The Magnificent Lovers by Moliere - HTML preview

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The Magnificent Lovers



First Interlude ................................................................................................................... 4


ACT I.................................................................................................................................. 7


ACT II .............................................................................................................................. 16


ACT III ............................................................................................................................ 23


ACT IV............................................................................................................................. 28 ACT V .............................................................................................................................. 32


The subject of this play was given by Louis XIV. It was acted before him at SaintGermain-en-Laye, on February 4, 1670, but was never represented in Paris, and was only printed after Molière's death. It is one of the weakest plays of Molière, upon whom unfortunately now rested the whole responsibility of the court entertainments. His attack upon astrology is the most interesting part.

Molière acted the part of Clitidas.



The King, who will have nothing but what is magnificent in all he undertakes, wished to give his court an entertainment which should comprise all that the stage can furnish. To facilitate the execution of so vast an idea, and to link together so many different things, his Majesty chose for the subject two rival princes, who, in the lovely vale of Tempe, where the Pythian Games were to be celebrated, vie with each other in fêting a young princess and her mother with all imaginable gallantries.



IPHICRATES & TIMOCLES, princes in love with ERIPHYLE.


SOSTRATUS, a general, also in love with ERIPHYLE.


ANAXARCHUS, an astrologer.


CLEON, his son.


CHOROEBUS, in the suit of ARISTIONE.


CLITIDAS, a court jester, one of the attendants of ERIPHYLE.


ARISTIONE, a princess, mother to ERIPHYLE.


ERIPHYLE, a princess, daughter to ARISTIONE.


CLEONICE, confidante to ERIPHYLE. A sham VENUS, acting in concert with ANAXARCHUS.

First Interlude

The scene opens with the pleasant sound of a great many instruments, and represents a vast sea, bordered on each side by four large rocks. On the summit of each is a river god, leaning on the insignia usual to those deities. At the foot of these rocks are twelve Tritons on each side, and in the middle of the sea four Cupids on dolphins; behind them the god AEOLUS floating on a small cloud above the waves. AEOLUS commands the winds to withdraw; and whilst four Cupids, twelve Tritons, and eight river gods answer him, the sea becomes calm, and an island rises from the waves. Eight fishermen come out of the sea with mother-of-pearl and branches of coral in their hands, and after a charming dance seat themselves each on a rock above one of the river gods. The music announces the advent of NEPTUNE, and while this god is dancing with his suite, the fishermen, Tritons, and river gods accompany his steps with various movements and the clattering of the pearl shells. The spectacle is a magnificent compliment paid by one of the princes to the princesses during their maritime excursion.

Ye winds that cloud the fairest skies, Retire within your darkest caves, And leave the realm of waves To Zephyr, Love, and sighs.

What lovely eyes these moist abodes have pierced? Ye mighty Tritons, come; ye Nereids, hide.

Then rise we all these deities fair to meet; With softest strains and homage let us greet Their beauty rare.



How dazzling are these ladies' charms!




What heart but seeing them must yield?

The fairest of th' Immortals--arms So keen hath none to wield.

Then rise we all these deities fair to meet; With softest strains and homage let us greet Their beauty rare.

What would this noble train that meets our view? 'Tis Neptune! He and all his mighty crew! He comes to honour, with his presence fair, These lovely scenes, and charm the silent air.

Then strike again,
And raise your strain,
And let your homes around With joyous songs resound!

I rank among the gods of greatest might; 'Tis Jove himself hath placed me on this height! Alone, as king, I sway the azure wave;
In all this world there's none my power to brave.

There are no lands on earth my might that know But trembling dread that o'er their meads I flow; No states, o'er which the boisterous waves I tread In one short moment's space I cannot spread.

There's nought the raging billows' force can stay, No triple dike, but e'en it easily
My waves can crush,
When rolls along their mass with wildest rush.

And yet these billows fierce I force to yield, Beneath the wisdom of the power I wield; And everywhere I let the sailors bold Where'er they list their trading courses hold.

Yet rocks sometimes are found within my states, Where ships do perish, so doomed by fates; Yet 'gainst my power none murmurs aye, For Virtue knows no wreck where'er I sway.

Within this realm are many treasures bright;
All mortals crowd its pleasant shores to view. And would you climb of fame the dazzling height, Then seek nought else, but Neptune's countenance sue.

Then trust the god of this vast billowy realm, And shielded from all storms, you'll guide the helm; The waves would fain inconstant often be, But ever constant Neptune you will see.

Launch then with dauntless zeal, and plough the deep; Thus shall you Neptune's kindly favour reap.




CLI. (aside). He is buried in thought.


SOS. (believing himself alone). No, Sostratus, I do not see where you can look for help, and your troubles are of a kind to leave you no hope.


