L'Avare is a 1668 five-act satirical comedy by
French playwright Molière. Its title is usually translated
as The Miser when the play is performed in English.
The play was first performed in 1668 at the Palais
Royal in a period when Molière's company was, on the one
hand, under considerable establishment pressure to modify its
output, but on the other hand, under the protection of Louis XIV
himself. Little is known about the original performance, although
it is said that Molière himself played Harpagon, utilising
his by this point chronic cough and gait to humorous effect.
The Miser's plot, involving a rich money-lender
called Harpagon, whose feisty children long to escape from his
penny-pinching household and marry their respective lovers, is
a comedy of manners to which the 17th-century French upper classes
presumably objected. It is less savage, however, and somewhat
less realistic than Molière's earlier play, Tartuffe, which
attracted a storm of criticism on its first performance.
The play is also notable for the way in which
it sends up certain theatrical conventions. Many comedies from
the Elizabethan period and onwards contain asides which are delivered
by characters to the audience and which the other actors ignore.
In L'Avare, however, characters generally demand to know who exactly
these asides are being delivered to.