The Bourgeois Nobleman by Molière
Go to the other acts: Act 1 | Act 2


Scene 1

(The Scene is the same. Dorante, Dorimene and Monsieur Jordan are still seated at table. During the opening of the scene, the Cooks are clearing the table and removing it. The Pages attend.).

DORIMENE Dorante, what a wonderful feast!
M JORDAN You must be joking, madame! It was a pathetic offering unworthy of being set before you.
DORANTE Monsieur Jordan is right, madame, and although I am indebted to him for his hospitality towards you this evening, I must agree that the meal was not worthy of you. It was I who ordered it, and as you know I am less knowledgeable about such things than many in our social circle, which explains why there were some gastronomic errors of judgement involved. Now, if our dear friend Damis had been in charge, I have no doubt that all would have been quite perfect. Furthermore, he would have regaled you with a most exquisitely erudite and eloquent description of the menu as it was being served. He would have waxed lyrical about the golden bevel-edged bread, yielding beneath its perfectly-baked crust before melting in the mouth; of the full-bodied and luscious wine, with its unassuming bouquet and youthful, muscular palate; of the neck of lamb infused with sweet-smelling herbs; of the firm loin of veal, this long, white, succulent and, when you sink your teeth into it, as soft and sweet as marzipan; of the partridges, hand-reared and giving off an irresistible aroma; and of his piece de resistance - a plump turkey, stuffed with pigeons and garnished with onions marinated in chicory. But, for my part, I know nothing of cookery. And I agree with Monsieur Jordan - I just wish the meal had been worthy of you.
DORIMENE Well, I have returned your compliment by eating an enormous meal, as you saw.
M JORDAN My, what beautiful hands you have!
DORIMENE Quite ordinary hands, Monsieur Jordan. But if you're referring to the diamond, it is indeed very beautiful.
M JORDAN Diamond? Moi? I wouldn't dream of mentioning it! Perish the thought that I should be so vulgar! Anyway, it's not much of a diamond.
DORIMENE You're very blasé.
M JORDAN You're too kind…
DORANTE (To the Pages) More wine for Monsieur Jordan. And, here's a tip for the lads who entertained us earlier.
DORIMENE And what a lovely idea, Dorante, to provide a musical accompaniment to this delicious meal. The evening really has been a treat!
M JORDAN Madame, it was not….
DORANTE Monsieur Jordan! No need to repeat to madame that you do not feel the meal or the entertainment were worthy of her. She knows that, now.
DORIMENE Really, I've had a lovely time.
M JORDAN I could show you much more of a lovely time, if you'd let me.
DORIMENE Oh! Monsieur Jordan is behaving more gallantly than I expected!
DORANTE What are you saying, madame? You're surely not accusing Monsieur Jordan of hanky-panky?
M JORDAN Hanky-panky! If only she and I could get up to some!
DORANTE Really, he's quite harmless once you get to know him.
M JORDAN She can get to know me any time she likes. In depth!
DORIMENE Oh my God! I'm leaving.
DORANTE He's such a card, isn't he? Have you noticed that he has finished off all the morcels of food that you sampled and abandoned on your plate?
DORIMENE Monsieur Jordan is quite ravishing.
M JORDAN Oh, if only…if only….!
  (Enter Madame Jordan)
MADAME J Ah ha! I see we have company. Strange, I do not recall having received an invitation. So, this is why I was packed off to your sister's for dinner, is it? 'And don't hurry home, my dear, stay all evening if you wish'! Ha! I turn my back for five minutes, and what do I find? There was some sort of pantomime going on as I came in, and here upstairs I find what looks like a wedding banquet. So this is how you squander your money whilst my back is turned - wine, women and song!
DORANTE What can you mean, Madame Jordan? You are quite mistaken if you think your husband has spent any of his own money to entertain madame. All the expenditure here has been mine, and mine alone. Your husband merely lent me his house for the evening. You should mind what you say, and not let your fantasies run away with you.
M JORDAN Yes, you impertinent woman! This is Count Dorante's little party for madame, who is a lady of high rank. He has honoured me by making use of my house, and inviting me to join him.
MADAME J Fiddlesticks! I have eyes in my head.
DORANTE You should get yourself some better spectacles, Madame Jordan.
MADAME J I do not need spectacles, monsieur, to see what is happening here. I've suspected something was going on for some time; I am not a complete idiot. It's come to a pretty pass when a nobleman such as yourself stoops to playing this sort of game, and to encouraging my husband to indulge his ridiculous fantasies. As for you, madame, you have shown yourself unworthy of your high rank; going around breaking up marriages and allowing my stupid husband to fall in love with you.
DORIMENE What is the meaning of all this? Really, Dorante, I fail to see the joke, and I will not be subjected to the rantings of this mad old hag!
  (Exit Dorimene)
DORANTE Madame, wait, where are you going?
M JORDAN Madame…Oh, Count Dorante, please apologise and try to get her back!
  (Exit Dorante)
  Right, you witch! See what you've done, now? How dare you come in here and insult me in front of my guests and then drive them from my house? These are people of noble birth!
MADAME J I don't give a stuff about their noble birth!
M JORDAN So help me, woman, one more word out of you and I'll crown you with the leftovers of this meal that you ruined!
MADAME J And I don't give a stuff about that either! This is my territory, and my rights I'm defending! And there isn't a woman here who won't support me in that!
  (Exit Madame Jordan)

