The Misanthrope, the protagonist of the play (an antisocial person) is totally against flattering people and opts to remain blunt and upfront with his feelings and opinions about others much to the displeasure of many around him. This attribute drives him to leave his immediate abode, friends and country because he gets into trouble for speaking his mind. He is sued by an influential person whose poem he is painfully candid about. The misanthrope’s friend on the other hand, Philinte does not get into trouble because he duly flatters the poet, even lying about the verses’ quality. Brutal honesty is the message of the play. What price are we willing to pay for honesty? Are we going to be honest to the very end or lie to protect ourselves and deceive others? In the opening part of the play, the protagonist Alceste (the misanthrope) argues with his friend Philinte about being honest and calls flattery or the eagerness to please a cowardly act, “une lache methode” (Philinte’s name has etymological references to gentility, kindness and friendliness hence a person who finds it hard to offend).
The other plot in the play revolves around the love that triangle (if we can call it that) that exists between Alceste, Celimene and her suitors. While Alceste remains grounded in the decision not to be a hypocrite while deciding to be upfront with people, Celimene’s hypocrisy lands her into trouble as her suitors discover through letters that she has written to each of them with insulting remarks about the other suitor. Of one suitor she says “il me divertit quelquefois aver ses brusqueries et son chagrin bourru; mais il est cent moments où je le trouve le plus fâcheux du monde” of another he says “pour l’homme à la veste, qui s’est jeté dans le bel esprit, et veut être auteur malgré tout le monde, je ne puis me donner la peine d’scouter ce qu’il dit, et sa prose me fatigue autant que see vers”. Of yet another she says “il n’y a rien de si mince que toute sa personne”. Following these events, all the suitors decide they are no longer interested in Celimene. This leaves Alceste to pursue her alone with no competition. Events preceding these and other sub plots in the play also have the same remote cause or subject matter which is hypocrisy.
Moliéres heros or protagonists are normally ones who are obsessed almost to the point of insanity with ideals they deem meaningful. Elects holds onto this act of being frank until the very end and similar structures or happenings are seen in other molière plays.