Le Médecin malgré lui

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Front page of The Doctor in Spite of Himself—engraving from the 1719 edition

Le Médecin malgré lui (French pronunciation: ​[lə medsɛ̃ malɡʁe ˈlɥi]; "The doctor/physician in spite of himself") is a farce by Molière first presented in 1666 (published as a manuscript in early 1667[1]) at le théâtre du Palais-Royal by la Troupe du Roi.[2] The play is one of several plays by Molière to center on Sganarelle, a character that Molière himself portrayed, and is a comedic satire of 17th century French medicine.


  • Sganarelle, an alcoholic, gluttonous woodcutter (The title character)
  • Martine, Sganarelle's wife
  • Lucinde, Sganarelle's patient; daughter of Geronte
  • Léandre, Lucinde's lover
  • Géronte, a wealthy bourgeois; father of Lucinde
  • Valère, Géronte's educated servant
  • Lucas, another of Geronte's servants
  • Jacqueline, Lucas's wife and Géronte's nurse
  • Monsieur Robert, Sganarelle's neighbor
  • Thibaut, a peasant
  • Perrin, a peasant; son of Thibaut


Sganarelle, a poor woodcutter, makes life a living hell for his wife and family by spending what little he earns on food and drink. As the play opens, he is seen arguing with and eventually beating his wife, Martine, who then decides to take revenge. As she is plotting, she hears two passing servants of a rich man mention their frustration at being unable to find a doctor who can cure their master's daughter's mysterious illness. She convinces the two that her husband is an eccentric but brilliant doctor, whom they must beat into admitting his identity. The servants find Sganarelle cutting wood and drinking in the woods nearby and beat him until he finally admits to being a doctor.

The servants take him to meet their master, Geronte, and his daughter Lucinde who has become mysteriously mute. Sganarelle spends his first session with her frantically trying to pass as a real doctor, mainly out of fear of being beaten again. When he sees how much Geronte is willing to pay him, however, he decides to give up woodcutting and remain a "doctor" for the rest of his life.

Eventually Sganarelle discovers that his patient is in fact only pretending to be ill, because she is betrothed to a rich man whom she does not love. Farcical comedy ensues, climaxing with Sganarelle being discovered and almost executed. The play ends with a classical moment of deus ex machina; with Lucinde's love, Geronte's wishes, and Sganarelle's fate being neatly and happily resolved.

Sganarelle's Monologue[edit]

A large amount of the play consists of Sganarelle's boastful comic monologues. Below is a translation of Sganarelle's most famous speech, which is considered one of the funniest in French Theatre:[citation needed]

No, I tell you; they made a doctor of me in spite of myself. I had never dreamt of being so learned as that, and all my studies came to an end in the lowest form. I can't imagine what put that whim into their heads; but when I saw that they were resolved to force me to be a doctor, I made up my mind to be one at the expense of those I might have to do with. Yet you would hardly believe how the error has spread abroad, and how everyone is obstinately determined to see a great doctor in me. They come to fetch me from right and left; and if things go on in that fashion, I think I had better stick to physic all my life. I find it the best of trades; for, whether we are right or wrong, we are paid equally well. We are never responsible for the bad work, and we cut away as we please in the stuff we work on. A shoe maker in making shoes can't spoil a scrap of leather without having to pay for it, but we can spoil a man without paying one farthing for the damage done. The blunders are not ours, and the fault is always that of the dead man. In short, the best part of this profession is, that there exists among the dead an honesty, a discretion that nothing can surpass; and never as yet has one been known to complain of the doctor who had killed him."[3]


Charles Gounod wrote an opera based on Molière's play, also entitled Le médecin malgré lui.[4] It was adapted by Henry Fielding as The Mock Doctor.

An hour-long radio adaptation of the play by Ernest Kinoy was performed on the NBC Theatre on June 25, 1950.



  1. ^ "The Doctor in Spite of Himself". Retrieved July 7, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Le Médecin malgré lui", site-moliere.com, accessed September 20, 2012
  3. ^ "The Doctor in Spite of Himself Act III". Site-Moliere. Retrieved July 7, 2015. 
  4. ^ Haubner S. "Le médecin malgré lui" in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, (Ed.) Sadie S., London & New York: Macmillan, 1997

External links[edit]