Printer Friendly


Moliere's Bourgeois gentilhomme has come to be viewed as the pinnacle of the author's achievements in the genre of the comedie-ballet. As Charles Mazouer remarks, "Tous les agrements de la musique et de la danse y sont comme recapitules avec une maitrise epoustouflante: chansons, serenades, actions dansees, ceremonie burlesque se succedent; et jamais les ornements n'ont ,ete, si heureusement integres, si naturels et si necessaires."(2) Yet this formal integration seems to translate itself to the plot only with difficulty, as the play moves rapidly between very different scenes and subjects. This variety of content, and even of subject, poses evident problems for interpretation. Reading the play as the story of a ridiculous merchant's desire to become a nobleman can reduce the Turkish ceremony to an incidental, albeit ingenious, method of humiliation, while concentrating on the Turkish ceremony and its sources can obscure the central role of Monsieur Jourdain.(3) In addition, the closing ballet des nations, while not unrelated to the body of the work,(4) further clouds both of these readings of the play to such an extent that the ballet is rarely reproduced in anthologies or on the stage.

I believe that the seeming fragmentation of the plot of the Bourgeois gentilhomme can be explained, if not resolved, by turning away from the prevalent interpretation of the play as a critique of increasing social mobility in Louis XIV's France, and turning toward the intricacies of French-Turkish relations during the rime of the work's composition. Using the instructions that Louis XIV issued to his ambassadors to Turkey during the years surrounding the play's performance in Chambord, I advance the theory that the themes of identity, unity, and money traditionally (and correctly) seen as central to the Bourgeois gentilhomme are not unrelated to similar issues facing the French state, issues in which Turkey played a singular and important role. Indeed, I hold that Moliere's complex response to Louis XIV's desire to see Turkey ridiculed on stage is by no means limited to the ceremonie turque, but runs throughout the play, providing the link between what are only apparently disjointed episodes.

As has been often noted, the Bourgeois gentilhomme has its origin in a diplomatic dispute. In 1670, Louis XIV asked Moliere and Lully to compose a divertissement for the court that would compensate for the lack of respect shown to him by Soliman Aga, the ambassador that the Turkish "Grand Seigneur" had sent to France a year before. Soliman Aga arrived for his audience with the king underdressed and unimpressed by the efforts the court had made to communicate Louis XIV's unsurpassable grandeur. To make matters worse, he obliged the French monarch to descend from his throne in order to receive his master's letter, thereby forcing Louis XIV into symbolic subservience to the Turkish empire.

A diplomatic slight of this sort would have been shocking under any circumstances, but given the importance and nature of French-Turkish relations during the time, this episode was particularly damaging to the identity and even unity of the French state that Louis XIV sought to project. As Louis XIV repeatedly informs his diplomats in their instructions, before his reign, France had enjoyed a privileged and unique relationship with Turkey. He points out that "avant l'annee 1535 aucun prince chretien n'avoit ny trait, ny capitulation avec la Porte, qu'en cette annee la Francois premier fit les premier traites ou capitulations avec sultan Soliman, empereur des Turcs, par l'entremise du sieur de la Forest."(5) These negotiations enabled France to monopolize trade with the Orient; as the instructions given to La Haye-Vantelet, the French ambassador sent to Turkey in 1665, state:
   Depuis ladite annee 1535 ... les Francois ayant etably leur commerce dans
   les estats du Grand Seigneur, y apporterent de tres grands avantages,
   d'autant que non seulement ils acheterent les marchandises qui sont en
   abondance dans ses estats et y porterent celles de l'Europe qui leur
   estoient necessaires, mais mesme attirerent au travers des estats du Grand
   Seigneur une bonne partie des marchandises des Indes et de Perse, pour les
   distribuer dans l'Europe, et augmenterent notablement les douanes du Grand
   Seigneur par le moyen des droits d'entree et de sortie de ces

As expressed in this passage, the French role in international commerce consisted in redistributing wealth between Turkey and Europe; yet this Europe does not seem to include France. In accordance with the mercantilist precept articulated by Montchrestien in 1615, "la France seule se peut passer de tout ce qu'elle a de terres voisines, et toutes les terres voisines nullement d'elle,"(6) the France of Francois I is portrayed as lacking nothing (indeed, it is characterized by abundance), and thus is uniquely able to act as an invisible, almost altruistic, middleman between east and west while reminding the rest of Europe of its privileged position in the world.

