Too much learning can be a ridiculous thing!
18th – 22nd June, 8pm
The Pearl: 471 Zhapu Lu near Wujin Lu (closest metro Sichuan Bei Lu on Line 10)
Tickets 150 rmb in advance, 200 rmb on the door
Bookings and enquiries:
Scandal and uproar greeted the première of The Learned Ladies in 1672. The play displayed such outrageous things on stage as women reading books and discussing scientific concepts – no matter how foolishly. The men came off even worse, being portrayed as variously pretentious, pompous, pedantic, and hen-pecked. Most shockingly, the young heroines of the piece were deciding for themselves about what kind of life they wanted to live, and who they wanted to marry.
Moliere’s witty and hilarious comedy both satirizes the intellectual salons of 17th century Paris, and engages with many of the debates and intellectual questions that were arising from those salons. Those debates covered such topics as the education of women – a new and radical idea; the contrast between the desires of the body and those of the mind; the nature and purpose of marriage – which could be either natural or degrading for a woman; the tensions between the bourgeois and the intellectuals; and the role of husband and wife within a marriage.
The condition of women was abundantly discussed in the 17th century. The ideas that women were doomed to ignorance and servitude, that marriage was not always fair, and that the education of young girls needed to be improved, started to stem from these discussions. The roots of feminism were born in that century and went on to develop further in the 18th century. Molière mocks his Learned Ladies, not because he thinks women should not be educated but because the excesses of these particular educated ladies make them ridiculous. He mocks their blindness, and the way they worship Trissotin. Yet he also makes fun of Trissotin himself. Clitandre is portrayed as the most sensible character, who manfully holds the middle ground declaring that mind and body should live in harmony, that temperance in everything is key, and that learned women can be both respectable and desirable. Only pedantry is criticized. Trissotin represents the old school of thought: he refers to Ancient philosophers like Aristotle; Clitandre represents the modern intellectual traditions which were arising in the 17th century and which have persisted to the present day.