Review of Moliere's "The Imaginary Invalid"

Essay by Anonymous UserUniversity, Master'sA-, November 1996

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Moliere's 'The Imaginary Invalid' is a farcical play about a hypochondriac who is so obsessed with his health and money that he ends up neglecting his family. The story involves several different themes and plots within one family. A new interpretation of this 17th century play is now being performed at the Arts Club Theater; it incorporates some new changes and modernizations in addition to the traditional improvisation. Morris Panych has definitely succeeded in delivering a new, more comical version of Moliere's final play.

Moreover, the dominant theme of this play is body versus mind. The play is about a wealthy, but stingy man who believes that he is constantly sick (Argan). However, there is an obvious doubt to whether he is really sick or if he is just imagining his illness. Therefore, the primary theme is Argan's internal struggle of body vs. mind. This theme is developed throughout the play into smaller themes such as masculinity versus femininity, greed versus love, and death versus life.

Two of the major changes from the text to the play are Argan's degree of illness and his death. In the text, there are very few elaborate descriptions of Dr. Purgon's treatment. However in the play by Panych, there is no shortage of enemas and other 'bathroom' related scenes. I originally thought this change was for comical purposes, but after some additional thought I questioned whether Argan was imagining his illness or if he really was ill. In the text, by not having too many bathroom scenes, Argan seems to be imagining his illness (thus, he is the imaginary invalid). In Panych's stage version, Argan shows several symptoms of being ill; this definitely confuses the original play by Moliere. One of the original purposes of the play was to...