This golden age of trade was short-lived, however, as Francois I's successors, distracted by the religious wars, neglected a commercial alliance that other European countries were beginning to envy. According to Louis XIV, it was during this fallen state of affairs that money, described implicitly in the diplomatic instructions as a signifier of lack and dependence, made its appearance in French-Turkish trade. French merchants, reduced to representing merely one trading entity among others, needed to borrow money in order to buy the favor of Turkish officials. Moreover, the devaluation of French status in the Orient was quite literal, as the king's coins--which had previously appeared "si belles aux Turcs qu'ils les ont souhaites et mesme les ont pris a 5 ou 6 pourcent plus cheres que les autres especes"(40)--were being counterfeited by competing states, and were now worth 15 to 20 per cent less than their original value. This instability, in addition to signifying an insult to the monarch whose image graced the coins, points indirectly to what Louis XIV considered to be the greatest indignity suffered by the state--the need to conduct commercial relations through money rather than through exchange. Writing to La Haye-Vantelet, the king laments that "ce qui a entierement achev, [le commerce] a este la ruine et le deperissement de toutes manufactures de France, entre les mains des Anglais et des Hollandais, [qui] a reduit le commerce de France en argent comptant; ce qui cause a l'Estat un prejudice inconcevable." Colbert would reiterate this concern in a carefully prepared list of parallels between France and the "Anglois, Hollandois, et autres estrangers" that he included in his instructions to Nointel, La Haye-Vantelet's successor. At the end of the list (which includes such observations as "Le Royaume [France] a est, longtemps agite de guerres civiles/ Ils ont este presque tousjours en paix au dedans de leurs Estats"(7)), he notes that the French "ont este contraints de faire leur commerce en argent" while other states "ont fait leur commerce en eschange de marchandises et manufactures"(73-74).

While political and religious concerns were also raised in the instructions, the fact that commerce was given a separate analysis indicates its primary importance in relations between the two states. Louis XIV's main goal in negotiating with the Turkish empire was the reestablishment of French privilege in trade, yet as the excerpts cited above imply, much more was at stake than commerce. By recuperating the privilege enjoyed by the France of Francois I, Louis XIV could not only begin to efface the signs of religious dissent within his kingdom (having identified the wars as the chief cause of France's lost status), but he could also recapture a certain political and symbolic autonomy that would be of immeasurable value in his dealings with other European states. Accordingly, he instructs La Haye-Vantelet to speak to the Grand Visir
   [en s'estandant] dans le detail des grandes actions de Sa Majeste et du
   florissant estat de son empire, luy mettant en mesme temps devant les yeux
   la foiblesse et la misere des autres royaumes qui ont autrefois semble
   contester de puissance avec cette couronne, afin que ce ministre puisse
   bien comprendre de quel advantage peut estre au Grand Seigneur le
   restablissement d'une parfaite et sincere bonne correspondance et amitie
   entre les deux empires.(15)

This "parfaite et sincere bonne correspondance et amitie" evokes a symbolic relationship between same and same--empire and empire, what Louis XIV refers to elsewhere as "les deux plus puissans et plus riches monarques du monde"--from which the payment of money, marked elsewhere as a sign of insufficiency and dependence, is completely abstracted. This carefully articulated relationship would be repeated verbatim in the instructions issued to Nointel, a repetition that indicates its importance to the French monarch. Ironically, only by positioning himself as another Grand Seigneur, and by portraying his state in the Turkish terms of empire, can Louis XIV obtain symbolic autonomy within Europe, recuperating the imperial title of his ancestors that, as he explains to his son in his Memoires, had been unjustly usurped.(8) The essence of French-Turkish relations under Louis XIV lies not, then, in a casting of the Turk as exotic and exploitable other, but rather in the no less problematic establishment of an inherent similarity--a perfect exchange--between the two states. In this context, Soliman Aga's behavior during his 1669 visit to the French court was a serious blow to Louis XIV. It undermined an idealized relationship of equality by exposing the dependence of French glory not only on recognition by the Turkish Empire, but also on the very commerce that was judged superfluous to a truly autonomous state.

