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The Imaginary Invalid: Notes on Names


By A Noise Within
September 9, 2016

Enrich your experience of The Imaginary Invalid and discover the fascinating explanations behind the show’s meaningful character names:
Argan’s name sounds a little like “argent,” which [in French] means “money.” It also sounds a bit like “Orgon,” a character from another of Molière’s plays whose faith in the titular character, Tartuffe, is comparable to Argan’s faith in doctors.

Béline’s name is loosely related to “bélier,” which means “sheep.” The main reason for such a connection would be that she is pulling the wool over Argan’s eyes. There were a number of similar French expressions involving wool in this period. A “tireur de laine” (wool-puller) was akin to a con artist.

Angélique has a romantic-sounding name, and the direct translation of her name is “angelic.”

Cléante was a typical name for comedy in Molière’s era.

Monsieur de Bonnefoi’s name means “Good Faith,” which is the opposite of his personality, just as Monsieur Loyal in Tartuffe is far from Loyal

Toinette is fairly close to “tinette,” which means “funnel,” and to “toilette,” which may relate to her duties toward Angélique.

Monsieur Purgeon likes to purge, which still comes across in English.

Monsieur Fleurant’s name is derived from the verb “fleurer,” “to give off an odor.” [This is] less about him
having body odor and more about sticking his nose into chamber-pots to examine bowel movements.

Diafoirus has a Greek beginning (Dia, meaning “through), a Latin ending (-us), and diarrhea in the middle. The verb “foirer,” means “to have diarrhea.” [Editor’s note: adapted to “Claude De Aria” in this version, which sounds like “diarrhea.”]

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