The School for Wives

Tuesday 17th July 2012, 7.30pm
Queens Park Theatre

Arnolphe, the main protagonist, is a man of 42 years who has groomed the young Agnès since the age of 4. Arnolphe supports Agnes living in a nunnery until the age of 17, when he removes her and moves her to one of his abodes. His intention is to bring up Agnès in such a manner that she will be too ignorant to be unfaithful to him and he becomes obsessed with avoiding this fate. To this end, he tells the nuns who are instructing her from teaching her anything that might lead her astray. Right from the very first scene, Chrysalde warns Arnolphe of his downfall, but Arnolphe takes no notice.

After Agnes moves into Arnolphe's house, Horace arrives on the scene ahead of his father and Arnolphe's friend, Oronte. He immediately falls in love with Agnès and she with him. Not realizing that Arnolphe and Monsieur de la Souche are the same person, Horace unwittingly confides all his activities with Agnès to Arnolphe. Arnolphe then schemes to out-maneuver Horace and ensure that Agnès will marry him.

Arnolphe becomes more and more frustrated as the play goes on. Agnès continues to meet with Horace despite Arnolphe's displeasure until, finally, a misunderstanding leads Arnolphe to believe that Agnès has agreed to marry him and Agnès to believe that Arnolphe has given her permission to marry Horace. When they realize the true situation, Arnolphe forbids her from seeing Horace. Horace, in his distress, comes to Arnolphe, asking for his help in rescuing Agnès from "Monsieur de la Souche".

The final act introduces a powerful irony as Oronte and Enrique arrive on the scene and announce that Horace is to marry Enrique's daughter. The daughter turns out to be Agnès, rendering all of Arnolphe's scheming useless.