In asking Moliere to produce a "divertissement oriental" in which "on put faire entrer quelque chose des habillements et des manieres des Turcs,"(9) Louis XIV was not only seeking to efface the diplomatic slight suffered a year earlier, but may also have been looking to obscure the growing importance of money and commerce not so much within the French state, but within the context of international relations. This sublimation of the economic into the symbolic of theater might have succeeded had it not been for the involvement of the Chevalier d'Arvieux in the play's composition, as the complexity of his motivations and career enabled him to provide Moliere with a direct link between the hidden motivations of French-Turkish policy and the plot of the Bourgeois gentilhomme. Having traveled extensively in the East, and more significantly, having spent several years in Turkey studying commerce, d'Arvieux was keenly aware of the central place that Turkish trade occupied in French politics. Yet official efforts to hide this centrality behind the more glorious (and legitimate) discourses of politics and religion led Louis XIV to refuse d'Arvieux's efforts to be appointed as the replacement for La Haye-Vantelet. Considering that a merchant-resident would too obviously identify the commercial orientation of his policy (and, by extension, the dependence of French glory upon moneyed exchange), the king chose instead to send a nobleman-ambassador, Nointel, in full diplomatic regalia. While Nointel prepared to accompany Soliman Aga back to Turkey, d'Arvieux, who noted his disappointment with this decision in his Memoires, was sent to Auteuil to help prepare the Bourgeois gentilhomme.(10)

Although Laurent d'Arvieux professes in his Memoires to have helped Moliere and Lully only with costumes and customs, it is impossible to know what exactly transpired between the artists and the merchant. Yet d'Arvieux's statement that "on voulut meme faire entrer les scenes turques dans le ballet de Psyche, qu'on preparait pour le carnaval suivant, mais, apres y avoir bien pense, on jugea que les deux sujets ne pouvaient pas s'allier ensemble,"(11) implies that there was a close alliance, "bien pens," between the subject of the Bourgeois gentilhomme and the Turkish theme. Indeed, it may well be productive to consider that the ceremonie turque was not inserted into a pre-existing play, but rather that the Bourgeois gentilhomme as a whole was generated from the ideological motivations for the French-Turkish policy to which d'Arvieux's career was temporarily sacrificed. Both the king's reported impassibility upon viewing the play for the first time and his remark afterwards--proudly reported by d'Arvieux--that "on voit bien que le chevalier d'Arvieux s'en est mele!" may be attributed to an inherent correspondence between the work's subject matter and political difficulties that the monarch was making every effort to conceal. If this is the case, a careful re-examination of the Bourgeois gentilhomme is in order, one that considers the play as a complex working-through of the issues of money and autonomy that were at the core of French-Turkish affairs, and that the recent diplomatic affront only made more pressing. Stated simply, the question is this: can France establish itself as a (recognized) autonomous totality without recourse to money or the dependence upon other states that moneyed commerce implies?

As a playwright, Moliere would seem to be well placed to consider this question, as any successful response will involve abstracting the commercial through the symbolism and art of spectacle (the king's decision to send a regally-equipped Nointel to Turkey rather than a merchant stems from this very realization). Yet by placing the ceremonie turque in a context where money and its power are the driving forces of the plot, Moliere--enlightened by the chevalier d'Arvieux as well as his own artistic independence and intelligence--casts doubt on the possibility of any simple resolution of the crisis brought about by the inevitability of commerce. Indeed, in the very first scene, Moliere shows that the autonomy of the aesthetic is endangered by the force of Monsieur Jourdain's money. The maitres appearing in the first act have been forced to abandon a vision of pure art, enjoyed by connoisseurs, in order to secure for themselves a piece of their client's fortune. Indeed, the maitre de musique's response to the more skeptical maitre a danser evokes a lost independence: "Il est vrai que [Monsieur Jourdain] connait mal [les arts], mais il les paie bien; et c'est de quoi maintenant nos arts ont plus besoin que de toute autre chose."(12) Like the French merchants in Turkey, the artists--in the fallen state indicated by the "maintenant"--have been forced to sell their priceless talents. The extent to which money is discussed in the scenes before Monsieur Jourdain's entrance is indicative of the malaise which characterizes its appearance in a heretofore commerce-free world. Indeed, as Gerhard Gerhardi has noted, the main character of the first act would not seem to be Monsieur Jourdain, but rather his fortune, a fortune so powerful that it partially obscures his ridiculous persona.(13) As the maitre de musique explains: "C'est un homme, a la verite, dont les lumieres sont petites, qui parle a tort et a travers de toutes choses, et n'applaudit qu'a contresens; mais son argent redresse les jugements de son esprit; il a du discernement dans sa bourse; ses louanges sont monnayees ..."(21).