Scene 2

M JORDAN Get out of my sight, before I lose my temper with you. Dammit, she couldn't have picked a worse moment to appear. I'd prepared some very impressive little phrases to put to the countess. I can't remember the last time I felt so witty and charming! What the…who the hell are you?
  (Enter Covielle, disguised but recognisable to the audience)
COVIELLE Monsieur, I don't think you know me.
M JORDAN I most certainly do not.
COVIELLE I haven't seen you since you were knee-high to a grasshopper.
COVIELLE Yes, you were the most beautiful baby in the world. All the ladies would cradle you in their arms and kiss you.
M JORDAN Kiss me? Cradle me in their arms?
COVIELLE Yes. Actually, I was a great friend of your late father.
M JORDAN Of my late father?
COVIELLE Yes, indeed. He was a perfect gentleman.
M JORDAN What did you say?
COVIELLE I said he was a perfect gentleman
M JORDAN My father?
COVIELLE Of course.
M JORDAN You knew him well?
COVIELLE Certainly.
M JORDAN And you knew him to be a…gentleman? …That is…of noble birth?
COVIELLE Absolutely
M JORDAN Well, there's a turn-up for the books!
M JORDAN There are certain bigoted idiots who have had the nerve to say that my father was in trade!
COVIELLE In trade? Him? That's a frightful slander, he was no such thing. Never! It was just that he was very obliging, and very efficient. Since he was knowledgeable about fabrics, knew where to go to get the best deals, he would often bring some back to his place, and then he'd let his friends have some. For money.
M JORDAN I am delighted to have met you! You have done me great service, affirming that my father was indeed a gentleman by birth.
COVIELLE I would swear it in a court of law.
M JORDAN I am much obliged to you. What business brings you here?
COVIELLE Since I knew your late father, the gentleman of noble birth, I have travelled to the four corners of the earth.
M JORDAN The four corners of the earth? That sounds like a long way to go.
COVIELLE It certainly is. I only got back four days ago, and because I promised your late father, the gentleman of noble birth, that I would look out for your interests, I must tell you I have some fantastic news for you!
COVIELLE Did you know that the son of the Sultan of Turkey is here?
COVIELLE You didn't know? But, where have you been? He has a most magnificent retinue with him, and absolutely everyone has called on him since he's been here. He is generally received in Paris as a person of the very highest rank possible.
M JORDAN The highest rank, eh? Good Lord, I had no idea.
COVIELLE What is more to the point, he is in love with your daughter.
M JORDAN The Sultan of Turkey's son? In love with my daughter?
COVIELLE Yes. And he wants to marry her.
M JORDAN I …the Sultan of Turkey's son…as my son-in-law?
COVIELLE The Sultan of Turkey's son as your son-in-law. He had quite a chat with me about it when I saw him - I speak fluent Turkish, of course, you?…
M JORDAN Er, no.
COVIELLE So, in the course of this quite long conversation he said: "Acciam croc soler onch alla moustaph gidelum amanahem verahim oussere carbulath", which, roughly translated, means ' Do you know a certain beautiful young lady, who is the daughter of Monsieur Jordan, a Parisian nobleman?'.
M JORDAN The Sultan of Turkey's son said that about me?
COVIELLE Yes. And when I replied that I knew you personally, and that I had seen your daughter, he said "Ah! Marababa sahem", meaning 'Ah! I am madly in love with her!'.
M JORDAN "Marababa sahem" means 'I am madly in love with her'?.
M JORDAN You amaze me. I never would have guessed that "Marababa sahem" means 'I am madly in love with her'. What a remarkable language this Turkish is, to be sure!
COVIELLE That's nothing, try this: "cacaracamouchen". Can you guess what that means?
M JORDAN "Cacaracamouchen". No.
COVIELLE It means 'dearest love'.
M JORDAN "Cacaracamouchen" means 'dearest love'?
M JORDAN Fantastic! "Cacaracamouchen, my dearest love". Fancy that! Language never ceases to surprise me!
COVIELLE So, to the point of my mission. He plans to visit you to request your daughter's hand in marriage, and, in order to have a father-in-law who is worthy of his extraordinarily high rank and status, he wishes to confer on you the title of "mamamouchi", which is one of the highest honours possible in his country.
M JORDAN "Mamamouchi"?
COVIELLE Yes, "mamamouchi"; it means, in Turkish, Paladin. Paladins were, in olden times, sort of…well, Paladins. It is the most senior rank achievable absolutely anywhere in the whole world.
M JORDAN The Sultan of Turkey's son does me a great honour. Would you be so kind as to bring me to him, so that I may thank him in person.
COVIELLE I told you, he's coming here.
M JORDAN He's coming here?
COVIELLE Yes. And he's bringing his entourage and everything necessary to complete your investiture on the spot.
M JORDAN Blimey! He doesn't hang about!
COVIELLE Love makes men impatient.
M JORDAN Which reminds me, there is one small potential impediment. My daughter is a stubborn little madam, who has got it into her head that she will marry no-one but some berk named Cleonte.
COVIELLE Don't worry. She'll soon change her mind when she claps eyes on the Sultan of Turkey's son. By a miraculous stroke of luck, this Turk closely resembles your berk.
M JORDAN You know Cleonte?
COVIELLE Er, I saw him on my way in. I mean, someone pointed him out to me. Oh, I believe I hear him coming! Here he is.

