Moliere and the education of women
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis is a study of the social problems connected with the system of education for women as Moliere saw them in his day. To determine what these problems were, the history of women's situation in society and their intellectual development have been traced from the times of ancient Greece to the seventeenth century. Attention has been paid to the rise of the salon in the beginning of the century, with its emphasis on manners, conversation, and the nurturing of literature. Certain women in these salons were prominent in exerting considerable influence on the intellectual climate of the day. These women, together with currents of contemporary thought, have been investigated with a view to determining how they may have affected Moliere's ideas. The plays investigated are Les Precieuses Ridicules, in which Moliere attacks the reading of novels, and préciosité, that phenomenon which, while not peculiar to the seventeenth century, flourished remarkably, and spread from the salons of Paris in the first half of the century, and which Molière saw as a threat to the stability of marriage and family life in the bourgeoisie. In L'Ecole des Maris and L'Ecole des Femmes, Molière is concerned with the dangers of keeping girls and young women divorced from the world in their formative years, while Les Femmes Savantes written a decade later, is concerned with the question of to what extent women can demand education without disrupting the harmony of the home. Brief relevant references have been made to other works of Molière. Molière would enlighten women in the ways of the world to afford her a protection to her virtue, and to help her mind to expand sufficiently to fulfil her place in society. His attitude towards a formal education held to the "juste milieu". Education had its place; a woman needed first to keep the harmony of the house, and to fulfil her natural destiny.