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Frontispiece 1682Frontispiece illustration, 1982 edition

The Bourgeois Gentleman

Publication details ▽ Publication details △

Original title
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme

Also called
The Would-be Gentleman, The Middle-Class Gentleman, The Tradesman, The Shopkeeper Turned Gentleman

First performed
1670

First book publication
1673

Literary form
Play

Genres
Comedy-ballet, satire

Writing language
French

Author's country
France

Length
Five acts, approx. 26,000 words

The Bourgeois Gentleman

THE PLAY | THE TEXT

Notable lines and an excerpt

Notable lines

This way, come in here and rest while you're waiting for him.

First line

By my faith! For more than forty years I have been speaking prose without knowing anything about it, and I am much obliged to you for having taught me that.

Ah! What a fine thing it is to know something!

Pure praises do not provide a comfortable existence; it is necessary to add something solid, and the best way to praise is to praise with cash-in-hand.

All the troubles, all the wars one sees in the world happen only because people have not learned music.

Madame, it is a very great honor to me to be fortunate enough to be so happy as to have the joy that you should have had the goodness to accord me the graciousness of doing me the honor of honoring me with the favor of your presence; and, if I also had the merit to merit a merit such as yours, and if Heaven...envious of my luck...should have accorded me...the advantage of seeing me worthy...of the...

Him, a tradesman! It's pure slander, he never was one. All that he did was to be very obliging, very ready to help; and, since he was a connoisseur in cloth, he went all over to choose them, had them brought to his house, and gave them to his friends for money.

If one can find a greater fool, I'll go to Rome to tell it.

Last line

The Bourgeois Gentleman, Act Two, Scene IV

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: (Straightening the collar that indicates he is a Philosopher) Now to our lesson.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Oh! Sir, I am distressed by the blows they gave you.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: It's nothing. A philosopher knows how to take these things and I'll compose a satire against them, in the style of Juvenal, which will fix them nicely. Let it be. What would you like to learn?

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Everything I can, for I have every desire in the world to be educated, and I'm furious that my father and mother did not make me study all the sciences when I was young.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: This is a reasonable sentiment. Nam sine doctrina vita est quasi mortis imago. You understand that, and you doubtless know Latin?

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Yes, but act as if I did not know it. Tell me what it says.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: It says that without science life is almost an image of death.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: That Latin is right.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Don't you know some principles, some basics of the sciences?

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Oh yes! I can read and write.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Where would it please you for us to begin? Would you like me to teach you logic?

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: What is this logic?

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: It is that which teaches the three operations of the mind.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: What are these three operations of the mind?

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: The first, the second, and the third. The first is to conceive well by means of the universals; the second is to judge well by means of the categories; and the third is to draw well a conclusion by means of figures. Barbara, Celarent, Darii, Ferio, Baralipton, etc.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Those words are too ugly. This logic doesn't suit me at all. Let's learn something else that's prettier.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Would you like to learn morality?

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Morality?

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Yes.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: What does it say, this morality?

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: It treats of happiness, teaches men to moderate their passions, and...

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: No, let's leave that. I'm as choleric as all the devils and there's no morality that sticks, I want to be as full of anger as I want whenever I like.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Would you like to learn physics?

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: What's it about, this physics?

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Physics explains the principles of natural things and the properties of the material world; it discourses on the nature of the elements, of metals, minerals, of stones, of plants and animals, and teaches the causes of all the meteors, the rainbow, the will o' the wisps, the comets, lightning, thunder, thunderbolts, rain, snow, hail, winds, and whirlwinds.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: There's too much commotion in it, too much confusion.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Then what do you want me to teach you?

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Teach me how to spell.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Very gladly.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Afterwards, you may teach me the almanack, to know when there is a moon and when not.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: So be it. Following your thought and treating this matter as a philosopher, it is necessary to begin according to the order of things, by an exact knowledge of the nature of letters and the different ways of pronouncing them all. And thereupon I must tell you letters are divided into vowels, called vowels because they express the voice; and into consonants because they sound with the vowels and only mark the diverse articulations of the voice. There are five vowels or voices: A, E, I, O, U.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: I understand all that.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: The vowel A is formed by opening the mouth widely : A. Its vowels are to be given the sounds used in vocalizing: Ah-aye-ee-o-ou.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: A, A. Yes.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: The vowel E is formed by approaching the lower jaw to the upper: A, E.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: A, E; A, E. By my faith, yes. Ah! How fine!