Scene 3

  (Enter Cleonte, in disguise but recognisable to the audience, attended by two Pages, similarly dressed up in Turkish style)
CLEONTE Ambousahim oqui boraf, Jordina, salamalequi
COVIELLE He says 'Monsieur Jordan, may your heart be as a rose bush that blooms all the year round'. This is normal small talk in his country.
M JORDAN I am His Turkish Highness's most humble servant.
COVIELLE Carigar camboto oustin moraf.
CLEONTE Oustin yoc catamalequi basum base alla moran
COVIELLE He says ' May heaven grant you the strength of a lion and the wisdom of a snake'.
M JORDAN His Turkish Highness does me too much honour, and I wish him all the prosperous…prosperity in the world.
COVIELLE Ossa binamen sadoc babally oracaf ouram.
CLEONTE Bel men.
COVIELLE He says will you please accompany him immediately to be prepared for the ceremony, so that you may both proceed subsequently with all speed to meet your daughter, and so expedite the solemnification of his marriage to her.
M JORDAN He said all that in two words?
COVIELLE That's the Turkish language for you. A couple of words and you've said it all. Go on, he's waiting for you.
  (Exeunt Monsieur Jordan and Cleonte)
  (laughing) Oh my God, did you see how he fell for it?
  (Enter Dorante)
  Ah, monsieur, may I call upon your help with a little project we have planned?
DORANTE Is that you, Covielle? I didn't recognise you in that very courageous fashion statement!
COVIELLE Do you like it? (laughing)
DORANTE What are you laughing at?
COVIELLE Oh, monsieur, you will not believe…
COVIELLE You will never guess, monsieur, our cunning plan to trick Monsieur Jordan into letting his daughter marry my master.
DORANTE No, I can't guess. But I'll wager that, if you are behind it, it'll work.
COVIELLE I know very well, monsieur, that you are familiar with the antics of this idiot.
DORANTE Come on, then. What's the plot?
COVIELLE Stand over here and watch what happens, while I fill you in on the background.
  (The Turkish ceremony, by which the bourgeois is ennobled, is accompanied by music and dance. A number of 'Turks' and 'Dervishes' perform various ridiculous rituals and dance movements. A 'Mufti' enters and intones what appear to be prayers to Allah, and finally Monsieur Jordan enters, or is borne in by the Dervishes, dressed in full Turkish regalia. A huge ceremonial turban is placed on his head, and Mufti, Turks and Dervishes perform various song-and-dance routines round him, culminating in him on his hands and knees, the Mufti using his back as a pulpit from which to read from the Koran, and the Dervishes subjecting him to a ceremonial beating on the backside with their scimitars. The ceremony complete, the Mufti bows to him
MUFTI Giourdina. Mamamouchi.
  (Exit the Mufti, Turks, Dervishes et al)

