Play Reading in English – The Imaginary Invalid (Le Malade Imaginaire) by Molière


HK English Speaking Union
  • Mon 15-06-2015 7:15 PM - 2 h

Colette Artbar

Free admission


The Imaginary Invalid (Le malade imaginaire) is a three act comedy-ballet by the French playwright Molière with dance sequences and musical interludes by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. It premiered on 10 February 1673 in Paris and was originally choreographed by Pierre Beauchamp. The play is also known as "The Hypochondriac", an alternative translation of the French title. Molière had fallen out with the powerful court composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, with whom he had pioneered the comédie-ballet form a decade earlier, and had opted for the collaboration with Charpentier. "Le malade imaginaire" would turn out to be Molière's last work. He collapsed during his fourth performance as Argan on 17 February and died soon after.


Argan is the worst sort of hypochondriac. Each day sees him trying some sort of new drug, and as a result the doctor and the apothecary can exist almost exclusively on their profits from Argan. Toinette, his maidservant, is certain that there is absolutely nothing the matter with her master, but she tries in vain to persuade him not to worry about his health. He refuses to listen to her, determined to be an invalid. He is encouraged in his supposed illness by his doctor and by Béline, his second wife, who uses his weakness to further her schemes to get his money. Because the law says that a second wife cannot inherit, it is essential to Béline that Argan make a settlement on her while he still lives. To that end also she tries to get him to place his two daughters in a convent, so that they cannot interfere or claim money for themselves. The plot is a typical Molière intrigue involving scheming and domestic conflict and, especially, ridiculous exaggerated behaviour based on the bourgeois social types that Molière loved to satirise. The play is being performed this year in HK in Cantonese for Le French May, so this is a good opportunity to read it and familiarise ourselves with Molière's timeless comedy.




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