Sad Laughter

a play in two acts

by Charles Deemer


First performed at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, on April 2, 1999. Directed by Charles Deemer. A different, three-act version under the title The Comedian In Spite of Himself was first performed at the New Rose Theatre on May 10, 1984. Directed by Gary O'Brien.




Moliere, the great French playwright

Armande, his young wife, an actress

Madeleine, his former mistress, an actress

La Grange, Moliere's friend and an actor, the narrator, who plays many roles



A unit set, for quick changes of place.



Paris and elsewhere, 1658-1673


(Excerpts from Moliere's work in verse translations by Richard Wilbur. Used with permission. Adaptations from Moliere's work in prose by Charles Deemer.)


(ACTOR'S NOTE: Moliere has a slight stutter when he is upset. This is only occasionally noted in the text but the actor should be aware of this and use it to effect.)







(A DARK STAGE: and we hear the voice of LA GRANGE in the darkness:)


LA GRANGE (V.O.): In darkness is the proper place to start

Our play, for darkness holds the human heart

In profound mystery. Who can look

Into the heart of man and find the hook

On which to hang a life? —Naked, stark:

A piece of meat called man. But the mark

Of man is not so easily drawn.


(And a SPOT comes up on LA GRANGE on stage, as narrator.)


LA GRANGE: —Moliere:

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, my friend: but where

To start? He suffered, yes; so do we all.

He laughed. He . . . laughed. I think he'd be appalled

To hear me say he cried. I saw him once

And, catching him, I saw him play the dunce

He knew so well on stage. It was as if

No pain, no grief, no agony or rift

Was worth a tear except to shed on stage

For all to see, in this way to assuage

What, privately, he could not share. This man

I loved, who taught me all I understand

About the stage, I hardly knew. Begin

In darkness, then:


(And the LIGHTS begin a SLOW FADE:)


LA GRANGE: What clarity we win

Will rise between the darkness we see now

And the certain night that gets us anyhow.


(It is DARK.)


LA GRANGE (V.O.): Begin in darkness:

sixteen sixty-three:

In Paris, two players rehearse a scene.



1/ at the theater


(THE LIGHTS RISE ON ARMANDE AND MADELEINE, who are rehearsing the opening scene from "The Critique of the School for Wives." ARMANDE is six months



MADELEINE: "Cousin, has no one called on you?"

ARMANDE: "Not a soul."

MADELEINE: "Then we've both been alone all day — which surprises me."

ARMANDE: "I'm surprised as well. Ordinarily all the court loafers would be dropping by your house."

MADELEINE: "I miss them; it's made the afternoon very long."


(LA GRANGE quickly enters. He is visibly upset about something.)


LA GRANGE: Where's Jean?

ARMANDE: Isn't he at his desk?

LA GRANGE: He wasn't a moment ago.

MADELEINE: Is something the matter?

LA GRANGE: The Hotel players are starting to play dirty.

MADELEINE: I heard that they're preparing a play to answer "The Critique."

ARMANDE: Jean's already working on a reply to their reply.

MADELEINE: The box office will love it.

LA GRANGE: I'm not sure the King will.

MADELEINE: Of course he will — why else would he call our rivalry a "war of comedy"? The Hotel de Bourgogne can write all the plays they want, Jean is going to get the last word.

LA GRANGE: On stage, he will — but they're changing the rules and getting personal. Listen, when you see Jean, tell him I have to see him right away.


(He quickly exits.)


MADELEINE: He's already working on a reply to their reply?

ARMANDE: He began as soon as he heard rumor of it.

MADELEINE: They'll regret the night they ridiculed "The School for Wives" on stage. You don't win that kind of a fight with Jean.

ARMANDE: He's been working like he's possessed.

MADELEINE: I'd like to learn the lines to this one before we begin another. From the beginning? . . . "Cousin, has no one called on you?"

ARMANDE: "Not a soul."

MADELEINE: "Then we've both been alone all day — which surprises me."

ARMANDE: "I'm surprised as well. Ordinarily all the court loafers would be dropping by your house."

MADELEINE: "I miss them; it's made the afternoon very long."

ARMANDE: "I've found it short enough."

MADELEINE: "That's because you're clever enough to appreciate solitude."

ARMANDE: "That's kind of you to say — but I don't think I'm clever at all."

MADELEINE: "At any rate, I always appreciate company."


(MOLIERE suddenly enters: he wears an exaggerated costume of a pregnant woman, waddling in like a duck: pure slapstick.)


MOLIERE: Quack, quack! Quack, quack, quack!


(ARMANDE can't help but laugh; MADELEINE, on the other hand, is not amused.)


MOLIERE: It's going to be an elephant! I'm carrying an elephant! Quack, quack!

ARMANDE (laughing): Stop it!

MOLIERE: Oh, my feet are so sore! Oh my poor feet!


(He plops down onto the floor.)


MOLIERE: But now how will I ever get up?


(He struggles to get up but can't.)


MADELEINE: Since we can't rehearse, excuse me . . .


(She leaves. MOLIERE is still struggling to get up.)


ARMANDE: You've upset Madeleine.

MOLIERE (ignoring this): Get a horse and rope, will you? It's the only way I'll ever get up!

ARMANDE: It's not that hard, silly.

MOLIERE: Come help me!


(ARMANDE goes to him to help but MOLIERE pulls her down onto the floor with him.)


MOLIERE: Quack, quack, quack! Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack!

ARMANDE: Jean, stop it . . .!


(Playful wrestling on the floor. Then, suddenly:)


MOLIERE: Sshh! Oh my God . . .

ARMANDE: What is it?

MOLIERE: Hear it? Sshh . . .!


(MOLIERE is trying to find the source of the sound he hears.)


ARMANDE: Jean . . .?



(He finds what he's looking for. He puts his ear to Armande's belly.)


MOLIERE: He speaks! He's begging for an early release! (Speaking to her womb:) You have to do nine months like everyone else! No special favors, understand?


(And he's playfully wrestling with Armande again, when LA GRANGE enters.)


(LA GRANGE clears his throat, trying to get their attention. No luck. Finally:)




(Still no luck. He approaches the pair and taps Moliere on the shoulder.)


MOLIERE (in response): Quack, quack, quack!

LA GRANGE: The King wants to see you immediately.

MOLIERE: Quack, quack—!

LA GRANGE: The King!

MOLIERE: The King?

LA GRANGE: Urgently. As soon as you can get there. Now!


(Moliere gets up, leaving Armande on the floor, a completely different mood now.)


MOLIERE: What about?

LA GRANGE: I'll explain on the way.


(They hurry off, leaving a bewildered Armande on the floor, as the LIGHTS FADE TO BLACKOUT.)



2/ at Court


(LIGHTS up on LA GRANGE as narrator:)


LA GRANGE: Moliere was not a stranger to the Court:

His father built the royal chairs, the sort

Of honor passed father to son. But Jean

Abandoned family honor and took none

But his own advice. Would such a will

Before the King be haughty — or be still?


(LA GRANGE puts on a crown to become the King, as MOLIERE enters.)


LA GRANGE: Moliere...

MOLIERE (bowing): You wish to see me, my liege?



(A beat. The King is not sure how to begin.)


LA GRANGE: So how's the new play coming?

MOLIERE: We have our first read-through tonight.

LA GRANGE: So soon? What do you call it?

MOLIERE: "The Versailles Impromptu."

LA GRANGE: And its subject is the Bourgogne Players, of course.

MOLIERE: In a manner of speaking.

LA GRANGE: A manner of speaking, indeed! If you weren't so clever, Jean, and your father in Court, I'd think twice about letting you turn your wit loose on the Crown's own company.

MOLIERE: I merely reply to their own "wit," my liege.

LA GRANGE: They make fun of your plays because they are jealous.

MOLIERE: I don't see why. They do tragedy so much better than we do. The trifling success of "The School for Wives" did not threaten their own reputation. There was no need for them to ridicule my play on stage.

LA GRANGE: But how clever of you to respond with your own "Critique"! I found it very enjoyable.

MOLIERE: Thank you, my liege.


(A beat.)


MOLIERE: Is that all, my liege?

LA GRANGE: No. How's your father?


LA GRANGE: Decorating the new palace is no small chore. But he finally accepts your acting?

MOLIERE: Better now than when I acted in the provinces.

LA GRANGE: You decorate Court life as much as he, in your way.

MOLIERE: Thank you, my liege.


(A beat.)


LA GRANGE: And how's Armande?

MOLIERE: Very well.

LA GRANGE: When's the baby due?

MOLIERE: After the first of the year.

LA GRANGE: You must be very excited.

MOLIERE: Indeed, I am, my liege.

LA GRANGE (beginning to get to it now): And you've been married for how long?

MOLIERE: Almost two years.

LA GRANGE: But Armande's been a member of your troupe considerably longer, hasn't she?

MOLIERE: Madeleine began caring for her sister about ten years ago, as we were getting residency in Lyons.

LA GRANGE: Then you've known Armande since she was . . .

MOLIERE: Since she was ten, my liege. I think I know what you really want to ask: who am I to win the heart of a beautiful young woman twenty years my junior? I can only reply, a most fortunate man indeed.

LA GRANGE: Others wonder about that.

MOLIERE: I've heard the rumors about me, my liege. This is why you summoned me, I presume. The Players are saying that I am like Arnolphe in "The School for Wives," aren't they?  Since I play the role, and wrote it myself, therefore it must be Jean-Baptiste Moliere himself on stage — and since Arnolphe is a cuckold, so am I. Which means the child Armande carries is not my own. I know how they talk.

LA GRANGE: People say far worse, I'm afraid.

MOLIERE: What can be worse than to be cuckolded by a beautiful young wife?

LA GRANGE: Does the name Montfleury mean anything to you?

MOLIERE: An actor with the Players, I believe.

