A history and summary of the play by Molière

This document was originally published in The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization, vol. 7. ed. Alfred Bates. London: Historical Publishing Company, 1906. pp. 201-202.

The Doctor in Spite of Himself
An original painting by A. Morlon

The Misanthrope did not need the aid of a good afterpiece, but when the great comedy was played for the twelfth time, The Doctor in Spite of Himself was added to the bill. In this piece, which is erroneously supposed to have gained a hearing for its predecessor, Molière utilized fragments of his Fagotier and Médicin Volant, thus provoking a general laugh at the expense of the medical fraternity. Martine, the wife of an intelligent woodcutter, Sganarelle--personated by Molière--meets two men in search of a doctor for Lucinde, who, in order to get rid of a lover favored by her father, the stupid Geronte, but not of herself, has feigned dumbness.

In revenge for a little corporal chastisement to which she has been subjected by her husband, Martine at once recommends him to their notice. He is, she says, a skilful doctor, but will not reveal the nature of his calling unless cudgelled into doing so. Her hint is acted upon; and Sganarelle, informed of the reason of the assault made upon him, avows himself what they suppose him to be. He is then carried off in triumph to Geronte's house. It must be admitted that he plays his part very well. He takes kindly to the conical hat and long gown peculiar to the faculty. He rakes up a large variety of medical phrases. He adorns his discourse with a sufficient quantity of incoherent Latin to impress those about him with a conviction that he is a very learned man. Nay, it is a question with him whether he shall not remain a doctor all his life. "It is the best trade out," he tells us; "payment comes whether we kill or cure. No responsibility rests upon us; we may hack about as we please the stuff given us to work upon. If a patient dies, it is his own fault, never ours. Lastly, dead men, of all people the most discreet, tell no tales of the doctor who has sent them to their long account." His self-possession, too, seldom deserts him. Geronte having gently reminded him that, contrary to what he had said, the heart was on the left and the liver on the right side of the body, "Yes," is the reply, "that was formerly so; but nous avons changé tout cela"--this being the original of that popular phrase--"and we now adopt an entirely new method."



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