As more and more maitres arrive at Monsieur Jourdain's home, their hunger for a part of his wealth leads them through a progressive abandonment of artistic refinement that culminates in a fight from which their client remains absent. The harmony of art degenerates into physical and verbal discord under the dismayed eye of the bourgeois. Yet despite this striking testament to the destructive power of money, the dissociation of Monsieur Jourdain from his fortune limits its effects. As long as Monsieur Jourdain remains obviously inept and ridiculous, the wealth he represents can be manipulated and controlled. The well-known scene in which the maitre de philosophie teaches the bourgeois his consonants illustrates this well. Reduced to an animal-like repetition of the most basic elements of language, the pupil remains unable to articulate a sustained and potentially seductive discourse that--joined with the fortune he is willing to spend--could make him a dangerous man indeed.

Yet the separation of signifier (Jourdain) and signified (money) that ensures a modicum of tradition and harmony in the world of the play begins to disappear during the dinner scene between Monsieur Jourdain, Dorante and the marquise Dorimene. If Monsieur Jourdain's greeting to the marquise is patently ridiculous--"Madame, ce m'est une gloire bien grande de me voir assez fortune pour etre si heureux que d'avoir le bonheur que vous avez eu la bonte de m'accorder la grace de me faire l'honneur de m'honorer de la faveur de votre presence; et si j'avais aussi le merite pour meriter un merite comme le votre, et que le Ciel ... envieux de mon bien ... m'eut accorde ... l'avantage de me voir digne ... des ..."(90)--his previous experience with the maitre de philosophie--during which he articulates on the first try the correct manner of expressing "Belle marquise, vos beaux yeux me font mourir d'amour"--demonstrates that he is, in fact, capable of communicating well. The drama of the dinner is thus constructed around preserving Monsieur Jourdain's silence not only in order to hide the origin of the diamond ring, a revelation of aristocratic dependence upon money, but also to prevent Jourdain from stealing the show. His responses to Dorimene as the dinner progresses are far from ridiculous, and Dorante is compelled to interrupt him frequently in order to preserve his own status. Dorimene's final, somewhat ambiguous response, "Monsieur Jourdain est un homme qui me ravit"(96), reveals the culmination of an increasingly dangerous confluence of money and personality. Money, endowed with an immense power of seduction and destruction on its own, could, if spoken well, lead to the collapse of order and any semblance of independent identity. Just as the introduction of currency into French-Turkish trade signified the reduction of France from an internally unified, unique and glorious state to one trading partner among many, so does money in the Bourgeois gentilhomme threaten to reduce the essential difference of the nobility.

Moliere's exposition of the destructive power of money is accompanied, however, by an exploration of the ability of art and spectacle to obscure--or at least, contain--its existence. As many critics have noted, it is precisely this struggle between money and art (played out in miniature in the vaudevillesque battle in the second act) that gives the play its dynamism and complexity. Indeed, to resolve the increasingly threatening problem of Monsieur Jourdain, Moliere seems to step in where his maitres had failed, erecting an artistic edifice whose intricacies remain far from fully explored. To the money-based economy represented by the Jourdain's fortune and its effects, Moliere opposes what Max Vernet describes as a meconnaissance of the economic,(14) but which can also be described as an economy of another sort. This economy consists in establishing an overreaching system of artistic exchange, of internal correspondences and echoes that are meant to culminate in the marriage of the protagonists. Insofar as this marriage is located beyond the reach of market forces, it resembles the relation of same to same (the "parfaite et sincere bonne correspondance et amitie") that Louis XIV wished to establish between the "empires" of France and Turkey.

Moliere thus reproduces certain scenes structurally while according them quite different meanings in order to abstract Monsieur Jourdain's fortune (and its power) from the conclusion. The resultant correspondence between form and sense works to negate the dissociation between the two that is produced by money. For example, the first "dialogue en musique"(29-30), which opposes a female musician to two male musicians who vie for what may be an inconstant heart, structurally anticipates the dinner scene between Jourdain, Dorante, and Dorimene. In this case, the song debating issues of love and fidelity through the voices of bergers living in a money-free fantasy world invites a sharp contrast with the dinner, where the presence of Monsieur Jourdain's (albeit stifled) fortune is almost physically palpable. The juxtaposition of these scenes demonstrates the extent to which universal, "innocent" themes and values are unable to survive their translation into the fallen "maintenant" evoked at the start of the play by the maitre de musique, but it also hints that any rehabilitation of these values will pass through an art less removed from reality than the bergers' song.

