School for Wives by Molière
The First English Translation by Susanne C. Steele
Compiled by Susan Hussey Bush
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Lively and fun, this translation captures the spirit of the original. In 1932, Suzanne Steele's translation was refined at the Comédie-Française and applauded in Paris and on Broadway. She performed it as a monologue, playing all seven parts, five of whom were men. It is equally suitable for a full cast.
The text was recovered from more than 60 years in storage and is as fresh as the day it was written. You will enjoy her modern interpretation of the 350 year-old classic.
Click Inside School for Wives above to see an excerpt.
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Suzanne Steele and "The School for Wives" in Paris . . .
Click here for an excerpt of Chapter 1: A Passion for Drama
Molière, née Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, was born in Paris on January 15, 1622 and discovered early in life that he had a talent as a mimic. He transferred that predilection to paper and stage, becoming a playwright. Still revered in France today, one of his best known plays is “The School for Wives,” a delightful farce about a man’s theory on how to train his wife to serve him. In the end, of course, he finds this is not so easy to do. There are seven characters (five of them men) and Suzanne Steele played them all, using her own translation from the original French.
The Comédie-Française in Paris performs the works of classic and contemporary playwrights. During its three hundred year history, Molière's works have been presented close to 32,000 times. It is widely known that the French are not usually welcoming to outsiders who attempt to move into their literary territory, especially Americans. Suzanne broke this barrier and was given a presentation in Paris under the sponsorship of its premier actress.
“To appreciate her audacious endeavor (please understand that) she played alone all the roles of "The School for Wives" before a Parisian audience.” —Robert Lorette, Paris-Soir, Paris, France, Aug. 8, 1932.
Size: 8 1/2 X 11
No of pages: 117
School for Wives (L'École des Femmes) by Molière was written in five acts; Suzanne consolidates the play into three.
- The following is quoted from Suzanne’s 1932 program guides. “Time” based on the initial presentation date of the play, December 26, 1662.
Characters in the play
(in order of speaking)
Chrysalde, Arnolphe’s friend,
Arnolphe, (known to Agnès as Monsieur de la Souche.)
Horace, son of Oronte, in love with Agnès.
Oronte, father of Horace and friend of Arnolphe.
Place—A Paris street in front of Arnolphe’s house.
Time—About three hundred years ago.
Synopsis of the play. Arnolphe, a conceited, selfish man of middle age, has had his young ward, Agnès, trained in a convent to become a model wife for himself, simple, pliable and unspoiled. He has kept her mind entirely undeveloped, and her imagination free from all knowledge of good and evil.
He has recently taken Agnès from the convent and kept her cloistered in a house near his own, in Paris, awaiting the day of their marriage. Business, meanwhile has taken Arnolphe from town for ten days, and in his absence Agnès has met and fallen in love with Horace, son of Arnolphe’s old friend Oronte.
Arnolphe is attempting to change his own name to the more aristocratic one of ‘de la Souche,’ the only name by which Agnès and the servants know him. Horace, on the other hand, knows him only as ‘Arnolphe,’ his father’s friend.
This masterpiece of Molière is a play of youth and love, written and produced in France nearly three hundred years ago. It pleads the cause of youth and ridicules the pretensions of those who would use their authority to mold the lives of others.
Size: 8 1/2 X 11
No of pages: 57
Cover: Heavy duty laminate.
Binding: Spiral Binding
- Available in Hard Copy, Book on CD and Electronic Download Edition
- Be sure to grab a copy of Alone on Stage to follow Suzanne on her trip to the Comédie-Française to refine her script. Learn more. . .