LA GRANGE: He also has connections with the Society of the Holy Sacrament. Those zealots are forever trying to tell the King how to run France. I received a letter from Montfleury in which he claims that years ago, when your company was wandering through the provinces, you were the lover of Madeleine Bejart.

MOLIERE: I don't deny that, my liege. Madeleine and I remain close friends or I wouldn't trust her as our business manager.

LA GRANGE: The letter goes on to say that she left the company for a spell.


LA GRANGE: Having a child and then rejoining the troupe later, with the child in tow.

MOLIERE: When Madeleine rejoined the company, it was with Armande, her younger sister.

LA GRANGE: Can you be sure Armande isn't her child?


(MOLIERE is stunned and not sure how to reply.)


LA GRANGE: And yours.

MOLIERE: Mine, my liege? He's saying that I married my own...? That's a scandalous lie!

LA GRANGE: Would you like to see the letter?

MOLIERE: Of course!


(The King gives him the letter, as:)


LA GRANGE: Don't think I believe the accusation for a minute. In fact, I've been waiting for the Society of the Holy Sacrament to come up with something as outrageous as this. I'm sorry the Crown's Players are implicated, of course.

MOLIERE: If they put such scandal on stage, my liege—!

LA GRANGE: They won't. I've already dismissed Montfleury from the company. I'm sure it's the Society's doing. The more outrageous the accusation, the better, in the eyes of those fanatics.

MOLIERE: I must deny these charges at once.

LA GRANGE: Not yet. I want to give them a little more rope. All the better to hang themselves.

MOLIERE: My liege, I'm accused of marrying my own daughter! You know how rumors spread...if Armande were to learn of this, in her condition...

LA GRANGE: You'd make their case if you complain too loudly. When the time comes, your best attack will be through your work.

MOLIERE: But my liege—

LA GRANGE: Your work can be of great use to the Crown. For now, say nothing of this. I look forward to your new play.

MOLIERE: Very well, my liege.


(He bows and starts away.)


LA GRANGE: Jean...?

MOLIERE: My liege?

LA GRANGE: When can I see the next installment in the "war of comedy"?

MOLIERE: We'll be ready in a week, my liege.

LA GRANGE: Then don't look so glum. The Crown will not let these rumors go unchallenged. I'll tell the Players to ignore Montfleury and start matching their wits with your own.

MOLIERE: Thank you, my liege.


(He bows and exits. LA GRANGE removes the crown and addresses the audience:)


LA GRANGE: Moliere obeyed the King and held his tongue

Against this slander, even though it stung

Worse than all before. But keeping still

Was difficult for such a man of will.





3/ at the theater


(LIGHTS UP on MADELEINE, who is working on the theater's books, when MOLIERE enters.)


MOLIERE: We have to talk.

MADELEINE: I was just about to look for you. I want to double ticket prices for the "Impromptu."

MOLIERE: But why?

MADELEINE: Because the public's willing to pay and we can use the income. The "war of comedy" won't last forever. We must take advantage of it while we can.

MOLIERE: You think it's about to end?

MADELEINE: They'll resign eventually. You're certainly going to have the last word.

MOLIERE: On stage, perhaps.

MADELEINE: On stage, where it counts.

MOLIERE: The salons, I think, draw more influence than the stage.

MADELEINE: And what do they say about you in the salons?

MOLIERE: You haven't heard?

MADELEINE: I don't pay attention to gossip.

MOLIERE: When the King beckoned me, he wanted to know if I was Armande's father.

MADELEINE: My God, Jean—

MOLIERE: One of the Crown's players made the accusation. That when you left us, it was to have a child — our child. And you returned with her, claiming Armande was your little sister.

MADELEINE: The King believes this?

MOLIERE: No. Neither do I.


MOLIERE: The whole thing is amusing in a way.

MADELEINE: I'd call it vicious.

MOLIERE: When I'm called a cuckold, they suppose I'm not the father. Now they suppose I am!

MADELEINE: Of course, you're the father. Armande has no lovers.

MOLIERE: Armande's father, I mean. If I'm her father, and the baby's father — a double father . . .

MADELEINE: It's groundless, vicious gossip. Thank God Armande hasn't gotten wind of it.

MOLIERE: The King won't let me deny it.

MADELEINE: You shouldn't stoop to their level by even acknowledging something so ridiculous.

MOLIERE: You didn't have a child, did you?

MADELEINE: Of course not!

MOLIERE: I wanted to hear it from you.

MADELEINE: The salons are gutters.

MOLIERE: And we're entertainers — off stage as well as on, whether we want to be or not..


(LIGHTS FADE on Moliere and Madeleine as LA GRANGE as narrator comes forward:)


LA GRANGE: Montfleury's accusation did not rest

But rather caused a flutter in the breast

Of all the salon wits and courtly stout

(The very ones that Moliere wrote about).

How little time it takes gossip to find

A home in vengeful hearts and tiny minds.



4/ at the salon


(LIGHTS UP on a "caricature prop," a flat on which are painted two aristocratic women with fans. In the "head holes" appear the faces of the actresses playing Madeleine and Armande. Each has an arm through an "arm hole," holding a fan.)


ARMANDE: He married his own daughter?

MADELEINE: His own daughter.

ARMANDE: But that's so — unthinkable.

MADELEINE: Why, he even flaunts the sin on stage, portraying the very crime he commits. Surely Satan owns his soul. There can't be a more evil man in France.

ARMANDE: More evil than the King?

MADELEINE: Yes, more evil than the King.

ARMANDE: And he continues to flaunt this sin in his new play as well?

MADELEINE: His new play, the "Impromptu" — well, I wouldn't even call it a play. They portray themselves, rehearsing a play.

ARMANDE: To what point?

MADELEINE: To continue their jealous mockery of the Crown's players. It's all become a bore, really.

ARMANDE: People are flocking to see the play nonetheless.

MADELEINE: People have no capacity for keeping their wanton passions in check. This is precisely what he plays to.

ARMANDE: One would expect him to run out of material.

MADELEINE: A perverse mind can indulge itself indefinitely.


(Now MOLIERE comes forward, playing to the audience, in a scene from the "Impromptu":)


MOLIERE: "Run out of material? My dear Marquis, we'll always furnish Moliere with plenty of material since we're hardly changing our ways, despite his satires. Even without going outside the court, he still has twenty types of people who have been spared his pen. For example, consider those in court who show one another the greatest friendship — until backs are turned. Then the entertainment is tearing each other apart! Or consider those who are positively sickening with the sweetness of their flattery, or those who make no distinction between the various court regulars they adore. Moliere will always have more material than he needs. Indeed, all that he has satirized to date is a mere trifle compared to what is yet to come."


(He moves off. Focus returns to the "caricature prop.")


MADELEINE: I saw Louise de La Valliere leaving the palace the other day.

ARMANDE: The King's whore! How can you bear to set eyes on her?

MADELEINE: I had no choice: she simply passed before my view. I noticed that she's putting on weight.

ARMANDE: And no wonder, the time she spends at the King's table.

MADELEINE: It occurred to me that the King's bed might be the cause.

ARMANDE: Are you suggesting that the King's whore is...pregnant?

MADELEINE: Pregnant!

ARMANDE: How scandalous!


(The women begin to fan themselves furiously. And BLACKOUT.)



5/ at the theater




LA GRANGE: Indeed, the lady favored by the King

Was pregnant. A ball was planned, the hottest thing

To hit the court in months. As the day

Approached, Moliere was asked to write a play...


(He moves off as MOLIERE and ARMANDE enter. ARMANDE is very pregnant now.)


MOLIERE: They'll be royalty from England, Spain. The King is eager to show off the new palace.

ARMANDE: I heard that's not all he wants to show off. Louise de La Valliere is pregnant.

MOLIERE: Do I hear right? My own wife gives credence to gossip.

ARMANDE: I haven't heard any gossip. I saw her the other day and she's as pregnant as I am.

MOLIERE: What's important is that the King is very happy.

ARMANDE: I'm so proud that you received a commission.

MOLIERE: Be proud for all of us. It will be the most respected audience ever gathered in a theater.

ARMANDE: Do you know what you're going to write?

MOLIERE: I've been working on two ideas. One's based on a story by Moreto — about a princess who vows never to fall in love, only to fall for a prince who has pretended to make the same vow. I want you to play the princess. It's the female lead.

ARMANDE: If it's the lead, then Madeleine should play it.

MOLIERE: She's too old. Besides, the public is ready for someone new. They're ready for you.

ARMANDE: Jean, I'm not ready for a lead role.

MOLIERE: You were wonderful in the "Critique."

ARMANDE: Not a large part. Nor in the "Impromptu."

MOLIERE: Haven't I been training you for this moment ever since you were a child?

ARMANDE: I don't know — have you?

MOLIERE: The time's right, Armande. I'm saving the role for you. You'll be ready as soon as you recuperate, I should think.

ARMANDE: But if I'm not, promise me you'll offer the part to someone else. You don't want to disappoint the King.

MOLIERE: I can give the King the other play. The princess belongs to you.


(MOLIERE approaches to kiss her but is stopped by:)



MOLIERE: My dear?


MOLIERE: What is it?

ARMANDE: I think it's time . . .

MOLIERE: Time?...Time!

ARMANDE: Get the doctor . . .

MOLIERE (calling off): Madeleine! Madeleine!

ARMANDE: I need the doctor . . .



(MADELEINE enters, will quickly move Armande off as Moliere is no help at all.)


MOLIERE; She's ready! We have to do something!...I'll find the doctor! Everything's going to be fine. Yes, take her home, that's the idea — and don't panic! Nobody panic! Everything's going to be fine . . .





6/ at home




LA GRANGE: At home, Armande lets nature take its course.

The husband in the hall's a different horse.


(LA GRANGE puts on spectacles and a hat and becomes the doctor.)


