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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Alceste Accuses Célimène
By Molière (1622–1673)
From ‘The Misanthrope’: Translation of Charles Heron Wall

ALCESTE—Oh, heaven! may I control my just anger!  1
  Célimène  [aside]—Ah!  [To Alceste.]  What is this new trouble I see you in? what mean those deep sighs and those dark looks you cast upon me?  2
  Alceste—That all the wickedness a soul is capable of can in nothing be compared to your perfidy; that fate, devils, and incensed Heaven never produced anything so worthless as yourself.  3
  Célimène—These are pretty speeches, which I certainly admire.  4
  Alceste—Ah! no more jesting; this is not a time for laughter. Rather let the blush of shame cover your face; you have cause, for your treachery is known. So the presentiments of my heart were true; its alarms were but too well founded, and those frequent suspicions which were thought odious were true guides to what my eyes have now seen. Yes, in spite of all your skill in dissimulation, Heaven hinted to me what I had to fear. But do not think that I shall bear this insult unavenged. I know that it is not in our power to govern our inclinations; that love is always spontaneous; that we cannot enter a heart by force, and that every heart is free to name its conqueror. I would not complain, therefore, if you had from the first spoken to me without dissembling; for although you would have crushed within me the very springs of my life, I should have blamed my fate alone for it. But to think that my love was encouraged by you! It is such a treacherous, such a perfidious action, that no punishment seems too great for it. After such an outrage, fear everything from me: I am no longer master of myself; anger has conquered me. Pierced to the heart by the cruel blow with which you kill me, my senses are not overswayed by reason. I yield myself up to a just revenge, and I cannot answer for what I may do.  5
  Célimène—What can have called forth such an insult? Have you lost all sense and judgment? Pray speak!  6
  Alceste—Yes, when on seeing you I drank in the poison which is killing me; yes, when like a fool I thought I had found some sincerity in those treacherous charms that have deceived me.  7
  Célimène—Of what treachery are you complaining?  8
  Alceste—Ah! false heart, how well you feign ignorance! But I will leave you no loop-hole of escape! Look at your own handwriting; this letter is sufficient to confound you; against such evidence you can have nothing to answer.  9
  Célimène—So this is the cause of your strange outburst.  10
  Alceste—And you do not blush at the sight?  11
  Célimène—There is no occasion for me to blush.  12
  Alceste—What! will you add audacity to your deceit? Will you disown this letter because it is not signed?  13
  Célimène—Why should I disown it, when it is mine?  14
  Alceste—And you can look at it without being ashamed of the crime of which it shows you to be guilty towards me?  15
  Célimène—You are in truth a most foolish man.  16
  Alceste—What! you face thus calmly this all-convincing proof? And the tenderness you show in it for Oronte, has it nothing that can outrage me or shame you?  17
  Célimène—Oronte! Who told you that this letter is for him?  18
  Alceste—Those who to-day put it in my hands. But suppose I grant that it is for another, have I less cause to complain? and would you be in fact less guilty towards me?  19
  Célimène—But if the letter was written to a woman, in what can it hurt you, and what guilt is there in it?  20
  Alceste—Ah! the evasion is excellent, and the excuse admirable! I must acknowledge that I did not expect such deceit, and I am now altogether convinced. What! do you dare to have recourse to such base tricks? Do you think people entirely devoid of understanding? Show me a little in what way you can maintain such a palpable falsehood, and how you can apply to a woman all the words which in this letter convey so much tenderness. In order to cover your infidelity, reconcile if you can what I am going to read to—  21
  Célimène—No, I will not. What right have you to assume such authority, and to dare to tell me such things to my face?  22
  Alceste—No, no: instead of giving way to anger, try to explain to me the expressions you use here.  23
  Célimène—I shall do nothing of the kind; and what you think on the subject matters very little to me.  24
  Alceste—For pity’s sake, show me, and I shall be satisfied, that this letter can be explained to be meant for a woman.  25
  Célimène—It is for Oronte; there! and I will have you believe it. I receive all his attentions gladly. I admire what he says; I like his person, and I admit whatever you please. Do as you like, take your own course, let nothing stop you, and annoy me no more.  26
  Alceste  [aside]—Oh, heavens! can anything more cruel be invented; and was ever a heart treated in such a manner? What! I am justly incensed against her, I come to complain, and I must bear the blame! She excites my grief and my suspicion to the utmost. She wishes me to believe everything, she boasts of everything; and yet my heart is cowardly enough not to break the bonds that bind it, cowardly enough not to arm itself with deserved contempt for the cruel one it, alas! loves too much.  [To Célimène.]  Ah! faithless woman, you well know how to take advantage of my weakness, and to make the deep yearning love I have for you serve your own ends. Clear yourself at least of a crime which overwhelms me with grief, and cease to affect to be guilty towards me. Show me, if you can, that this letter is innocent; strive to appear faithful to me, and I will strive to believe you.  27
  Célimène—Believe me, you forget yourself in your jealous fits, and you do not deserve all the love I feel for you. I should like to know what could compel me to condescend to the baseness of dissembling with you; and why, if my heart were engaged to another, I should not frankly tell you so. What! does not the kind assurance of my feelings toward you plead my defense against all your suspicions? Have they any weight before such a pledge? Do you not insult me when you give way to them? And since it requires so great an effort for us to speak our love; since the honor of our sex, that enemy to love, so strictly forbids such a confession,—should the lover who sees us for his sake conquer such obstacles, think lightly of that testimony and go unpunished? Is he not to blame if he does not trust what we have confessed with so much reluctance? Indeed, my indignation should be the reward of such doubts, and you do not deserve that I should care for you. I am very foolish, and am vexed at my own folly for still retaining any good-will toward you. I ought to place my affections elsewhere, and thus give you just excuse for complaint.  28
  Alceste—Ah, faithless woman! How wonderful is my weakness for you! You deceive me, no doubt, with such endearing words. But let it be: I must submit to my destiny; I give myself heart and soul to you. I trust you. I will to the end see what your heart will prove to be, and if it can be cruel enough to deceive me.  29
  Célimène—No: you do not love me as you ought to love.  30
  Alceste—Ah! nothing can be compared with my exceeding great love; and in my anxiety to make the whole world a witness to it, I even go so far as to form wishes against you. Yes, I could wish that no one thought you charming; that you were reduced to a humbler lot; that Heaven, at your birth, had bestowed nothing upon you; that you had neither rank, high birth, nor wealth: so that my heart, in offering itself, might make up for the injustice of such a fate, and that I might have both the happiness and the glory on that day of seeing you owe everything to my love.  31

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