Scene 4

  (Enter Madame Jordan)
MADAME J Oh good Lord have mercy! What on earth is all this? What do you think you look like? Off to a fancy-dress party now, are you? And who is responsible for your ridiculous get-up? Kindly say something, husband!
M JORDAN Just watch your tongue, woman. You are addressing a mamamouchi!
M JORDAN Oh, yes! You'll have to show me due respect from now on. I have been made a mamamouchi.
MADAME J And what, pray, is a mamamouchi?
M JORDAN A mamamouchi! You know. I am a mamamouchi. Do you mean to tell me you've never even heard of it?
MADAME J Why don't you make my day and introduce me to this rare species?
M JORDAN Mamamouchi. In our language it means Paladin.
MADAME J What's that? Like a ballet dancer? At your age?
M JORDAN God, you're ignorant! I said Paladin. It's a title that has just been bestowed on me. A great honour.
MADAME J What honour?
M JORDAN Mahameta per Jordina
MADAME J What does that mean?
M JORDAN Jordina. That's me. Jordan, see?
MADAME J Yes? And? Jordan what?
M JORDAN Voler far un paladina de Jordina.
M JORDAN Dar turbanta con galera.
MADAME J And what's that supposed to mean?
M JORDAN Per deffender Palestina.
MADAME J Explain yourself!
  (Monsieur Jordan begins to dance and chant)
M JORDAN Dara, dara bastonara.
MADAME J Oh, for goodness sake!
M JORDAN Hou la ba, ba la chou, ba la ba, ba la da.
MADAME J Finally my husband has lost his marbles!
M JORDAN Silence! How dare you address a mamamouchi with such disrespect?
  (Exit Monsieur Jordan)
MADAME J He has completely taken leave of his senses. I'd better stop him going out, for his own protection. Oh no, not those two again! I'm surrounded by imbeciles and scoundrels!
  (Exit Madame J)