LA GRANGE: Relax — you can't bring this new life to birth by pacing the floor.


(A YELP from ARMANDE off stage.)


MOLIERE: What's going on in there?

LA GRANGE: The miracle of birth.

MOLIERE: She sounds in pain.

LA GRANGE: Nothing is wrong, Jean. She's having a baby. It happens all the time.


(Another YELP.)


MOLIERE: Not like that!

LA GRANGE: You've upset yourself. I hate to think what noxious humors you're spreading through your system. I want to cleanse you before damage is done to your liver. Come with me.

MOLIERE: I'm not leaving this spot.

LA GRANGE: Very well. We'll do it here.


(He exits. More YELPS and GROANS.)


MOLIERE: Armande, my sweet! I love you in there!


(A LOUD YELP as if in reply.)


(LA GRANGE returns with a chamber pot, a folding screen and his bag.)


LA GRANGE: Here we go.

MOLIERE: She needs one more than I do.

LA GRANGE: Behind the screen and drop your pants.

MOLIERE (doing so): I don't know why you're always giving me these damn things.

LA GRANGE: Because you have a very volatile system. You work too hard and you worry too much. You don't get enough sleep. As a result, noxious humors build up in your body and if we don't expel them, you'll damage your liver, fill your blood with impurities—

MOLIERE: I know the speech! I'm going to put the damn thing in a play some day.

LA GRANGE: If you can't trust your doctor, Jean...

MOLIERE: I just never feel different afterwards — except in my coin purse.

LA GRANGE: Here we go...


(He takes the enema device from his bag and goes behind the screen.)


LA GRANGE: Bend over.


(A beat.)


MOLIERE: Oooooo!

LA GRANGE: That wasn't so bad, was it?

MOLIERE: Average. Better than this morning.

LA GRANGE: We'll rest a minute . . .


(A beat. And MADELEINE enters.)


MADELEINE: It's a boy! A healthy boy . . .!


(And she's just as quickly gone, rejoining Armande off stage.)


MOLIERE (behind the screen): A healthy boy? Did you hear that? I have a son! I—...(as the enema takes effect:)...a son! It's! …oh!... it's a ...ooooooo! . . .





7/ at the salon


(LIGHTS UP on the "caricature prop.")


MADELEINE: A son. Whom Moliere named Louis, after the King.

ARMANDE: Shocking.

MADELEINE: To have living proof of such a sin.

ARMANDE: The child should be sacrificed. The Romans would have done it.

MADELEINE: We're more modern today. But be sure of this: the Lord will deliver retribution.

ARMANDE: I think the King gets in the Lord's line of sight.

MADELEINE: If the King saw Moliere clearly, then he'd have to turn clear vision into his own house — and then he'd find a whore in his bed!


(They cackle and fan, as the LIGHTS FADE TO BLACKOUT.)



8/ at the theater




LA GRANGE: But how the leading ladies were distressed

When young Armande was cast as the princess.




LA GRANGE: You'd better talk to Madeleine yourself.

MOLIERE: She didn't seem upset at the read-through.

LA GRANGE: I'm telling you because I think we have to clear the air. We don't have that much rehearsal time and considering the importance of the performance . . .

MOLIERE: Get her, I'll talk to her.


(LA GRANGE exits. MOLIERE returns to working on a new script. He tries out a speech aloud, from "Tartuffe":)


MOLIERE: "Brother, I don't pretend to be a sage,

Nor have I all the wisdom of the age.

There's just one insight I would dare to claim:

I know that true and false are not the same;

And just as there is nothing I more revere

Than a soul whose faith is steadfast and sincere,

Nothing that I more cherish and admire

Than honest zeal and true religious fire,

So there is nothing that I find more base

Than specious piety's dishonest face."


(MADELEINE has entered.)


MADELEINE: You want to see me?

MOLIERE: I thought it was you who wanted to see me.


(A beat.)


MOLIERE: Charles tells me you're upset about something.

MADELEINE: I'm surprised you had to be told.

MOLIERE: Don't complain behind my back, Madeleine. We've been through too much together for that.

MADELEINE: Jean, my sister has learned a good deal in a very short time, thanks to your excellent coaching. But—

MOLIERE: But you think you should play the princess yourself.

MADELEINE: She's had very little experience on stage and considering the extraordinary nature of the occasion, and the royalty from around the world who'll be in the audience—

MOLIERE: Therefore, you should play the princess yourself.

MADELEINE: Not necessarily. But someone with experience. If not me, Therese or Catherine.

MOLIERE: My three leading ladies worry that their province is being taken over by a newcomer: my wife.

MADELEINE: My sister.

MOLIERE: You should have more faith in her talent.

MADELEINE: I'm not worried about her talent but her experience. None of us have performed before such royalty before.

MOLIERE: We're presenting a play and a half, remember. I've given you the best role in the fragment from "Tartuffe."

MADELEINE: I'm delighted with the part.

MOLIERE: Then why the jealousy of Armande?

MADELEINE: I don't think she can handle the pressure.

MOLIERE: And I believe she can. If you'll excuse me, I have work to do.





9/ at the theater


(LIGHTS UP on ARMANDE as the Princess of Elis. In fact, she is not a very good actress:)


ARMANDE: "I love to be alone here — no room in the palace matches the simple beauty of nature, these trees, these rocks and the river, the fresh air: I never tire of coming here. Why do they demand my presence at the chariot races? I think they want to win my heart but my heart belongs here. They want love — but love is a great weakness and I'll never give my heart to anyone. They act like my slaves now, wooing me, but if I gave one of them my heart, he'd soon enough become my tyrant."


(LIGHTS UP FULL as LA GRANGE comes forward as a courtier. He applauds madly, then will pursue ARMANDE, representing a flock of male admirers.)


LA GRANGE (courtier #1): Bravo, bravo! I've never seen such a performance on any stage in France — ever!

LA GRANGE (#2): Theater has reached a new grandeur!

LA GRANGE (#3): Madam, if you might give me a private moment so I could—

LA GRANGE (#4): I've written you a poem, madam, and—

LA GRANGE (#5): Bravo, madam! Bravo and bravo and bravo! My carriage is—


(ARMANDE is gone. LA GRANGE turns to the audience as narrator:)



10/ outside the theater


LA GRANGE: Indeed, the courtiers came from near and far

To woo the heart of France's bright new star.


(MOLIERE enters.)


MOLIERE: Have you seen Armande?

LA GRANGE: I believe she went to watch the fireworks.


LA GRANGE: Who can be alone in this throng? When the King throws a party, he throws a party!

MOLIERE: I mean was she — with anyone?

LA GRANGE: About a half a dozen went off together.

MOLIERE: Half a dozen — an even number then? Not an odd number?

LA GRANGE: I don't know precisely, Jean. I didn't count them.

MOLIERE: Were they divided into couples?

LA GRANGE: Perhaps they were, yes.

MOLIERE: Then Armande left with an escort?

LA GRANGE: Yes, I suppose she did.


LA GRANGE: I wasn't paying all that much attention.

MOLIERE: One of the visiting courtiers?

LA GRANGE: Yes, perhaps so.

MOLIERE: What nationality?

LA GRANGE: English, I think.

MOLIERE: Sycophants, the lot of them! English sycophants, Spanish sycophants, even French sycophants — don't you think so?

LA GRANGE: What's a sycophant?

MOLIERE: A boot-licker! A flattering hypocrite! I should've foreseen that this would happen. Armande's performance was satisfactory, considering her inexperience, but the way these royal toadies line up to praise her...I hope it doesn't go to her head.

LA GRANGE: The damn sycophants.

MOLIERE: It's everywhere you look: false flattery, hypocritical boot-licking, the braggadocio of imbeciles. Putting up "Tartuffe" tomorrow night will be perfectly timed, Charles.

LA GRANGE: You finished the script?

MOLIERE: No, we'll just do the first three acts. The King thinks the "Princess" is good — wait until he sees "Tartuffe."


(MADELEINE enters.)


MADELEINE: Jean, you and Armande must come quickly. Something's wrong with little Louis. The doctor's with him now.

MOLIERE: What happened?

MADELEINE: The doctor says it's serious.

LA GRANGE: I'll find Armande.





11/ at the salon


(LIGHTS UP on the "caricature prop":)


MADELEINE: Providential retribution, there can be no doubt about it.

ARMANDE: Providential retribution.

MADELEINE: Just rewards for the sin of incest.

ARMANDE: There can be no doubt about it.

MADELEINE: The King's bastard will be next.

ARMANDE: Providential retribution.


(They fan as lights FADE TO BLACKOUT.)



12/ at Court




LA GRANGE: Three days after little Louis died,

"Tartuffe" had stunned a crowd that didn't hide

Its anger and dismay. Even the King

Was stunned: guests had fled the royal fling.


(He puts on the crown to become the King, as MOLIERE enters.)


MOLIERE (bowing): My liege . . .

LA GRANGE: My mother has left Versailles.

MOLIERE: So I was told, my liege.

LA GRANGE: I received a communication from the Archbishop of Paris. Would you like to hear it?

MOLIERE: If you think I—

LA GRANGE: "This new play by Moliere is wholly injurious to religion. It can only have the most dangerous effects. Moreover—"

MOLIERE: I get the drift, my liege.

LA GRANGE: I'm sorry to have to bring this up. I know how badly you feel about little Louis.

MOLIERE (bitter): Providence, my liege.

LA GRANGE: Yes. How is Armande taking it?

MOLIERE: Guiltily, as well she should.

LA GRANGE: You shouldn't be too hard on her.

MOLIERE: She was watching fireworks instead of her child.

LA GRANGE: Perhaps there was nothing she could've done.

MOLIERE: Perhaps. What did you think of the play yourself, my liege?