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: And the vowel I, by bringing the jaws still nearer each other and stretching the two corners of the mouth towards the ears: A, E, I.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: A, E, I. I. I. I. That's true. Long live science!

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: The vowel O is formed by opening the jaws and drawing together the two corners of the lips, upper and lower: O.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: O, O. There's nothing truer. A, E, I, O,I, O... That's admirable! I, O, I, O.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: The opening of the mouth happens to make a little circle which represents an O.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: O, O, O. You are right! O. Ah! What a fine thing it is to know something!

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: The vowel U is formed by bringing the teeth nearly together without completely joining them, and thrusting the two lips outward, also bringing them nearly together without completely joining them: U.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: U, U. There's nothing truer. U.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Your two lips thrust out as if you were making a face, whence it results that if you want to make a face at someone and mock him, you have only to say to him "U."

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: U, U. That's true. Ah! Why didn't I study sooner in order to know all that!

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Tomorrow we shall look at the other letters, which are the consonants.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Are there things as curious about them as about these?

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Without a doubt. The consonant D, for example, is pronounced by clapping the tongue above the upper teeth: D.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: D, D, Yes. Ah! What fine things! Fine things!

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: The F, by pressing the upper teeth against the lower lip: F.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: F, F. That's the truth. Ah! My father and my mother, how I wish you ill!

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: And the R, by carrying the tip of the tongue to the top of the palate, so that being grazed by the air that comes out with force, it yields to it and comes back always to the same place, making a kind of trill: R. AR.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: R, R, AR. R, R, R, R, R, RA. That's true. Ah! What a clever man you are! And how I have lost time! R, R, R, AR.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: I'll explain to you all these strange things to their very depths.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Please do. But now, I must confide in you. I'm in love with a lady of great quality, and I wish that you would help me write something to her in a little note that I will let fall at her feet.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Very well.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: That will be gallant, yes?

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Without doubt. Is it verse that you wish to write her?

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: No, no. No verse.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Do you want only prose?

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: No, I don't want either prose or verse.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: It must be one or the other.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Why?

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Because, sir, there is no other way to express oneself than with prose or verse.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: There is nothing but prose or verse?

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: No, sir, everything that is not prose is verse, and everything that is not verse is prose.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: And when one speaks, what is that then?

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Prose.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: What! When I say, "Nicole, bring me my slippers, and give me my nightcap," that's prose?

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Yes, Sir.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: By my faith! For more than forty years I have been speaking prose without knowing anything about it, and I am much obliged to you for having taught me that. I would like then to put into a note to her: "Beautiful marchioness, your lovely eyes make me die of love," but I want that put in a gallant manner and be nicely turned.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Put it that the fires of her eyes reduce your heart to cinders; that you suffer night and day for her the torments of a...

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: No, no, no. I want none of that; I only want you to say "Beautiful marchioness, your lovely eyes make me die of love."

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: The thing requires a little lengthening.

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: No, I tell you, I want only those words in the note, but turned stylishly, well arranged, as is necessary. Please tell me, just to see, the diverse ways they could be put.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: One could put them first of all as you said them: "Beautiful marchioness, your lovely eyes make me die of love." Or else: "Of love to die make me, beautiful marchioness, your beautiful eyes." Or else: "Your lovely eyes, of love make me, beautiful marchioness, die." Or else: "Die, your lovely eyes, beautiful marchioness, of love make me." Or else: "Me make your lovely eyes die, beautiful marchioness, of love."

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: But, of all those ways, which is the best?

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: The way you said it: "Beautiful marchioness, your lovely eyes make me die of love." MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: I never studied, and yet I made the whole thing up at the first try. I thank you with all my heart, and I ask you to come tomorrow early.

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: I shall not fail to do so. (He leaves).

— based on Project Gutenberg text, trans. Philip Dwight Jones

THE PLAY | THE TEXT