The means by which this may be accomplished is illustrated by the ceremonie turque, which, unlike the bergers' song, is firmly anchored in the reality of Monsieur Jourdain's illusions, as well as that of the play. While it has been observed that the first two acts--the acts of the maitres--are a kind of rehearsal for the ceremony, the fact that each element of the maitres' lessons has been carefully reproduced in the fourth act has been overlooked.(15) The most obvious example of this reproduction concerns language; when Covielle introduces Monsieur Jourdain to the Turkish language, his emerveillement is almost exactly the same as during his language lesson with the maitre de philosophie. In both cases, Jourdain concentrates his attention on the means of expression rather than on what is being (or, in the case of the consonants, not being) said. When Covielle explains that the Grand Turc cried out "`Ah! marababa sahem'--c'est-a-dire: `Ah! que je suis amoureux d'elle!'", upon learning that the servant knew Monsieur Jourdain's daughter, Monsieur Jourdain reacts not to the message, but to the marvels of the Turkish language: "Marababa sahem veut dire: Ah! que je suis amoureux d'elle"? ... Voila une langue admirable que ce turc!" The similarity between this outburst and his "Ah! les belles choses!" upon pronouncing the letter D can be attributed to consistency of character, but other parallels link the scenes. Dance and music are incorporated into the ceremonie turque, while the scimitar that Monsieur Jourdain is presented with recalls the epee that the maitre d'armes unsuccessfully taught him to manipulate in act two. If we add to this the correspondence between the strange headgear sported by Jourdain in the first acts (first the hat placed upon his bonnet de nuit, then "la perruque et les plumes") and the turban "d'une grosseur demesuree" that is adorned with rows of lit candles and placed upon his now shaven head in the final moments of the ceremony, a pattern begins to emerge. The ideological significance of this pattern becomes clear upon considering the singular striking difference between these episodes. While the violence that breaks out in the second act between the maitres (a fight that is merely observed by the main character) underscores the influence of Monsieur Jourdain's wealth, in the Turkish ceremony, "coups de baton" are rained upon his person. Through the artistic exchange of the details of the opening acts, Jourdain is transformed from spectator to victim, localized and neutralized as a ridiculous fool; art, not money, would seem to emerge victorious, enabling the spiritual exchange of love to take place. Indeed, during the final act of the play, Monsieur Jourdain is reduced to speaking in incomprehensible pseudo-Turk, allowing Dorante and Dorimene to talk alone for the first time in the play, and thus effacing the tenuous situation of the dinner scene. The third party (whose name evokes his status as river--frontier, as that which impedes unity and closure) has been more or less erased through the symbolic magic of theatrical performance.

Yet this happy ending can only partially obscure the questions raised by the plot that subtend the unity imposed by Moliere's artistic prowess. Dorante and Dorimene will be married, but almost certainly unhappy, and doubt still persists in the spectator/ reader's mind concerning the "nobility" of the noblesse. The silencing of Jourdain through the ceremonie turque is a solution, but the very extravagance of this solution points to the depth of the problem he represents. His perspicacious remark to Dorante upon learning of his proposed marriage to Dorimene ("C'est pour lui faire accroire?") indicates his full awareness of his surroundings as well as the fact that the power of wealth may be occluded, but only briefly. The struggle between artistic sublimation and money is far from over; contrary to Louis XIV's orders and expectations, Moliere implies that the ceremonie turque is not enough. It must be followed by the ballet des nations that represents one more attempt to occlude the persistence of the difficulties that money poses to autonomy and "true" value, yet it may be argued that its international content merely underscores the importance of these difficulties for the state itself.