LA GRANGE: Tartuffe reminded me of some of our holier-than-thou rascals in the Society of the Holy Sacrament. I'd like to see you finish it.

MOLIERE: There's no question about finishing it, my liege. But what about the Archbishop of Paris?

LA GRANGE: He wants me to ban further performances.

MOLIERE: But why?

LA GRANGE: Because he thinks the play attacks religion.

MOLIERE: Nothing could be farther from the truth.

LA GRANGE: He has a point. You put a man of God on stage and then make him the greatest scoundrel imaginable, betraying the man who most believes in him, trying to seduce his wife—

MOLIERE: A false man of God, my liege. A hypocrite.

LA GRANGE: Many people couldn't distinguish between true and false piety in the play. They think you're attacking religion outright, and I have no choice but to ban further performances.

MOLIERE: But my liege—!

LA GRANGE: I don't approve of mother leaving in a huff! She doesn't approve of my child, let alone my taste in women. She can make my life particularly miserable when she's angry. Like hounding me to marry.

MOLIERE: My liege, I do not attack religion. I merely attack the vices of my day by ridiculing them.

LA GRANGE: When you finish the play, I'll look at it again. Until then, I'm banning "Tartuffe" from public performance. You may go.

MOLIERE: Good day, my liege.

LA GRANGE (coyly): You can still perform it privately. As a matter of fact, I'd like Cardinal Chigi to see it. He's a kinsman of the Pope and is coming to Paris on other matters. Can a performance be arranged for him?

MOLIERE: Certainly.

LA GRANGE: Good day, Jean.


(MOLIERE bows and exits. LA GRANGE removes the crown:)


LA GRANGE: With "Tartuffe" banned, the season's incomplete;

A new play must be found within the week.



13/ at the theater


(MOLIERE storms in to join LA GRANGE.)


MOLIERE: What the hell kind of rehearsal change is this?

LA GRANGE: I'm not sure which one you mean.

MOLIERE: This one I am looking at, in your own hand.

LA GRANGE: Jean, I made several—

MOLIERE: This one! Canceling rehearsal of Act Four of "Tartuffe."

LA GRANGE: I assumed we're performing only the first three acts for the Cardinal.

MOLIERE: What's that got to do with it?

LA GRANGE: I assumed you hadn't finished Act Four yet.

MOLIERE: So what?

LA GRANGE: Fine, I'll restore the rehearsal immediately.

MOLIERE: Get Armande.

LA GRANGE (half-mocking): Yes, sir!


(He exits.)


(MOLIERE paces. He has a passage from a new play and he tries it out, aloud, from "Don Juan":)


MOLIERE: ". . . hypocrisy is a fashionable vice and therefore passes for virtue. This gives many advantages to the hypocrite's profession. He's always respected. When all other views are exposed, men attack them freely, but hypocrisy is immune to criticism — surely no one can find a better role to play than the role of a good man."


(ARMANDE enters.)


ARMANDE: Charles says that you wish to see me.

MOLIERE: I've heard a rumor that you're taking diction lessons.

ARMANDE: Yes, I am.

MOLIERE: I give the d-diction lessons in this company!

ARMANDE: But you've been so busy that—

MOLIERE: Who is he?

ARMANDE: His name is Pierre.

MOLIERE: What are his qualifications?

ARMANDE: He's a poet.

MOLIERE: A poet! Really?


MOLIERE: What makes you think you need diction lessons?

ARMANDE: He kindly offered them and I—

MOLIERE: Offered them!


MOLIERE: Then he admires you?

ARMANDE: He saw me in the "Princess" and "Tartuffe."

MOLIERE: And he flattered you?

ARMANDE: He said I need work on my diction and he kindly offered to give me lessons.

MOLIERE: And you have time on your hands, with "Tartuffe" and soon "Don Juan" in rehearsal?

ARMANDE: What's "Don Juan"?

MOLIERE: What I'm replacing "Tartuffe" with. I wrote you a major part.

ARMANDE: I see Pierre only once a week.

MOLIERE: But you'd prefer to see him more often...?

ARMANDE: I'd prefer that you say what's really on your mind. (A beat.) Jean, I have no interest in Pierre beyond diction lessons. (A beat.) Don't you believe me?

MOLIERE: I'm not sure.

ARMANDE: It's the truth.

MOLIERE: He sent you a poem. I had to bribe the boy who delivered it. (Offering the poem:) Here, I'd like you to read it.

ARMANDE (not accepting it): Jean, I've given him no encouragement.

MOLIERE: Read it! (A beat.) Very well. I'll read it myself:

"Armande, these lines are not meant to embarrass

But I'm quite mad about your mons veneris."


MOLIERE: "And though I am not noted for my wit,

I am a man who appreciates good tits."

ARMANDE: Stop it! What are you accusing me of? Taking him for a lover?

MOLIERE: You said it, I didn't.

ARMANDE: There's no point in talking about something so ridiculous. I'll see you at rehearsal.

MOLIERE: Now that the cat's out of the bag, look who doesn't want to talk about it.

ARMANDE: I don't see what's wrong with taking diction lessons from Pierre — or I didn't, until he wrote that awful poem. I didn't know he was going to do that.

MOLIERE: And the others?

ARMANDE: There are no others.

MOLIERE: The courtiers have been following you around like cats in heat.

ARMANDE: That's not my fault! What's happened to you? You accuse me of causing little Louis's death, you—

MOLIERE: I said he needed his mother.

ARMANDE: When do I have time to be a mother? And I don't have a string of lovers, no matter what you think. I have no one. I have you. But when do we even see one another any more? You're always writing a play or directing rehearsals. I'm always learning lines or rehearsing. Our life together has turned into one long rehearsal.

MOLIERE: Plays don't write themselves.

ARMANDE: You don't even seem to enjoy what little time we do have alone together. I haven't been unfaithful...

MOLIERE: Please don't cry. (A beat.) You know I can't stand it when you cry! (A beat.) Listen — all right, maybe I have been working too hard.

ARMANDE: How can you think such things about me?

MOLIERE: I often play the cuckold on stage, don't I? So maybe I'm just practicing. That's what we live for, isn't it? Perfecting our parts? Fine-tuning our roles? I know I haven't given you much attention lately. I mean, you're right, our life is a rehearsal. My life is a dress rehearsal for a play. Even now, as I hear myself talking, I wonder where I'll be putting this, in what future scene in what future play I'll be standing before someone like you, perhaps before you yourself, the actress, and I'll be the actor, and we'll be talking — in some play, some day — much as we are talking here now. Because that's what my life seems to be, a dress rehearsal for a play. Which, strictly speaking, doesn't really make my life much of a life at all, does it?

ARMANDE: What especially hurts about your lack of trust in me is that I'm pregnant again.


ARMANDE: But if you imagine such things about me—

MOLIERE: You're pregnant?


MOLIERE: But this is wonderful!


MOLIERE: Of course!

ARMANDE: I thought so, until you started accusing me of—

MOLIERE: I wasn't accusing you of anything. I was just babbling. I probably need an enema! Come on, let's tell the others. Charles! Madeleine!

ARMANDE: Please don't make a scene.

MOLIERE: When the child is born, I want you to quit the stage.

ARMANDE: Jean, I feel too tired to celebrate.

MOLIERE: You rest — in fact, I'm going to replace you in "Don Juan."

ARMANDE: Please don't.

MOLIERE (ignoring this): You go home and rest.


(ARMANDE exits.)


MOLIERE: Charles! Madeleine! Where the hell is everybody?


(MADELEINE enters.)


MADELEINE: Is Armande all right? She looks upset.

MOLIERE: She's pregnant. Isn't that wonderful?


(No response: Madeleine is upset at the news but trying to hide it.)


MOLIERE: I'm replacing her in "Don Juan." She's going to leave the stage.


(LA GRANGE enters.)


LA GRANGE: What's going on?

MOLIERE: Armande is pregnant.

LA GRANGE: Congratulations. Where is she?

MOLIERE: Going home to rest. She's quitting the stage.

LA GRANGE: Really?

MADELEINE (sudden agitation): Jean, I have to talk to you. Alone. Charles, do you mind?

MOLIERE: I want to celebrate.

MADELEINE: Jean, please.


(She stares at Charles.)


LA GRANGE: Well, anyway, congratulations . . .


(He exits, puzzled.)


MOLIERE: What's the matter with you? Charles is as much a part of the family as we are.

MADELEINE: Don't say that.

MOLIERE: He's been with the company almost as long as you have. Longer, counting the time you were gone.

MADELEINE: That's what we have to talk about, Jean.


(A beat: she is having a hard time starting, getting to the real subject.)


MOLIERE: Let me guess. You don't like "Don Juan."

MADELEINE: Those whom "Tartuffe" upset, "Don Juan" will upset twice over.

MOLIERE: Don Juan is a hypocrite.

MADELEINE: So is Tartuffe but few recognize the fact. I think you want trouble. You want scandal. And that troubles me very much.

MOLIERE: I merely satirize the vices I see—

MADELEINE: I know the explanation, Jean. You recite it like a litany. But I didn't come here to talk about "Don Juan."

MOLIERE: Then what is it? What's bothering you?

MADELEINE: My soul is bothering me.


(Moliere laughs. When he sees that Madeleine is sincerely upset, he stops. He is confused.)


MOLIERE: Sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt.

MADELEINE: When I returned to the troupe in the provinces, bringing Armande with me, I came under false pretenses.

MOLIERE: I don't recall any pretenses at all. Theater's in your blood and you wanted to return. We welcomed you with open arms.

MADELEINE: I shouldn't have brought Armande.


(Moliere thinks he understands what is going on.)


MOLIERE: So that's it! For all the women I put on stage, I'll never understand where female jealousy comes from. I'm surprised at you. The love we shared, Madeleine, the love I still feel for you — it's a spiritual love, not physical. Don't be jealous of Armande because she's having my child.