Scene 5

  (Enter Dorante and Dorimene)
DORANTE Madame, I assure you, I can promise you the best laugh you've had in years. You'd be hard pushed to find a character as barking mad as this one! And, anyway, I've promised to help Cleonte get his girl. We really ought to. He's an excellent chap and deserves a decent break.
DORIMENE I agree. I'm certainly willing to help his cause.
DORANTE By the way, did you enjoy the entertainment that I laid on at dinner?
DORIMENE It was magnificent. But all this extravagance must stop, Dorante, before you bankrupt yourself. I insist! In fact, I will go even further in my efforts to stop the gifts. By marrying you immediately. It's the only way I can think of saving you from your own generosity. It's a well-known fact that all that sort of thing stops with marriage.
DORANTE Ah, madame! Can it be true that I have finally won you?
DORIMENE Oh, I'm only doing it to prevent your total ruin! Otherwise you would have ended up with nothing.
DORANTE I am deeply grateful, madame, for your efforts to preserve my wealth! And I lay it all at your feet, along with my heart.
DORIMENE I shall put both to good use, be assured! But here comes our friend. And how appropriately dressed he is!
  (Enter Monsieur Jordan, still in his Turkish gear)
DORANTE Your Excellency, we have come to pay our respects on the occasion of your ennoblement; and to congratulate you on your daughter's engagement to the Sultan of Turkey's son.
M JORDAN (Bowing elaborately in the 'Turkish' style) Monsieur, I wish you the wisdom of a lion and the strength of a snake.
DORIMENE Allow me to be amongst the first, Excellency, to recognise the very high rank to which you have been elevated.
M JORDAN Madame, may your rose-bush always be in flower! Thank you for attending my ennoblement ceremony, and may I take this opportunity to apologise most profusely to you for the outrageous excesses of my wife.
DORIMENE Think nothing of it. It is entirely understandable that a woman who has a husband as impressive as yourself should be especially vigilant. Clearly your heart is very precious to her.
M JORDAN But my heart belongs only to you.
DORANTE You will observe, Madame, how gracious Monsieur Jordan continues to be towards his old friends, despite his elevation to the nobility. He is not one to allow his new high rank to go to his head.
DORIMENE It shows a great generosity of spirit.
DORANTE So, where is his Highness the Sultan's son? As your friends, we should really pay him our respects.
  (Enter Cleonte, disguised as the Sultan's son)
DORANTE Your Highness, we are friends of your new father-in-law, and we beg leave to offer your Highness our most humble service.
M JORDAN Where the devil has that interpreter got to? We need someone to explain to him who you are, and make him understand what you're saying to him. You wait till you hear his replies - he speaks Turkish brilliantly! Oy! Where's he got to, now? (To Cleonte) Strouf, strif, strof, straf. Monsieur is a great lord, grande segnore, grande segnore, grande segnore; and madame is a noble lady, granda dama, granda dama. Dammit! Ah! Monsieur is a French mamamouchi, and madame is a…a French mamamouchioness. Understand? Am I making myself clear? Ah, thank God, here's the interpreter.
  ( Enter Covielle, disguised.)
  Where have you been? We can't exchange a word of conversation without you. Tell him that monsieur and madame are people of very noble birth, who, being close friends of mine, are here to pay their respects to him and declare themselves his humble servants. Now, just watch how he replies.
COVIELLE Alabala crociam acci boram alabamen
CLEONTE Catalequi tubal ourin soter amalouchan.
COVIELLE He says ' may the rain of prosperity water the garden of your family forever'.
M JORDAN I told you! Speaks Turkish like a native!
DORANTE Fantastic!