The ballet opens in discord, as the spectators "du bel air" fight for the dance's livres against the cacophony produced by the Gascons, the Swiss, and the bourgeoisie. The homme du bel air's entreaty, "Monsieur, distingueznous parmi les gens qui crient", illustrates well the central problem--that of absolute distinction and uniqueness--that I have shown characterizes both French foreign policy and the rest of the play. Yet from this disorder, a natural order emerges, as the Gascons ("Je perds la tramontane") and the Swiss ("Je voudrais etre dehors") absent themselves from the confusion, as do the outraged bourgeois: "Allons, ma mie/ Suivez mes pas/ Je vous en prie/ Et ne me quittez pas/ On fait de nous trop peu de cas"(127). The nobility--presumably French and sans accent--is thus free to watch the dance without disruption, and the unity present among the spectators need only be reproduced on stage. Accordingly, the ballet itself consists of the treatment of love, ideal/ eternal source of unity and happiness in the comic world, and the model of symbolic exchange.

The nature of love is treated three times--by the Spanish, the Italians, and the French. Yet a closer look reveals that Spain and Italy are placed on stage not to indicate a happy fusion of European nations, as one critic has suggested, (16) but rather to point to French superiority and independence. The Spanish contribution speaks of the suffering involved in love. The recurring images of pain, death, desire, and folie indicate the predominance of instability in this vision; even when love is returned, it is "une douce mort"(130). The song ends by abruptly proposing a party in order to relegate the pain of love to the status of fantasy, yet (like the Turkish ceremony?) this solution remains somewhat superficial. The Italians' treatment of love similarly invokes torment, wounds, and desire, but ends on a more morose note: "Mais quand languit l'age glace/ L'ame engourdie/ N'a plus de feu"(132). Not only do these nations seem to have problems finding an equilibrium between the extremes of tire and ice, but they both insist upon the fleeting nature of happiness. The Spanish ask "Et si nous en jouissons aujourd'hui/ Pourquoi la veux-tu troubler?"(130), while the Italians suggest "Chantons/ Jouissons/ Dans les beaux jours de la jeunesse/ Un bien perdu ne se recouvre plus"(132). If both states have access to the vocabulary and experience of love, they have difficulty extending its dubious happiness over time.

The French contribution to the dance is much different. Gone are all references to death, pain, or wounds; rather, the musicians contemplate two birds in a tree with the assurance that "Nous pouvons tous deux/ Si tu le veux/ Etre comme eux"(134), suggesting that an act of volonte is sufficient to ensure a harmony of resemblances. The love symbolized by the birds is one of profound unity; not only do they "s'entrebaisent," but "Ils n'ont rien dans leur voeux/ Qui les gene; De leurs doux feux/ Leur ame est pleine."(134) The fire here is sweet, and seemingly eternal; the movement of the first two songs is replaced by an almost narcissistic immobility--birds, musicians, and finally, in the last two lines, gods: "Quels spectacles charmants, quels plaisirs goutons-nous/ Les dieux memes, les dieux n'en ont point de plus doux." That the other two nations sing these last lines with the French does mark a sort of European fusion, but one placed under the French aesthetic. The symmetry, the immobility, the unity of these last images would seem to leave the more troubling aspects of the Bourgeois gentilhomme (and indeed, of any pressing problems in foreign policy) far behind while reinforcing the superiority of France--the only nation capable of articulating eternal values and plenitude in its own style--with regard to its neighbors. The money-free economy of same to same suggested in the diplomatic instructions is given its ultimate expression in a French vocabulary. Montchrestien's statement, cited earlier, that "la France seule se peut passer de tout ce qu'elle a de terres voisines, et toutes les terres voisines nullement d'elle" may have become a political and economic illusion, but at the end of Moliere's work, it is shown to be true aesthetically, with all of the divisions and conflicts induced by money effaced. Only a cynical spectator (a Turkish ambassador? a merchant?), aware of the larger context of the play, would notice that the Dutch and the English--France's true rivals in the pursuit of oriental trade--are strikingly absent from the balletic concert of closure. Given the importance of absent presence for the play (from which Monsieur Jourdain's ghost is never fully eliminated) and for foreign policy (since only in this manner can Louis XIV make his grandeur effective through-out the world), this exclusion has a significance on its own. The careful removal both of Turkish emissaries and bourgeois spectators from the spectacles of the court and of Moliere's work itself leaves the suggestion that the difficulties and dependencies that they represent for the autonomous glory of Louis XIV's state can be occluded only temporarily, and ultimately, not through the irresistible sweetness and natural eternity of the aesthetic (whether in the form of a play or in the deployment of diplomatic regalia), but, as Pascal had suggested years earlier, only through force.

