Moliere’s “The Imaginary Invalid” is a play about a hypochondriac who is so obsessed with his health and money that he ends up neglecting his family’s needs to better his own.
Moliere sets up the exposition of the play in Act I by the apothecary bills Argon is reading aloud. After Toinette, the maid, then enters the scene she sarcastically makes a comment about all of the bills lying on the table. Toinette lets the audience know that Argon is a hypochondriac by rebutting everything he says about his doctors and illnesses with sarcastic comments. For instance, when Argon says, “You leave my insides alone.” She comes back with, “I wish you would. You’d be a different man.”
She also lets the audience know by saying, “Why, if it wasn’t for him you wouldn’t even know you were ill,” speaking of the apothecary. The main conflict of the play is Argon’s unwillingness to accept that he is not ill and he is, in fact, a very healthy man. This “illness” leads to the selfishness that he shows his family, especially his daughter Angelica. Later in Act I his “illnesses” prove to have relevance to the conflict when she speaks of Cleante, the man she loves. Cleante is not a doctor; therefore, Argon will not give his blessings for Angelica to marry him.
The conflict of the play was that Argon would not give his blessings for the marriage of his daughter, Angelica, and the man she loves, Cleante. The main characters involved in the conflict besides Angelica and Cleante is Argon, the problem, Toinette and Argon’s brother, Beralde, which resolve the conflict in the end. Argon is involved, as stated earlier, because he will not give his blessings on the marriage. Toinette and Beralde were involved in the resolution to the conflict because they cared about Angelica and her happiness.
I believe that Beralde was more involved in the resolution because he felt that his brother was going far with his hypochondria, but still cared for Angelica’s happiness. Argon seemed to over-step the line when he tried to ruin the lives of his daughter just for his mental well being. The steps taken to see that Angelica does not have to marry a man that she simply does not want to marry lead up to the climax of the play. Argon finally realizes who cares about him and who doesn’t when he overhears his wife, Beline, speaking of his death and then Angelica.
The climax was in Act III when
The denoument of the play was uncertain.
The dominant theme of this play is mind versus body. The play is about a wealthy, but self-centered, man who believes that he is constantly ill. However, there is obvious doubt to whether he is really ill or is he is simply imagining his illnesses. Therefore, the primary theme is Argon’s internal struggle of the body versus mind. This theme is developed throughout the play into smaller themes such as greed versus love and death versus life. It was obvious to me that in the play, Argon was only imagining his illnesses and that he was in dire need of attention. Argon had two groups of people giving him this attention, though both very different. One group (the doctors, Beline, and Bonnefoy, the lawyer) wanted his money. The other group (Angelica, Toinette, Beralde, and Clente) only wanted his love. Together these two groups compete for the wealth and love that they need from Argon.