speech, but they could imagine and enjoy the drama very well.
The dramatist has also used several tricks and techniques like the juxtaposition of the private and public behavior of characters; this is exemplified by the hostile comments of Arsinoe by Celimene in her absence and the friendly talk with her immediately afterwards. The use of the letters sent by Celimene to different lovers is also a typical dramatic trick; those letters help to condense the action and bring a powerful climax with surprise. The unexpected ending, because there is no resolution of the problem on the part of the main character Alceste, is also one of the dramatic tricks in the play; indeed, this is unique of Moliere. Alceste's asides are also significant dramatic devices used for exposing the weakness of his blind passion for a corrupted woman; he tells us in that way that he knows Celimene's debasement and yet he can't help loving her so foolishly.