MADELEINE: Not jealous. Afraid, for all of us.

MOLIERE: You're not making sense.

MADELEINE: I shouldn't have returned with Armande because she isn't my sister. She's my daughter.


(It takes Moliere a moment to comprehend what she is saying.)


MOLIERE: I don't believe it.

MADELEINE: It's true, Jean, I swear it is.

MOLIERE: You're telling me I married my own daughter?

MADELEINE: I don't know.

MOLIERE: Is she your daughter or not?

MADELEINE: You may not be the father. There were others.

MOLIERE: You never told me that.


(She doesn't respond. Moliere will become furious.)


MOLIERE: Why didn't you tell me that?

MADELEINE: Jean, I—...I didn't think it was any of your business.

MOLIERE: Who my lover sleeps with is not my business?!

MADELEINE: We were so young.

MOLIERE: Not you, apparently, oh no, not sweet innocent Madeleine. Well, if I'm not the father, then who is? Did you sleep through the whole goddamn company or what?  Is Charles the father? (Calling off:) Charles!

MADELEINE: Jean, for God's sake, don't you understand what I'm saying?

MOLIERE: Very well. Charles!


(LA GRANGE hurries in.)



MADELEINE: Jean, please...don't do this...


(A beat: LA GRANGE is tense, wondering what is going on.)


MOLIERE: Have you ever gone to bed with Madeleine?


(LA GRANGE is confused by the question. He turns to Madeleine:)


LA GRANGE: Is he serious?

MOLIERE: I do not ask questions unless I mean them! Have you or not?

MADELEINE: He has — but he is not a candidate.

LA GRANGE: A candidate? For what?

MADELEINE: Let him go, Jean.

MOLIERE: You may go.


(LA GRANGE, puzzled, hesitates.)


MOLIERE: I said, you may go!

LA GRANGE: Yes, sir!


(And he hurries off.)


MOLIERE: Then who are the “candidates”?

MADELEINE: It doesn't matter. The point is, you are one, in fact the most probable one. I think that's why little Louis was taken from you. I think—

MOLIERE: Providential retribution?

MADELEINE: For the sake of your own soul, Jean, don't ridicule the possibility.

MOLIERE: Louis died because the doctors couldn't save him! Because all they know how to do is drain blood and give enemas! Children are dying all the time!

MADELEINE: I'm her mother. And you may be her father. I swear it's true.

MOLIERE: I can't believe you never told me.

MADELEINE: It didn't matter at first. I never dreamed you'd one day marry her. When you did, I knew it was wrong, I knew it was sinful, but when I tried to tell you—

MOLIERE: We don't know that! That I'm actually the father. How many candidates are there?

MADELEINE: Including you, three.


MADELEINE: I would think you'd wish there were dozens.

MOLIERE: I don't know what to think.

MADELEINE: I pray you're not her father.

MOLIERE: I can only be sure of what I absolutely know. One, that I'm her husband. Two, that I'm the father of her... Christ, I don't even know if I can be sure of that. If you can lie to me so easily, live a charade so easily, perhaps she can as well.

MADELEINE: After so many years, I didn't know how to tell you.

MOLIERE: In words that speak the truth!

MADELEINE: I know I should have. I know I'll pay the consequences for not telling you. But all that's past and can't be changed. The only thing I can change now is the present, my life now and in the future. Which is why I'm quitting the company.

MOLIERE: Don't be ridiculous. What else could you do?

MADELEINE: I can pray for my soul.


(Moliere just stares at her.)


MOLIERE: I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

MADELEINE: I think you should pray as well.

MOLIERE: Have you told anyone else about this?

MADELEINE: Of course not.

MOLIERE: You must not, ever. You must promise me that.

MADELEINE: I shall tell a priest, I think.

MOLIERE: Where it will remain in confidence. But no one else. Ever. You must promise me.

MADELEINE: I barely had the strength to tell you.

MOLIERE: You don't have to leave the company. You can still attend to the books. You don't have to go on stage.

MADELEINE: No, I have to listen to my spirit, Jean, troubled as it may be.


(A beat. Moliere is at a loss for words.)


MADELEINE: Will you tell Armande?

MOLIERE: No. And you won't either.

MADELEINE: I'll pray for both of you.

MOLIERE: I'm sure you will.

MADELEINE: I can't save your soul, Jean. Or Armande's. I can only save my own — if it's not too late.

MOLIERE: Then save it, Madeleine. Get out of here and save your soul.


(A beat: and Madeleine turns and leaves. Moliere kicks a chair, and LIGHTS FADE TO BLACKOUT.)







14/ at the salon


(LIGHTS UP on the "caricature prop.")


ARMANDE: A private performance before the Cardinal from Rome? And what did he say about "Tartuffe"?

MADELEINE: He liked it.

ARMANDE: I don't believe it!

MADELEINE: He said he found nothing offensive to religion in it at all.


MADELEINE: The Cardinal's no fool. He's setting a trap for the King. He well knows that if it weren't for the pressure we ourselves put on the King, Moliere's blasphemy would still be on stage today. By pretending to give approval now, the Cardinal is giving the King rope to hang himself. He'll see what kind of moral fiber the King really has.

ARMANDE: If he's righteous enough to continue the ban, despite approval?


ARMANDE: What a delicious trap!


(They fan to BLACKOUT.)



15/ at the theater




LA GRANGE: A stubborn man who became even more

Stubborn when Madeleine was gone: Jean swore

Revenge on one and all, though who can say

Just what the ghosts were he would chase away.


(LIGHTS UP FULL on Moliere, asleep at his desk, as La Grange approaches him. Several empty bottles of wine clutter the desk.)


(La Grange goes to the desk and gently shakes Moliere, waking him.)


LA GRANGE: Jean? Come on, time to go home.

MOLIERE: What time is it?

LA GRANGE: After two.

MOLIERE: What are you doing here?

LA GRANGE: I could ask you the same thing. I've been working lines with Therese.

MOLIERE: How's she doing?

LA GRANGE: She's not Madeleine but she'll do fine. You ready to go?

MOLIERE: No, go on. I have a scene I want to finish.

LA GRANGE: For "Don Juan"?

MOLIERE: Yes. What do you think?


(He hands La Grange a speech.)


LA GRANGE (reading): "Hereon I'll be the censor of everyone, judging all but myself harshly. I'll not forget the slightest disfavor toward me but patiently seek my inevitable revenge...." (He stops reading:) It's a long one, Jean. You can't rewrite indefinitely.

MOLIERE (ignoring this): You want a drink?

LA GRANGE: Sure, thanks.


(Moliere will pour two glasses of wine.)


MOLIERE: So Therese will work out?

LA GRANGE: I think so.


(A beat: Moliere passes La Grange his glass of wine.)


LA GRANGE: You want to talk about it?

MOLIERE: About what?

LA GRANGE: Madeleine leaving the company.

MOLIERE: What's there to say?

LA GRANGE: It surprised the hell out of me, Jean. She must've given you a reason.

MOLIERE: She said she wants to save her soul.

LA GRANGE: I didn't know her soul was in jeopardy.

MOLIERE: Don't ask me what she's doing. I don't understand her.

LA GRANGE: I thought you might know.

MOLIERE: Well, I don't.

LA GRANGE: Or do and don't want to talk about it.

MOLIERE: Don't pry, Charles.

LA GRANGE: What are friends for, if not to pry? We've been friends for almost twenty years, you and I. Last week, when you asked if I'd ever been to bed with Madeleine, it was obvious that something was going on. I hope you didn't let her go without an argument.

MOLIERE: I can't save her soul for her.

LA GRANGE: What's she feeling so guilty about? (A beat.) Having too many lovers?

MOLIERE: You tell me.

LA GRANGE: The short time I was her lover, Jean, was long after you and her had gone separate ways. It was about a year after she returned to the company.

MOLIERE: It was after she returned with Armande?

LA GRANGE: Yes. I didn't think there was anything still going on between you two.

MOLIERE: There wasn't.

LA GRANGE: You almost seemed — well, jealous.


(A beat: Moliere ignores this.)


MOLIERE: Another drink?

LA GRANGE: No thanks. Can I walk you home?

MOLIERE: I'll be fine.

LA GRANGE: Jean, it's probably none of my business, but I have noticed that you've been staying all night at the theater recently. It's upset Armande.

MOLIERE: I have a new play to finish!

LA GRANGE: It's affecting her performance as well.

MOLIERE: Plays don't write themselves.

LA GRANGE: I don't think she understands what's going on. Correction: I know she doesn't. Because she asked me what's going on. I didn't know what to tell her.

MOLIERE: Tell her that when "Don Juan" closes, we'll need a new play to replace it. It's time I got started on one.

LA GRANGE: We used to put in a couple of revivals each season, Jean. Do you plan to fill the season with new plays?

MOLIERE: Perhaps I do.

LA GRANGE: But why? The revivals always do well.

MOLIERE: I didn't know you wanted to take over the company, Charles.

LA GRANGE: You know better than that.

MOLIERE: Then stop telling me how to select our plays.

LA GRANGE: I'm worried about you, is all.

MOLIERE: Don't be.

LA GRANGE: I can't help it.


(No reply.)


LA GRANGE: You're like a brother to me. I hate to see you this way. I'd like to help if I could.


(No reply.)


LA GRANGE: Well, good night.


(He exits.)


(A beat: Moliere tries to work but can't concentrate. ARMANDE enters. She is visibly pregnant.)



MOLIERE: What are you doing here?

ARMANDE: Aren't you ever coming home?

MOLIERE: Armande, I have work to do. I'm doing the best I can.

ARMANDE: Do you spend the night here?

MOLIERE: If necessary, yes!

ARMANDE: You don't have to shout at me.


(A beat.)


ARMANDE: Have I done something wrong?