CLI. (aside). He is talking to himself.


SOS. (believing himself alone). Alas!


CLI. These sighs must mean something, and my surmise will prove correct.

SOS . (believing himself alone). Upon what fancies can you build any hope? And what else can you expect but the protracted length of a miserable existence, and sorrow to end only with life itself.

CLI. (aside). His head is more perplexed than mine.


SOS. (believing himself alone). My heart! my heart! to what have you brought me?


CLI. Your servant, my Lord Sostratus!


SOS. Where are you going, Clitidas?

CLI . Rather tell me what you are doing here? And what secret melancholy, what gloomy sorrow, can keep you in these woods when all are gone in crowds to the magnificent festival which the Prince Iphicrates has just given upon the sea to the princesses. There they are treated to wonderful music and dancing, and even the rocks and the waves deck themselves with divinities to do homage to their beauty.

SOS . I can fancy all this magnificence, and as there are generally so many people to cause confusion at these festivals, I did not care to increase the number of unwelcome guests.

CLI . You know that your presence never spoils anything, and that you are never in the way wherever you go. Your face is welcome everywhere, and is not one of those illfavoured countenances which are never well received by sovereigns. You are equally in favour with both princesses, and the mother and the daughter show plainly enough the regard they have for you; so that you need not fear to be accounted troublesome. In short, it was not this fear that kept you away.

SOS . I acknowledge that I have no inclination for such things. CLI. Oh indeed! Yet, although we may not care to see things, we like to go where we find everybody else; and whatever you may say, people do not, during a festival, stop all alone among the trees to dream moodily as you do, unless they have something to disturb their minds.

SOS. Why? What do you think could disturb my mind?


CLI. Well, I can't say; but there is a strong scent of love about here, and I am sure it does not come from me, and it must come from you.


SOS. How absurd you are, Clitidas!


CLI. Not so absurd as you would make out. You are in love; I have a delicate nose, and I smelt it directly.


SOS. What can possibly make you think so?


CLI. What? I daresay you would be very much surprised if I were to tell you besides with whom you are in love.



CLI . Yes; I wager that I will guess presently whom you love. I have some secrets, as well as our astrologer with whom the Princess Aristione is so infatuated; and if his science makes him read in the stars the fate of men, I have the science of reading in the eyes of people the names of those they love. Hold up your head a little, and open your eyes wide. E, by itself, E; r, i, ri, Eri; p, h, y, phy, Eriphy; l, e, le, Eriphyle. You are in love with the Princess Eriphyle.

SOS. Ah! Clitidas, I cannot conceal my trouble from you, and you crush me with this blow.


CLI. You see how clever I am!

SOS . Alas! if anything has revealed to you the secret of my heart, I beseech you to tell it to no one; and, above all things, to keep it secret from the fair princess whose name you have just mentioned.

CLI . But, to speak seriously, if for awhile I have read in your actions the love you wish to keep secret, do you think that the Princess Eriphyle has been blind enough not to see it? Believe me, ladies are always very quick to discover the love they inspire, and the language of the eyes and of sighs is understood by those to whom it is addressed sooner than by anybody else.
SOS. Leave her, Clitidas, leave her to read, if she can, in my sighs and looks the love with which her beauty has inspired me; but let us be careful not to let her find it out in any other way.

CLI . And what is it you dread? Is it possible that this same Sostratus, who feared neither Brennus nor all the Gauls, and whose arm has been so gloriously successful in ridding us of that swarm of barbarians which ravaged Greece; is it possible, I say, that a man so dauntless in war should be so fearful as to tremble at the very mention of his being in love?

SOS. Ah! Clitidas, I do not tremble without a cause; and all the Gauls in the world would seem to me less to be feared than those two beautiful eyes full of charms.

CLI . I am not of the same opinion, and I know, as far as I am concerned, that one single Gaul, sword in hand, would frighten me much more than fifty of the most beautiful eyes in the world put together. But, tell me, what do you intend to do?

SOS. To die without telling my love.

CLI . A fine prospect! Nonsense, you are joking; you know that a little boldness always succeeds with lovers; it is only the bashful and timid who are losers; and were I to fall in love with a goddess, I would tell her of my passion at once.

SOS. Alas! too many things condemn my love to an eternal silence.


CLI. But what?

SOS . The lowness of my birth, by which it pleased heaven to humble the ambition of my love; the princess's rank, which puts between her and my desires such an impassable barrier. The rivalry of two princes who can back the offer of their heart by the highest titles; two princes who offer the most magnificent entertainments by turn to her whose heart they strive to win, and between whom it is expected every moment that she will make a choice. Besides all this, Clitidas, there is the inviolable respect to which she subjugates the violence of my love.