University of Illinois at Chicago

(1.) I would like to thank my students and colleagues at UIC, especially Peggy McCracken, for their invaluable input on this article.

(2.) Charles Mazouer, Moliere et ses comedies-ballets (Paris: Klincksieck, 1993) 75.

(3.) A notable exception to this is Ali Behdad's "The Orientalist Encounter: The Politics of turquerie in Moliere," Esprit creature 32.3 (1992): 37-49, where the connection between the Turkish ceremony and French mercantilist policy in the Orient is linked through Monsieur Jourdain; however, the author makes no mention of the first two acts of the play or to the ballet des nations.

(4.) See Helen M.C. Purkis, "Monsieur Jourdain, Dorante, and the Ballet des nations," Studi Francesi 24.2 (1980): 224-233.

(5.) Recueil des instructions donnees aux Ambassadeurs et Ministres de France depuis les traites de Westphalie jusqu'a la revolution francaise, vol. 29 (Turquie), ed. Pierre Duparc (Paris: Editions du CNRS, 1969) 26. Further references to the instructions included in text.

(6.) Antoyne de Montchretien, Trait, de l'(Economie politique (Paris: Librairie des sciences politiques et sociales Marcel Riviere, 1920) 23.

(7.) One hardly needs to mention that English and Dutch history was far from tranquil during the period under discussion.

(8.) "Je ne vois donc pas, mon fils, par quelle raison des rois de France, rois hereditaires, et qui peuvent se vanter qu'il n'y a aujourd'hui dans le monde, sans exception, ni meilleure maison que la leur, ni monarchie aussi ancienne, ni puissance plus grande, ni autorite, plus absolue, seraient inferieurs a ces princes electifs ... [il ne faut pas] rendre plus d'honneur qu'on ne devrait au vain nom et a la vaine ombre de leur empire." Louis XIV, Memoires pour l'instruction du dauphin (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1992) 76-7.

(9.) Laurent d'Arvieux, Memoires, IV, 252-53.

(10.) A relation of these events can be found in Albert Vandal, L'Odysee d'un ambassadeur: Les voyages du Marquis de Nointel (1670-1680) (Paris: Librairie Plon, 1900) 32-4.

(11.) From Laurent d'Arvieux's Memoires, quoted in Adrien Berbrugger, "Un collaborateur inconnu de Moliere," in Revue africaine 67 (1898) 422.

(12.) Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, ed. Jacques Morel (Paris: Le Livre de poche, 1985) 20. Further references are to this edition and are included in the text.

(13.) "Catalyseur d'une serie de mouvements et de transformations surprenantes dont la mascarade musulmane a la fin de la piece n'est qu'une deformation caricaturale, l'argent joue, dans le Bourgeois gentilhomme, le role d'un metteur en scene invisible, d'un moteur sans lequel ni la piece ni la societe d'echange qu'elle reflete ne sauraient fonctionner." "Circulation monetaire et mobilite sociale dans le Bourgeois gentilhomme" in Le Bourgeois gentilhomme: Problemes de la comedie-ballet, ed. Volker Kapp (Tubingen: Biblio 17, 1991) 23.

(14.) Max Vernet, Moliere: Cote jardin, cote, cour (Paris: Nizet, 1991). Chapter 8, pp. 315-40, is of particular interest here, as Vernet argues that Moliere's refusal of "la subordination du logos a l'argent et la representation des differences qualitatives corporelles ou spirituelles par le quantitatif"(325) is representative precisely of the mercantilist economic "error" that is based not only on a fixed quantity of money, but on the fact that all economy must be mediated by the king. While this may be true, as Vernet argues, for L'Avare and Dom Juan, it may be argued that the Bourgeois gentilhomme signals Moliere's awareness of the fragility of this model, in that royalty itself may well depend upon the quantitative world of moneyed exchange.

(15.) Given the well-documented resemblance of the Turkish ceremony to ceremonies of knighting and even of the Catholic mass, the ceremonie turque's resemblance to the first acts of the play contributes to the theory that the play as a whole was generated out of Turkish concerns, and not the other way around.

(16.) See Ronald W. Tobin, "Fusion and Diffusion in the Bourgeois Gentilhomme," The French Review 59.2 (1985): 234-245.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Columbia University
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:McClure, Ellen M.
Publication:The Romanic Review
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Mar 1, 1999

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters