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A critical commentary of Act III, scene 8 ‘Le Jeu de l’Amour et du Hasard’

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Write a critical commentary of Act III, scene 8, paying close attention to the build-up of dramatic intensity, use of language and the theme of social prejudice!

By the richness of the text and the complexity of the characters, ‘Le Jeu de l’Amour et du Hasard’ has proved itself to be a masterpiece of comedy. Constructed of three acts with several scenes, the play talks about assumed identities, the tyranny of social taboos and the ultimate triumph of true love. [1] Crucial for the plot of the comedy is scene 8 from Act III. In this scene, Silvia, in disguise as her maid Lisette, has a long conversation with her suitor Dorante, in which she manages to convince him to prove his love by accepting her as a servant. On the other hand, Dorante tries to find out about Silvia’s true feelings towards him. The scene is important, because it can be considered as the climax of the play. In the following critical commentary of the scene I am going to pay close attention to the build-up of dramatic intensity, use of language and the theme of social prejudice.

Scene 8 from Act III of the play by Marivaux can be viewed as a roller coaster in terms of the tensions between the characters. Just from the beginning of the scene the reader is given the sense of an intensity – ‘Où étiez-vous donc Monsieur?’. Silvia, in her disguise, has been looking for Dorante to tell him something important and now she wants answers. The use of the conjunction ‘donc’ shows that she is annoyed of that fact. In contrast to her intense tone, Dorante visibly responds in a calm manner ‘Je ne me suis pourtant pas éloigné ;’. The semicolon at the end of the quote could be indicating a pause before his following question ‘de quoi s’agit-il?’. One can see from this, that he is not very interested in knowing the details. That annoys Silvia even more and she calls him ‘froideur’, because of his lack of interest. She decides to change her strategy by acting like she is not engaged with Dorante’s plans, which one can see in the following quotes: ‘Ce n’est pas là mon compte’, ‘je ne sais pas vos raisons’. Now Dorante starts to feel irritated ‘N’approuvez-vous pas mon idée ?’. The irritation escalates to the moment, when Silvia suggests that Dorante dislikes Monsieur Orgon’s daughter. That sparks Dorante’s emotional response – ‘Ne voyez-vous que cela ?’. This leads to the first culmination point in the build-up of dramatic intensity, where Dorante states that he is leaving ‘adieu Lisette’. This is a moment, where Silvia realizes that she might lose the game that she is playing, because she will lose Dorante – ‘Ah, voilà qui est fini, il s’en va’. The returning of Dorante is a start of new build-up of intensity. Silvia continues the game; she wants to test the love of Dorante - ‘il faut bien que notre reconciliation lui coûte quelque chose’. She retains the mystery surrounding her and avoids answering Dorante’s questions, which irritates him again. To express his irritation, the author uses the imperative form: ‘Répondez donc’. This, however, is not effective and Dorante does not receive an explanation from Silvia (Lisette). The dramatic intensity increases as he starts to beg her for answers ‘instruisez-moi de ce qui en est, je vous en conjure’. On the other hand, Silvia is trying to awake his curiosity even more by telling him something that will make him react: ‘Que vous important mes sentiments?’. Then Dorante makes his first love admission with the rhetorical question ‘Peux-tu douter encore que je ne t’adore?’. This question leads to the second and last culminating point of dramatic intensity in the scene, where Silvia gives a long speech, explaining why she hides her feelings from him. With the intense conversations the characters release and give freedom to the emotions that stay hidden inside them, which leads eventually to harmony and love - ‘Que d’amour!’.

When discussing the use of language in the scene, the key points that I will observe in detail are: the vocabulary of departure, Silvia’s speech and also the expression of the feelings of Dorante.

The theme of departure can be seen throughout the whole dialogue of the scene. It can be viewed, that both of the characters are playing a cat and mouse game. Neither Dorante, nor Silvia wants to leave, but they want to test and challenge each other’s love. The first threats of leaving are made by Dorante: ‘adieu Lisette’, ‘…a mon départ’. He wants to see what his departure would mean to Lisette. He leaves ‘Il s’en va’, but shortly after returns back, because he desires her and he is afraid that he might lose her. Silvia is also afraid of losing him and one can clearly see it in her question of shock ‘Quoi, sérieusement, vous partez?’. It is also visible in her monologue when he leaves: ‘S’il part, je ne l’aime plus’, ‘je ne saurais le rappeler moi’. Then they change roles, now Silvia is the one who pretends that she is parting ‘Feignons de sortir’ and Dorante tries to stop her ‘Restez, je vous prie…’. The characters seem to be playing a game of ‘Tag’, which makes them appear a bit childish. The reason for this game is that they want to know as much about each other before they finally commit.

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