MOLIERE: Of course not.

ARMANDE: Since Madeleine left, you'd think I have leprosy.

MOLIERE: I'm trying to finish a new scene.

ARMANDE: Are you going to be adding new scenes right up to curtain?

MOLIERE: Please go home. You need your sleep.

ARMANDE: So do you. You haven't been home all week.


(A beat.)


ARMANDE: If you're sleeping here at the theater, so am I.


(She looks for a spot to make a bed, will start to prepare one on the floor.)


MOLIERE: What are you doing?

ARMANDE: Spending the night with my husband.

MOLIERE: You can't sleep on the floor.

ARMANDE: We used to always sleep on the floor. Or the ground.

MOLIERE: Not in your condition.

ARMANDE: It can't be helped. I'm spending the night with my husband.


(A beat.)


MOLIERE: You win. We'll go home. But I have to put in another hour or so. I'll make my bed in the ante-room.

ARMANDE: You don't have to do that.

MOLIERE: You need your sleep. I don't want to wake you when I come to bed.

ARMANDE: But you will come home?



(She hurries into his arms. Moliere is uncomfortable, at a loss of what to do.)


ARMANDE: I was so afraid you were angry at me for something. You can't believe what thoughts went through my head. Since everything seemed to change after Madeleine left, I even worried that you and she were lovers.

MOLIERE: That's not true.

ARMANDE: I know.

MOLIERE: Madeleine left because of — personal problems.

ARMANDE: I think she's seeking God.


(A beat, as they embrace.)


ARMANDE: Hold me tight, Jean.


(They embrace, Moliere is worried, as LIGHTS FADE TO BLACKOUT.)




LA GRANGE: February, sixteen sixty-five:

"Don Juan" premieres and instantly the cry

Goes up again to ban such blasphemy.

The King summons Moliere — an old story.


(He puts on the crown to become the King, as Moliere enters.)



16/ at court


MOLIERE (bowing): My liege...

LA GRANGE: You've seen the articles about your play, I trust.

MOLIERE: I don't have time to read opinions that are so predictable.

LA GRANGE: I think they've quite outdone themselves. The critic Rochemont would throw you to wild beasts, after the Romans.

MOLIERE: How fortunate for me he doesn't wear the crown.

LA GRANGE: Another would merely have you struck down by lightning.

MOLIERE: It's not the season for thunderstorms.

LA GRANGE: And Prince Conti writes, "The problem is that a dunce is left to defend religion while the witty Don Juan himself pronounces scandalous criticism on everything holy. How can the fool prevail?"

MOLIERE: I played the so-called dunce myself and feel I held my own. It's Don Juan, not I, who's struck down by lightning in the end.

LA GRANGE: An ending that satisfies no one.

MOLIERE: Did you enjoy the beginning of the play, my liege? Or perhaps the middle?

LA GRANGE: Much of it, yes. But you do put me in a very difficult position.

MOLIERE: When the Papal agent approved "Tartuffe," I thought you might remove the ban.

LA GRANGE: The climate wasn't right to do that. Nor can I let "Don Juan" continue.

MOLIERE: Because the Society of the Holy Sacrament disapproves?

LA GRANGE: I dislike the Society as much as you do, Jean. More! They've never supported my reign. But I'll be honest with you: the Spanish King is dying. Do you have any idea what that means?

MOLIERE: I pay little attention to such things, my liege.

LA GRANGE: The King's daughter has a legitimate hereditary right to the Spanish possessions in the Netherlands. Mother has pointed out that if I were to marry her, that claim would rightly come to France.

MOLIERE: We were discussing my banned plays, my liege.

LA GRANGE: If we go to war — and I must assume that Spain would challenge our rightful claim — if we go to war, the religious climate here at home must be without controversy. The world must see and understand the righteousness of our cause. Do you understand what I'm saying?

MOLIERE: No, my liege.

LA GRANGE: This is no time to draw divisions in our ranks!

MOLIERE: I merely satirize the vices—

LA GRANGE: Stop satirizing religion!

MOLIERE: I have never satirized religion.

LA GRANGE: "Don Juan" is banned from further performance.

MOLIERE: Then good day, my liege.

LA GRANGE: Wait a minute! Damn it, Jean, you're too stubborn for your own good. Maybe you should've followed your father and become the Crown's upholsterer.

MOLIERE: My father always thought so.

LA GRANGE: But then I wouldn't have reason to offer my personal patronage.

MOLIERE: Patronage, my liege?

LA GRANGE: You have another mouth to feed. I forget her name.

MOLIERE: Esprit-Madeleine.

LA GRANGE: I'm sure you can use the added income. Henceforth, you'll be known as the King's Players of the Palais Royal. You'll receive an annual allowance of six thousand livres.

MOLIERE: I don't understand...

LA GRANGE: I'm sure you'll be very busy finding a play to substitute for "Don Juan." Perhaps this will give you a little added incentive.

MOLIERE: I'm astounded and honored, my liege.

LA GRANGE: I expect you to wear the honor well, Jean. In fact, I demand it.





17/ at the theater




LA GRANGE: In sixteen sixty-seven, with the King

At war, Moliere again unfurls his wings.


(LIGHTS UP FULL on theater.)


LA GRANGE: This is madness, Jean. There's no other way to put it.

MOLIERE: I've made major revisions. It's not the same play at all.

LA GRANGE: It reads like the same play to me.

MOLIERE: I've even changed the title. I call it "The Impostor."

LA GRANGE: "The Impostor," "Tartuffe," what's the difference? The focus of the play remains virtually unchanged.

MOLIERE: The play is about an impostor! Doesn't the language mean anything? The man is a pious hypocrite.

LA GRANGE: Jean, with the country at war, and considering the King's clear position on "Tartuffe"—

MOLIERE: This play is "The Impostor." I-m-p-o-s-t-o-r!

LA GRANGE: Jean, that's a cheap attempt to—

MOLIERE: I don't want to talk about it. I'm expecting Armande, we have a private matter to discuss.

LA GRANGE: You're too damn stubborn for your own good. Ever since Madeleine left, you've been acting strangely even for you.

MOLIERE: Charles, you may go.

LA GRANGE: I don't like watching you dig your own grave.


(ARMANDE enters.)


MOLIERE: You may go, Charles.


(LA GRANGE leaves.)


ARMANDE: You wished to see me?

MOLIERE: Yes. I'm moving out. I'm taking my daughter with me.


(A beat.)


MOLIERE: You don't object?

ARMANDE: Getting away might be good for you.

MOLIERE: I thought you might insist on keeping the child.

ARMANDE: Neither of us has time for her.

MOLIERE: Lately all your spare time goes to Michel Baron.

ARMANDE: I don't know what to tell you, Jean.

MOLIERE: You might try the truth for a change.

ARMANDE: I don't love him.

MOLIERE: You prefer his bed to mine.

ARMANDE: That's not true — what is true is that you no longer sleep in our bed. You haven't since Madeliene left. I got tired of sleeping alone.

MOLIERE: I asked you to leave the stage, to spend time with Esprit.

ARMANDE: This is why you won't sleep with me? Because I became the actress you trained me to become? I thought it was because your real love is for my sister.

MOLIERE: That's ridiculous. You know how busy I am.

ARMANDE: I can only try and make sense out of your actions, Jean. You never talk to me. I never know what you want. One day you say I should leave the stage, the next you offer me a great part. I don't think I really know you at all.

MOLIERE: Everybody knows me — I reveal myself to the world!

ARMANDE: Only on stage.

MOLIERE: All it takes is the price of a ticket to know me.

ARMANDE: I'm talking about my husband, not the playwright and actor. We play roles on stage, not ourselves.

MOLIERE: I don't always distinguish the difference.

ARMANDE: I'm not the naive girl you married. I have a life apart from the roles you write for me.

MOLIERE: So I've noticed.

ARMANDE: I'm not going to fight with you, Jean. Do what you have to do. I wish you well, whatever it is. You've been a good teacher.

MOLIERE: Why, with a recommendation like that, I could open "a school for wives"!


(ARMANDE just looks at him.)


MOLIERE: "A school for wives . . ."?

ARMANDE: I get the reference, Jean — I just don't think it's funny.

MOLIERE: Then you're not as good a student as you think.

ARMANDE: I think it's sad. You use your wit to keep anyone from getting close to you. Except, perhaps, Madeleine. And that's why you've changed since she's gone.


(A beat. MOLIERE starts coughing.)


ARMANDE: Goodbye, Jean.


(She turns and leaves. MOLIERE continues coughing to BLACKOUT.)



18/ at Court




LA GRANDE: Sixteen sixty-nine: the war is won,

The King is home. Moliere, who swore he's done

With Paris, now comes to the city still

Again, to see the King and heed his will.


(He puts on the crown as MOLIERE enters and bows.)


MOLIERE: My liege — my belated congratulations on your victory.

LA GRANGE: The glory belongs to France.

MOLIERE: But of course.

LA GRANGE: You've taken up residence in Auteuil. And Armande remains in Paris.

MOLIERE: My doctor thinks Paris is bad for my health, my liege.

LA GRANGE: I see. I've been catching up on what's transpired during my absence, and I just learned that you presented a revised version of "Tartuffe" — called "The Impostor" now, I believe?

MOLIERE: It's a new play, my liege.

LA GRANGE: Which the Archbishop immediately banned — it played only a single night.

MOLIERE: Yes, my liege.

LA GRANGE: However, several in Court who saw it tell me that you changed the ending considerably. Something about an officer from the King appearing...?

MOLIERE: I can recite the passage if you wish, my liege.

LA GRANGE: Just give me the gist.

MOLIERE: Tartuffe, you recall—

LA GRANGE: You still call him Tartuffe?

MOLIERE: Yes, my liege. Though it's a different play, I wanted to suggest a certain continuity.