CLI. Respect is not always as welcome as love; and if I am not greatly mistaken, the young princess knows of your affection, and is not insensible to it.


SOS. Ah! pray do not, out of pity, flatter the heart of a miserable lover.

CLI . I do not say it without good reasons. She is a long time postponing the choice of a husband, and I must try and discover a little more about all this. You know that I enjoy a kind of favour with her, that I have free access to her, and that, by dint of trying all kinds of ways, I have gained the privilege of saying a word now and then, and of speaking at random on any subject. Sometimes I do not succeed as I should like, but at others I succeed very well. Leave it to me, then; I am your friend, I love men of merit, and I will choose my time to speak to the princess of....

SOS . Oh! for heaven's sake, however much you may pity my misfortune, Clitidas, he careful not to tell her anything of my love. I had rather die than to be accused by her of the least temerity, and this deep respect in which her divine charms....

CLI. Hush! they are all Coming.



ARI . (to IPHICRATES). Prince, I cannot say too much, there is no spectacle in the world which can vie in magnificence with this one you have just given us. This entertainment had wonderful attractions, which will make it surpass all that can ever be seen. We have witnessed something so noble, so grand and glorious that heaven itself could do no more; and I feel sure there is nothing in the world that could be compared to it.

TIM. This is a display that cannot he expected in all entertainments, and I greatly fear, Madam, for the simplicity of the little festival which I am preparing to give you in the wood of Diana.

ARI. I feel sure that we shall see nothing there but what is delightful; and we must acknowledge that the country ought to appear very beautiful to us, and that we have no time left for dulness in this charming place, which all poets have celebrated under the name of Tempe. For, not to mention the pleasures of hunting, which we can enjoy at any hour, and the solemnity of the Pythian Games which are about to be celebrated, you both take care to supply us with pleasures that would charm away the sorrows of the most melancholy. How is it, Sostratus, that we did not meet you in our walks?

SOS. A slight indisposition, Madam, prevented me from going there.


IPH. Sostratus is one of those men who think it unbecoming to be curious like others, and who esteem it better to affect not to go where everybody is anxious to be.

SOS . My Lord, affectation has little share in anything I do, and, without paying you a compliment, there were things to be seen in this festival which would have attracted me if some other motive had not hindered me.

ARI. And has Clitidas seen it all?


CLI. Yes, Madam, but from the shore.

ARI . And why from the shore? CLI. Well, Madam, I feared one of those accidents which generally happen in such large crowds. Last night I dreamt of dead fish and broken eggs, and I have learnt from Anaxarchus that broken eggs and dead fish forebode ill luck.

ANA. I observe one thing, that Clitidas would have nothing to say if he did not speak of me.


CLI. It is because there are so many things that can be said of you that one can never say too much.


ANA. You might choose some other subject of conversation, particularly since I have asked you to do so.


CLI. How can I? Do you not say that destiny is stronger than everything? And if it is written in the stars that I shall speak of you, how can I resist my fate?

ANA . With all the respect due to you, Madam, allow me to say that there is one thing in your court which it is sad to find there. It is that everybody takes the liberty of talking, and that the most honourable man is exposed to the scoffing of the first buffoon he meets.

CLI. I thank you for the honour you do me.


ARI. (to ANAXARCHUS). Why be put out by what he says?

CLI. With all due respect to you, Madam, there is one thing which amazes me in astrology; it is that people who know the secrets of the gods, and who have such knowledge as to place themselves above all other men, should have need of paying court and of asking for anything.

ANA. This is a paltry joke, and you should earn your money by giving your mistress wittier and better ones.

CLI . Upon my word, I give what I have. You speak most comfortably about it; the trade of a buffoon is not like that of an astrologer. To tell lies well and to joke well are things altogether different, and it is far easier to deceive people than to make them laugh.

ARI. Ha! what is the meaning of that?

CLI . (speaking to himself). Peace, fool that you are! Do you not know that astrology is an affair of state, and that you must not play upon that string? I have often told you that you are getting a great deal too bold, and that you take certain liberties which will bring trouble upon you. You will see that some day you will be kicked out like a knave. Hold your peace if you be wise.

ARI. Where is my daughter? TIM. She is gone away, Madam. I offered her my arm, which she refused to accept.

ARI . Princes, since in your love for Eriphyle you have consented to submit to the laws I had imposed upon you, since it has been possible for me to obtain that you should be rivals without being enemies, and that, with a full submission to my daughter's feelings, you are waiting for her choice, speak to me openly and tell me what progress you each think you have made on her heart.