Scene 6

  (Enter Lucile)
M JORDAN Ah, here's my daughter! Come here, girl, and give your hand to this gentleman, who has done you the honour of requesting you in marriage.
LUCILE What? Father, what are you doing dressed up like that? Is this some kind of joke?
M JORDAN On the contrary, it is a matter of extreme gravity, and the greatest honour that you could possibly hope for. I have chosen this man as your husband.
LUCILE As a husband? For me?
M JORDAN Yes, for you, you silly goose! Now, shake hands with him, and thank heaven for your good fortune.
LUCILE I don't want to marry him.
M JORDAN I want you to marry him, and I am your father. So that's that!
LUCILE I refuse!
M JORDAN Will you shut up? There now, do as I say and shake his hand.
LUCILE No, father. I've told you, nothing you do or say will persuade me to marry anyone but Cleonte. I would rather die than…(recognising Cleonte) …cross my beloved father, to whom I owe absolute obedience! Please, marry me to whomsoever you wish!
M JORDAN Ah, what a joy to have once again an obedient daughter who knows her duty.
  (Enter Madame Jordan)
MADAME J And what, pray, is going on here? What's this I hear - that you intend to marry our daughter to some carnival performer?
M JORDAN Will you shut up? How dare you challenge my decision? You must always barge in and mess everything up. It's quite impossible ever to make you see reason.
MADAME J Ha! You're a fine one to talk of seeing reason! Your pursuit of folly is relentless. Precisely what are you up to here, with this lot?
M JORDAN I intend to marry my daughter to the Sultan of Turkey's son.
MADAME J The Sultan of Turkey's son?
M JORDAN Yes. You can present your compliments to him through this interpreter.
MADAME J I don't need any interpreter to make myself understood! I shall put it to him, plainly and in his face, that he shall not have my daughter.
M JORDAN Will you shut up, for the last time?
DORANTE Really, madame Jordan, I can't believe you could refuse someone as eminent as the son of the Sultan of Turkey as your son-in-law.
MADAME J Kindly mind your own business, monsieur!
DORIMENE It's a great honour, and certainly an offer I would accept.
MADAME J Is there an offer you wouldn't accept?
DORANTE We are only taking such an interest in a family matter because we are your dear friends.
MADAME J With dear friends like you, I'll not be needing any enemies.
DORANTE Yet your daughter consents willingly to the match.
MADAME J My daughter has consented to marry a Turk?
DORANTE Absolutely.
MADAME J How could she so easily forget Cleonte?
DORANTE Ah! What won't any young girl do for the chance to acquire a noble title?
MADAME J I'd strangle her with my own hands if she should so much as think of such a thing.
M JORDAN Enough! I say this marriage will go ahead, and that's final!
MADAME J And I say to you that it will not.
M JORDAN Silence, woman!
LUCILE Mother…
MADAME J Get away from me, you cheeky little slut!
M JORDAN What? Are you telling her off for obeying me?
MADAME J Yes I am. She's my daughter as much as she is yours.
MADAME J What do you want?
COVIELLE A word in your ear.
MADAME J I've had enough of your words.
COVIELLE Monsieur, if I can have a word with her in private, I guarantee to persuade her to do what you want.
MADAME J I shall not do what he wants.
COVIELLE Just listen to me for one moment.
M JORDAN Listen to him.
MADAME J No, I don't want to listen to him.
M JORDAN He'll tell you….
MADAME J I don't want him to tell me anything.
M JORDAN Was there ever such a stubborn woman? Would it hurt you so much to listen to him?
COVIELLE Just listen to me, please. Afterwards, make your own decision.
MADAME J Very well. Get on with it!
  (Covielle takes her aside)
COVIELLE We've been signalling to you for ages, madame! Don't you see that all this has been laid on just to pander to your husband's fantasies? We're taking him for a ride, dressed up like this. Cleonte himself is playing the Sultan of Turkey's son!…
COVIELLE And the interpreter - it is I, Covielle!
MADAME J I'm with you.
COVIELLE Try not to give the game away.
MADAME J (Aloud) Yes. So. As I was just saying. I consent wholeheartedly to this marriage.
M JORDAN At last, everyone is behaving reasonably! I knew you'd come round, once he'd explained to you exactly who the Sultan of Turkey's son actually is.
MADAME J He explained it perfectly, and I am satisfied. Let's send someone to get the notary right now.
DORANTE Excellent idea. And, to put your mind at rest regarding your husband's relationship with Countess Dorimene, madame, may I assure you that you need no longer harbour any feelings of jealousy, for the same notary will marry her to me.
MADAME J I consent wholeheartedly to that marriage too.
M JORDAN (Aside, to Dorante) This is to put her off the scent, right?
DORANTE (Aside, to Monsieur Jordan) Yes, it should work so long as we continue to humour her.
M JORDAN Right. Let's call the notary in here.
DORANTE While we're waiting for him, we could celebrate by watching the little entertainment we prepared but never saw after dinner. I'm sure His Highness would enjoy it.
M JORDAN Excellent idea. Let's take our places.
MADAME J Hang on, what about Nicole?
M JORDAN What about Nicole? Oh, alright, she can have the interpreter. And while I'm at it, I'll give my wife away as well, to anyone who'll have her!
COVIELLE Thank you, monsieur. (Aside) If there is a dafter person in the whole wide world, I'll eat my beard!
  (They sit down to watch the closing dance).


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