MOLIERE: The hypocrite has swindled Orgon out of all his property, even though Orgon believed in him. But he doesn't get away with it because an officer from the King appears in the nick of time, and everything is set right. So there is no doubt that Tartuffe is a hypocrite, my liege.

LA GRANGE: I never disliked the play but you left me no choice but to ban it. National unity was at stake, with certain war on the horizon. Now, of course, the situation is different.


(MOLIERE begins to cough violently.)


LA GRANGE: Have you seen a doctor about that cough?

MOLIERE: I'm fine, my liege.

LA GRANGE: I want you to perform the play publicly. And go ahead and call it "Tartuffe."

MOLIERE: My liege?

LA GRANGE: There are those in the Society who think they ran the country in my absence. It's time to put them in their place.


(LA GRANGE takes off the crown and speaks to the audience.)


LA GRANGE: Needless to say, "Tartuffe" was such a hit

That everyone in Paris rushed to it.



19/ at the salon


(LIGHTS UP on the caricature prop.)


ARMANDE: They say Paris has never seen such a popular theatrical event.

MADELEINE: Because the people have no will to resist temptation. We must be stronger than ever.

ARMANDE: But membership in the Society is falling.

MADELEINE: If we have fewer eyes, so may we see more clearly that we have a King who panders to popular taste. And an author who adds the sin of impiety to his sin of the flesh.

ARMANDE: They say his wife has taken a young lover.

MADELEINE: Being a cuckold is the least of his worries.





20/ at a convent




LA GRANGE: How fast the years pass in the heat of work:

But who could know that Madeleine would look

So deeply in her Bible and her soul

And find so much that she thinks must be told.

Sixteen seventy-two: and time, at last,

To meet her God unburdened by the past.


(MOLIERE and ARMANDE are visiting MADELEINE on her deathbed.)


MOLIERE: Don't try to talk.

MADELEINE (very weak): I must...

MOLIERE: Please, try to get some rest…

MADELEINE: Armande...?

ARMANDE: I'm right here.

MADELEINE: Armande...closer...


(ARMANDE moves her head close to MADELEINE's.)


MOLIERE: I think she's becoming delirious.

MADELEINE: Closer, Armande... I have something I must...

ARMANDE: Madeleine?


(MOLIERE pulls ARMANDE back away from MADELEINE.)


MOLIERE: Let the poor woman rest.


(Now MADELEINE will struggle to sit up.)


MOLIERE: I think you'd better get the priest.

MADELEINE: Armande...I must tell you...

ARMANDE: I hate to see her like this.

MOLIERE: It won't be long — get the priest!


(ARMANDE exits. MADELEINE struggles to sit up, finally succeeding.)


MADELEINE: must pray for your soul...Jean won't listen...but you, Armande, you must save your dear daughter...


(The strain has been too much for her. She drops back down onto the bed. ARMANDE enters with LA GRANGE as the priest. Understanding that the end is very near now, ARMANDE embraces MADELEINE.)


ARMANDE: My dear, sweet sister...

LA GRANGE: Absolve, Domine, animae omnium fidelium defunctorum ab omni vinculo delictorus. Et gratia tua illis succurente mereantur evadere judicium ultionis. Et lucis aeternae beatitudine perfrui.


(During the rites above, MOLIERE stands and moves away from the others, distraught. And BLACKOUT.)



21/ at the theater




LA GRANGE: Moliere mourned — and then picked up his pen

To ridicule doctors and medicine.

An afternoon in sixteen seventy-three:

In Paris, two players rehearse a scene.


(UP FULL to include MOLIERE. They are rehearsing a scene from "The Imaginary Invalid".)


MOLIERE: "Then tell me this: what does one do when one is sick?"

LA GRANGE: "Not a thing."

MOLIERE: "Nothing?"

LA GRANGE: "Nothing. Get some rest. Left to her own devices, Nature cures her own illnesses. It's we who can get in the way; indeed, most men die of the cure, not of the disease."

MOLIERE: "But certainly we can help Nature along?"

LA GRANGE: "We like to think so — just as in every age we believe what we wish could be true. Today doctors are quick to recite the litany of medicine, claiming many benefits from their methods, but all this is just rhetoric."

MOLIERE: "Well, listen to you! If a doctor were here, he'd certainly have something to say about that."

LA GRANGE: "Each man must deal with medicine as he prefers — but at his own risk. I'm not on a crusade, merely hoping to enlighten you. We really should go together to see one of Moliere's comedies on the subject."

MOLIERE: "From what I've heard about Moliere, he's an insolent fool! What does a playwright know about medicine? In fact, I think he's quite rude to put doctors on his stage. If I were a doctor, I'd get even with this Moliere fellow. The minute he got sick, I'd let him suffer! I'd make no prescription, do no bloodletting, administer no enema — I'd tell him, 'Croak, you old fool, if you think medicine is so useless!'"

LA GRANGE: "I doubt if Moliere would even call a doctor if he got sick. I've heard he detests them."

MOLIERE: "All the worse for him. Let him croak!"


(They are done. A beat.)



LA GRANGE: To be honest, I don't like it.

MOLIERE: Could you be more specific?

LA GRANGE: It sounds a little defensive. A little self-indulgent.

MOLIERE: Will the audience laugh?

LA GRANGE: Perhaps — but with you or at you?

MOLIERE: As long as they laugh, Charles, we have them where we want them.


(A beat.)


MOLIERE: That's all I have for now.

LA GRANGE: Jean, there's something I have to talk to you about.

MOLIERE: Very well. Wine?

LA GRANGE: Please.


(MOLIERE will pour them wine.)


MOLIERE: Let me guess what's on your mind. Armande is leaving the stage.

LA GRANGE: Why on earth do you say that?

MOLIERE: I've been waiting for it. Since I begged her to retire for years, I've been expecting her to ever since we separated. One of life's little jokes.

LA GRANGE: It does involve Armande, actually.

MOLIERE: Oh? You mean — you and Armande...?

LA GRANGE: You don't think—?

MOLIERE: You took up with Madeleine — now you want to take up with Armande, am I right?


MOLIERE: Wouldn't bother me, actually. To your health.


(But only MOLIERE drinks.)


LA GRANGE: I have a serious matter to discuss with you, Jean.

MOLIERE: I'm all ears.

LA GRANGE: I don't know how to begin.

MOLIERE: At the beginning, of course.

LA GRANGE: Very well. I want you to look at a certain sequence of events with me.

MOLIERE: A history lesson, Charles?

LA GRANGE: In a sense, yes. We form a company, we go into the provinces, you and Madeleine become lovers, Madeleine suddenly leaves the company, she returns with a young girl whom she says is her sister.

MOLIERE: And Charles ends up in Madeleine's bed.

LA GRANGE: Has it ever occurred to you that Armande is exactly the right age to have been born within a year of Madeleine's leaving the company?

MOLIERE: If it just now occurred to you, Charles, you're years behind everyone else! We've already had that little scandal, please don't revive it.

LA GRANGE: I've been thinking about Madeleine's sudden desire to save her soul. What would drive her to that?

MOLIERE: She had to do something. She was past her prime as a leading lady.

LA GRANGE: There's more to it than that. I've also been thinking about this sudden hatred of medicine you have, all because little Louis died so young, because you say Madeleine became delirious on her death bed—

MOLIERE: Doctors are fools! They know nothing, they do nothing! Weren't you paying attention to the scene we just did?

LA GRANGE: Yes. And I ask myself, why is the greatest playwright on the Continent, who can write about anything, making so much out of so little?

MOLIETE: So little!?

LA GRANGE: None of us likes getting an enema, Jean. But few use it as a reason to ban medical science.

MOLIERE: Their methods accomplish nothing! They make everything worse!

LA GRANGE: Can we discuss this calmly?

MOLIERE: I am calm!


(A beat.)


MOLIERE: I am calm.


(MOLIERE pours more wine.)


LA GRANGE: Have you heard of Pascal's Wager?

MOLIERE: You've taken up gambling?

LA GRANGE: It's an argument for the existence of God.

MOLIERE: I'm not an atheist, Charles.

LA GRANGE: Bear me out, Jean, please. Pascal argues this way: he asks us to imagine belief in God as a kind of wager. If one believes in God but God does not exist, what is lost? Nothing, really, except that one has held a false belief. And if God does exist, then, of course one has held a true belief. But look at the opposite: disbelief in God. Again, nothing is lost if God does not exist, one simply has a true belief. But if God exists, what happens to the disbeliever then? He burns in hell!


(A beat.)


LA GRANGE: Do you understand the argument?

MOLIERE: I'm not sure.

LA GRANGE: Pascal defends belief in God because it's opposite provides the only set of circumstances in which something truly unfortunate can happen.

MOLIERE: But I already told you that I believe in God. Everyone I know believes in God.

LA GRANGE: What about belief or disbelief that Armande is Madeleine's daughter?

MOLIERE: Charles, it's getting late and you're much more interested in philosophy than I am. I'm afraid that—

LA GRANGE: Don't run away from the logic of my argument. Listen to me: if, in fact, Armande is Madeleine's daughter, then you may well be the father. So it is possible that you are guilty of the sin of incest. To prepare yourself for the worst possibility, by the logic of Pascal's Wager, you should believe that this is so.

MOLIERE: Believe that I married my own daughter?

LA GRANGE: So you can pray for forgiveness. It's the safest alternative.


(MOLIERE starts laughing.)


LA GRANGE: You don't fool me by laughing, Jean. Laughter has always been your mask. I think you already have reached the same conclusion. I think this is behind your exaggerated attack on medicine. You don't like what you see in the mirror.

MOLIERE: This is madness.

LA GRANGE: In a way, yes, it certainly is. But you have to protect yourself against the worst thing that can happen, Jean.  I think the same logic applies to Armande.

