Henriette’s liberated, feminist mother wants her to marry the man she has picked out for her: a posturing, unctuous fop masquerading as a poet! Her father agrees with her that she should marry her true love. The problem? Dad caves in to Mom’s wishes at every turn! Will Dad assert his right as the head of the house? Must Henriette flee to a convent to avoid her suitor’s insipid poetry? It’s the war of the sexes, 17th-century style!
Armande abhors her younger sister’s eagerness to be married, wishing that Henriette might explore the pleasures of the mind, much as she and their liberated mother do, hosting learned salons with great authors. The severity of Armande’s criticism is heightened by the fact that Henriette is now dating Clitandre, the beau that Armande once rejected. Armande insists that Henriette cannot make plans for a marriage without her parents’ input, and Clitandre gladly agrees to petition Henriette’s father for her hand. Henriette suggests that the more crucial permission may come from her mother, Philaminte, who has more particular tastes. Clitandre shudders at the need to flatter Philaminte’s pretentious poses, particularly the favored artist of her salon, the smarmy, self-absorbed poet, Trissotin. He begins by trying to get Henriette’s aunt, Belise, on his side, but the dizzy Belise seems to think each approach for support is Clitandre’s attempt at love-making.
Clitandre has better luck getting Chrysale’s brother, Ariste, on his side, and Ariste immediately alerts Chrysale to the virtues of this new fiancée for Henriette (despite Belise’ interrupting insistence that Clitandre’s interest in “Henriette” is really a code for herself). Chrysale assures Ariste that his backing for Clitandre will be carry the day, but when Philaminte abruptly fires the maid (for bad grammar!), Chrysale oddly backs down in the face of his wife’s anger. When he finally brings up the topic of Henriette’s marriage prospects, Philaminte preemptively declares her choice of the poet Trissotin for Henriette, walking off before Chrysale can bring himself to object.
Philaminte hosts a salon, with Trissotin reading poetry for Belise and Armande. She forces Henriette to sit and listen to Trissotin’s insipid verses, which somehow send the other three women into peals of rapture. Philaminte lays out plans for the founding of an academy to study the arts and sciences, envisioning herself as the judge of “every last creation,” all the while barring the use of crude language, and even those rude syllables that hide wicked double entendres. A second poet, Vadius, joins the assembly, and while he and Trissotin flatter each other outrageously, Vadius accidentally insults a poem which he hadn’t realized was one of Trissotin’s. They quickly fly into a furious feud, with Vadius storming off, and Philaminte announces that Trissotin is her choice as Henriette’s husband. Henriette seems entirely unimpressed, and threatening her, Philaminte walks off. Chrysale arrives announcing his intent for Henriette to marry Clitandre, to which Henriette immediately agrees.
Armande reports Henriette’s disobedience to their mother, and proceeds to scuttle Clitandre’s reputation, insisting that he never liked Philaminte’s poetry, and says mean things about her behind her back. Overhearing, Clitandre confronts her, and they re-visit the arguments of their past relationship, which broke up when she chose “the pleasures of the mind” over any consummation of their love. Armande finally agrees that she will marry Clitandre, but he insists that he has long gotten over their relationship, and now wants only Henriette. Trissotin engages Clitandre in an argument, and Clitandre easily gets the best of him, insulting him to his unwitting face. A servant arrives with a note from Vadius, revealing that all of Trissotin’s so-called compositions have been plagiarized from the works of classic authors such as Terrence and Virgil, but this only makes Philaminte rush to the defense of her favorite, determined to marry Trissotin to Henriette this very night. She sends off for the notary to seal the pact. The lovers relay this news to Chrysale, who finally seems resolved to confront his wife.
Henriette confronts Trissotin, asserting her love of Clitandre, but nothing that she can say, not even the heavy hint that she would likely cheat on him were they to marry, can dissuade him from his declarations of love for her. Chrysale brings the previously-fired maid back into the home, reinstating her to her job. Philaminte brings in the notary to draw the marriage pact, and he becomes befuddled when both parents insist that a different groom be named in the document. The maid steps in to advocate for the father’s right to rule in such matters, and all are interrupted by the entrance of Ariste, who brings reports of two financial tragedies. First: Philaminte has lost her pending lawsuit, wiping out all of her holdings, and, secondly: two men who had borrowed large amounts from Chrysale have both gone bankrupt. With no family fortune at hand, Trissotin immediately drops his bid to marry Henriette and departs. Clitandre immediately agrees to share his very modest fortune with the family, but Henriette insists that she can no longer marry him, knowing that their marriage would be a burden. Ariste finally reveals that the two family tragedies were both faked to expose Trissotin as a gold-digger (while also teaching Philaminte a lesson). Chrysale orders the Notary to draw up the marriage pact.
Timothy Mooney's rhyme-scheme adaptation of the material… is really quite good.
–Mike Schulz, River Cities Reader
Chrysale – A bourgeois man in good standing.
Philaminte – Chrysale’s wife.
Armande – Elder daughter of Chrysale and Philaminte.
Henriette – Younger daughter of Chrysale and Philaminte.
Ariste – Brother of Chrysale.
Belise – Sister of Chrysale.
Clitandre – In love with Henriette.
Trissotin – A wit.
Vadius – A learned man.
Martine – A kitchen servant.
L’epine – A lackey.
Julien – Vadius’ valet.
Casting Note: Three of the male characters could be performed by women, and those same three characters could be doubled, reducing the minimum cast to 5 men, 5 women, and 1 male or female performer.
Setting: The scene is in Paris, in the home of Chrysale.
Performance Royalties for AMATEUR and EDUCATIONAL Groups begin at $90.00 per performance for theaters under 150 seats, and rise depending on ticket prices and theater particulars. Please fill out an application for your personalized quote.
Performance Royalties for PROFESSIONAL Theaters will be quoted as a box office percentage, with a minimum guarantee based on ticket prices and theater particulars. Please fill out an application for your personalized quote.
An Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package must be purchased from Stage Rights as a part of your licensing agreement (see Materials).
Billing responsibilities, pertinent copyright information, and playwrights' biographies are available in the show rider that comes with your license agreement.
“A satire on those who seek erudition at the expense of love and basic common sense, Molière's work is wonderfully sharp and clever, and many of Mooney's rhymes— several of which employ modern-era phraseology and demand modern-era delivery— are laugh-out-loud funny.” –Mike Schulz, River Cities Reader
An Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package must be purchased from Stage Rights as a part of your licensing agreement. Your materials will be sent to you two months prior to your opening date, unless other arrangements have been made in advance with your Stage Rights Licensing Representative.
The Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package for The Learned Ladies consists of:
21 Production Scripts / $240.00 (shipping included)
Production Scripts for Plays are professionally printed and bound with a full-color cover.
You will have the option to purchase additional Production Scripts at a discounted rate when you complete your Licensing Agreement.
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Stage Manager’s Script – Printed on standard 8.5” x 11” 3-hole-punched paper, with the same page numbers and text as the Printed Production Scripts, but with more space on the page for notes and cues.