TIM . Madam, I do not mean to flatter myself; but I have done all that I possibly could to touch the heart of the Princess Eriphyle. I have neglected none of the tender means that a lover should adopt. I have offered her the humble homage of my great love, I have been assiduous near her, I have attended on her daily. I have had my love sung by the most touching voices, and expressed in verse by the most skilful pens. I have complained in passionate terms of my sufferings. My eyes, as well as my words, have told her of my despair and my love. I have laid my love at her feet; I have even had recourse to tears, but all in vain, and I have failed to see that in her soul she was in any way touched by my love.

ARI. And you, Prince?

IPH . For my part, Madam, knowing her indifference and the little value she sets upon the homage that is paid to her, I did not mean to waste either sighs or tears upon her. I know that she is entirely submissive to your wishes, and that it is from you alone that she will accept a husband; therefore it is to you alone that I can address my wishes for her hand, to you rather than to her that I offer my homage and my attentions. Would to heaven, Madam, that you could bring yourself to take her place, enjoy the conquests which you make for her, and receive for yourself the affections which you refer to her!

ARI . Prince, the compliment comes from a cunning lover. You have heard that the mothers must be flattered in order to obtain the daughters from them; but here however, this will be useless, for I have determined to, leave my daughter entirely free in her choice, and in no way to thwart her inclination.

IPH . However free you leave her in her choice, what I tell you is no flattery, Madam. I court the Princess Eriphyle only because she is your daughter, and I think her charming in that which she inherits from you; and it is you whom I adore in her.

ARI. That is very pretty.


IPH. Yes, Madam, all the earth beholds in you charms and attractions....

ARI . Ah! Prince, pray, let us leave those charms and attractions; you know that these are words I banish from the compliments that are paid to me. I can endure to be praised for my sincerity, to be called a good princess, for it is true that I have a kind word for everybody, love for my friends and esteem for merit and virtue; yes, I can enjoy all that; but as for your charms and attractions, I had rather have nothing to do with them, and whatever truth there may be in them, one should make a scruple of wishing to be praised when one is mother to a daughter like mine.

IPH . Ah! Madam. It is you only who will remind everyone that you are a mother; everybody's feelings are against it, and it depends entirely on yourself to pass for the sister of the Princess Eriphyle.

ARI . Believe me, Prince, I have no relish for all this idle nonsense, so welcome to too many women, I wish to be a mother, because I am one, and it would be in vain to wish to be otherwise. This title has nothing that wounds me, since I received it by my own consent. It is a weakness in our sex, from which, thank heaven! I am free, and I do not trouble myself about those grand discussions concerning ages about which there is so much folly. Let us resume what we were saying. Is it possible that until now you have been unable to discover my daughter's feelings?

IPH. They are a secret to me.


TIM. And to me an impenetrable mystery.

ARI . She may be prevented by modesty from explaining herself either to you or to me. Let us make use of another to try and discover what she feels. Sostratus, take this message upon yourself for me, and oblige these princes by skilfully trying to discover towards which of the two my daughter's feeling are inclined.

SOS. Madam, you have a great many people in your court who are better qualified than I for such a delicate mission, and I feel little fit to do what you ask of me.


ARI. Your merit, Sostratus, is not confined to the business of war only. You have brain, tact, and skill, and my daughter greatly esteems you.


SOS. Another better than I, Madam....


ARI. No, no, in vain you excuse yourself.

SOS . Since it is your wish, Madam, I must obey; but I assure you that there is not one person in the whole of your court who would be less qualified for such a commission than myself.

ARI . You are too modest, and you will always acquit yourself well in whatever is entrusted to you. Sound my daughter gently on her feelings, and remind her that she must be early at the wood of Diana.


IPH . (to SOSTRATUS). I assure you that I rejoice to see you held in such esteem by the princess.
TIM. (to SOSTRATUS). I assure you that I am delighted that the choice should have fallen on you.

IPH. You have it now in your power to serve your friends.


TIM. You will be able to do good service to those you esteem.


IPH. I do not commend my interests to you.


TIM. I do not ask you to speak for me.


SOS. My Lords, all this is useless. I should be wrong to exceed my orders, and you will excuse me if I speak for neither.


IPH. I leave it to you to do as you please.


TIM. Do exactly as you think best.




IPH. (aside to CLITIDAS). Well, Clitidas, remember that he is one of my friends. I hope he will still forward my interests with the princess against those of my rival.


CLI. (aside to IPHICRATES). You may trust me. There is a great difference between you and him. He is a fine prince, indeed, to dispute it with you.


IPH. (aside to CLITIDAS). I will not forget such a service.




TIM. My rival pays his court to Clitidas; but Clitidas knows that he has promised to help me in my love against him.


CLI. Certainly. How very absurd to think of carrying the day against you. A fine gentleman, indeed, to be compared with you!


TIM. There is nothing I could not do for Clitidas.


CLI. (alone). Plenty of fine words on all sides! But here is the princess; we will take our opportunity to speak to her.





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