MOLIERE: You've played this Pascal's Wager game with Armande?

LA GRANGE: No. But I shall. I must.

MOLIERE: You read too much philosophy! You're an actor, not a thinker.

LA GRANGE: I try to be both.

MOLIERE: You think too much, Charles.

LA GRANGE: And you don't think enough.


(ARMANDE enters.)


ARMANDE: If I'm interrupting something . . .

MOLIERE: Not at all — we just rehearsed a scene from "The Imaginary Invalid." Charles hates it.

LA GRANDE: I think it needs a lot of work.

ARMANDE: May I see it?


(MOLIERE hands ARMANDE the script and she starts reading. MOLIERE and LA GRANGE exchange glances. Finally:)


LA GRANGE: Well — I have work to do.

MOLIERE: I hope you change your mind, Charles. About the script.

LA GRANGE: After I see more, perhaps.


(He exits. ARMANDE looks up from her reading.)


ARMANDE: This sounds just like you, Jean. Everything you write is so personal.


(She continues reading to BLACKOUT.)




LA GRANGE: February seventeenth: one year

To the day since Madeleine, from fear

Or piety, tried to tie the knot.

On stage, Moliere's new play unfolds its plot.



22/ at the theater


(LIGHTS UP on a performance of "The Imaginary Invalid." MOLIERE plays the lead and is very sick. ARMANDE plays his maid disguised as a doctor. There is considerable slapstick here, despite MOLIERE's eventual coughing up of blood.)


ARMANDE: "Who's your doctor?"

MOLIERE: "Monsieur Purgon."

ARMANDE: "Never heard of him. What's his diagnosis?"

MOLIERE (losing his place): "I get pains in my chest."

ARMANDE (taking over): "And you eat chicken?"


ARMANDE: "Imbecile."

MOLIERE (finding his place): "Veal."

ARMANDE: "Ignoramus."

MOLIERE: "Sometimes only broth . . ."

ARMANDE: "Jackass."

MOLIERE: "Eggs."

ARMANDE: "Moron!"

MOLIERE: "A few prunes—"


(He starts coughing violently.)


ARMANDE (moving ahead again): "What in the world are you doing with that arm?"

MOLIERE: "My arm?"

ARMANDE: "It's completely useless. I'd have it cut off immediately."

MOLIERE: "My arm?"

ARMANDE: "It draws nourishment to itself and stunts the health of that entire side of the body."

MOLIERE: "But — I need my arm . . ."

ARMANDE: "I'd also get rid of that right eye if I were you . . ."


(MOLIERE is coughing violently again.)


ARMANDE: "It stunts the health of your left eye . . ."


(MOLIERE has lost control, but the audience is howling, thinking it all part of the play. ARMANDE looks for a way to get off stage.)


ARMANDE: "Well, I wish I could stay but I have an important meeting about a recent death. I have to recommend what could've been done to save the patient. Goodbye."


(She rushes off stage, MOLIERE coughs violently, BLACKOUT and QUICKLY UP ON:)



23/ backstage


(ARMANDE rushes to LA GRANGE.)


LA GRANGE: Is he still coughing up blood?

ARMANDE: Yes. I don't see how he can finish.

LA GRANGE: I'll go out and cancel the performance.

ARMANDE: Maybe I could cut straight to the finale. Did anyone find a doctor?

LA GRANGE: None will come.

ARMANDE: I'm going back on to finish up.

LA GRANGE: I'll have to lead you into it — let's go!


(LIGHT CHANGE again to:)



24/ on stage


(LA GRANGE takes over.)


LA GRANGE: "Novus Doctor Ignoramus

Omni regimentus

Sui powerfulble

Et sui monitarble

Et alles be riches"


Omna spenda the money

Enemarissimus comprehende

Enemarissimus omni bene

Et bleedet humanee

Et killet humanee"

MOLIERE (with difficulty): "Omni anni, omni anni

Novus Doctor omni bene

Mille poxas

Mille feveras

Pleurisias et dysenterias

Et sui rigor mortis"

CHORUS: "Bene, bene, bene

Omna spenda the money

Enemarissimus comprehende

Enemarissimus omni bene

Et bleedet humanee

Et killet humanee"


(LAUGHTER and APPLAUSE at play's end, as ARMANDE and LA GRANGE all but carry MOLIERE off stage, as LIGHTS CHANGE to:)



25/ backstage


(MOLIERE sinks to the floor, coughing.)


ARMANDE: We need a doctor. We need a priest.

LA GRANGE: Armande, listen to me, it's too late for Jean. It's not too late for you.

ARMANDE: We have to find— . . .

LA GRANGE: He wouldn't listen to me. He wouldn't bet Pascal's Wager.


(MOLIERE comes out of it a little.)


MOLIERE: "Bene, bene, bene

Omna spenda the money—"

ARMANDE: Don't try to speak, Jean. The doctor will be here soon.

LA GRANGE: They won't come, Armande. You know that. He made his choice. But it's not too late for you.

ARMANDE: What are you talking about?

LA GRANGE: What if this is providential retribution?

ARMANDE: I don't understand what you mean.

LA GRANGE: If he married his own daughter. And you your own father.

ARMANDE: Charles, this is no time to talk crazy.

LA GRANGE: Please go to a priest.

ARMANDE: Charles, my husband...Jean is dying.

MOLIERE: "Omna spenda the money

Enemarissimus comprehende

Enemarissimus omni bene"

ARMANDE: Sshh, Jean. Sshh.

LA GRANGE: Don't you understand what I'm saying?

ARMANDE (ignoring him): The doctor will be here soon, Jean. The doctor and the priest are on their way.

MOLIERE: "Et bleedet humanee"

LA GRANDE: Armande?


MOLIERE: "Et killet humanee"

ARMANDE: Soon, Jean, soon. Sshh.





26/ at Court




LA GRANGE: Moliere—

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, my friend: but where

To end? This man I loved, who would not heed

His friends no more than God: Moliere could feed

His own misery like no man I've known.

So when he died, my dear friend died alone.


(LIGHTS UP FULL on LA GRANGE as King and ARMANDE in mourning.)


LA GRANGE: He'd hardly endeared himself to the medical profession.

ARMANDE: A priest finally came but it was too late. I doubt if Jean would have talked to him anyway.

LA GRANGE: No, I suppose not. Not that he didn't believe. He was — stubborn.

ARMANDE: My liege, I don't know what to do with his body.

LA GRANGE: The Archbishop has made it quite clear that holy law is holy law, and he can't be buried in consecrated ground.

ARMANDE: Am I to bury him out of town, along some roadside?

LA GRANGE: I found a technicality we can take advantage of. Consecrated ground extends only four feet deep. We'll bury him five. But we must do it at night — at St. Joseph's.

ARMANDE: St. Joseph's — with the suicides and unbaptized children.

LA GRANGE: It's the best I can do.

ARMANDE: I'm grateful for your help, my liege.

LA GRANGE: Then you'll bury him tonight?

ARMANDE: Yes, my liege.

LA GRANGE: It would be inappropriate, under the circumstances, for me to attend...

ARMANDE: I understand, my liege.





27/ at Moliere's casket


(LIGHTS UP on LA GRANDE, watching over MOLIERE'S casket.)


LA GRANDE: Who can look

Into the heart of man and find the hook

On which to hang a life? —Naked, stark:

A piece of meat called man. But the mark

Of man is not so easily drawn.


(ARMANDE enters in mourning.)


ARMANDE: A priest will see me right after he's buried.


ARMANDE: Do you think it could be true?

LA GRANGE: The genius of Pascal's Wager is that it covers all bets.

ARMANDE: He was tormented by the possibility, wasn't he?

LA GRANGE: Perhaps. He was a hard man to know very well. I loved him but I never really understood him.

ARMANDE: "All it takes is a ticket to my play to know me."

LA GRANGE: "Plays don't write themselves."


(A beat.)


ARMANDE: I'm going to revive "Tartuffe."

LA GRANGE: Really?

ARMANDE: You under-studied Orgon. If we get right to work, we could have it up in a week. Jean wouldn't want the theater to go dark.

LA GRANGE: No, he wouldn't. "Busy, busy."

ARMANDE: Then you'll do it?

LA GRANGE: I have no choice — Pascal's Wager, you know? I'll let you have a moment alone . . .

ARMANDE: No — I've had quite enough time alone.


(They exit.)


(LIGHTS INTENSIFY on the casket.)


(Then LIGHTS BEGIN SLOW FADE as we hear:)



In darkness, then: what clarity we win

Will rise between the darkness we see now

And the certain night that gets us anyhow.

End in darkness, then . . .




(LIGHTS UP on MOLIERE, as he rises up out of the casket.)



28/ epilogue


MOLIERE: Shed no tears! You rot in one grave as another;

If you don't believe that, don't ever have a mother.

The luck that gets us all got me—

Though I'm better off than most, you must agree.

Consider this: though I am dust, you're glad to pay

Right through the nose to see my plays!

Without me, Montfleury's just a name;

Because of me, he has a kind of fame.

The Archbishop of Paris is no concern of yours

Except for me — I give him the notoriety he deserves.

In other words, why shed a tear for me?

My plays live on until eternity!

Oh, I know — in your age the time is getting short,

Everywhere there's war, famine, a great environmental wart.

Yet you insist your own age is unique:

"Never has civilization reached such a peak!"

But I question this wisdom found on TV and in "Forbes,"

Though maybe that's presumptuous, coming from a corpse.

Still, I don't see our times as different, I confess,

Since in your age, as in mine, it's all a mess.

Though you've reached the moon, discovered strange galactic gasses,

Three hundred years later, the world's still full of asses!


(LA GRANGE enters.)


LA GRANGE: So we hope we've moved you and given you a little fun; In truth,—

MOLIERE & LA GRANGE: — there's not a damn thing new beneath the sun.