Marine Germisashvili                                                                                                                                                                # 3

Preciosity, Moliere and Analogs of Preciosity

 in the 19-th Century Georgian Drama

What is preciosity? Actually there is no literary theory determining it. It is rather a tendency, virtual play on words which trace can be found in Europe at the end of the 16th century and at the beginning of the 17the century.  

Preciosity or preciousness (French préciosité) in the 17-th century French literature became the style most fully represented the baroque period. In other words it is a kind of “elite-aristocratic” trend. The analogs of it could be found at all grand royal courts of Europe, e.g. in Germany, Italy and Spain.

As was mentioned above this trend of art, was an integral part of aristocracy. From the very outset, the followers of this style were only the ladies who thought that cultural and social life of the 17-th century French royal court lacked refinement. Vulgarism and rudeness dominated at that time and thus they opposed to the existed mentality and traditions. At the same time this trend represented emancipated-feminist movement of women. The females demanded equal rights with males. The aristocratic ladies who had nostalgia to the times of King Henri IV greatness decided to form their own refined world. The aristocrats tried to occupy their own place in such Bonne society (,,’Bonne société’’) and feel chosen and thus the preciosities created precious salons.

Already from 1630 on there appeared more than one such salons where literary entertainments were arranged. Marquise de Rambouillet’s Parisian salon- L’Hôtel de Rambouillet, was the liveliest and prestigious places of that time. One failed to see anything ordinary in Marquise de Rambouillet’s hotel: the rooms were full of rare and valuable things, even the air was fragrant with various soft aromas. The gathering place was so-called “The Blue Room” (Chambre bleue). The saloon hosted by Marquise de Rambouillet became an intellectual center where all celebrated artists and public figures of that time gathered: Malherbe, Corneille, Madam de La Fayette, etc.

The main subject of their gatherings was soon outlined, it was love. In their view, love brings much suffer, but at the same time it is the most lofty and perfect feeling. However, the main concern of this society was perfection of the French language and its release from all kinds of vulgarisms, familiarities, trivial expressions of the 16th century heavy language.

Preciosities employed special language, gestures and refined speech. Characteristic to their speech were new words created particularly in that epoch, neologisms: ,, anonyme ‘’, ,,enthousiasmer ‘’, ,, féliciter ‘’, ,,hardi’’ ,,incontestable ‘’ ...   metaphors and paraphrasing “les miroirs de l'âme” – the eyes ; ;,l'ameublement de la bouche ‘’ –teeth. The preciosity phrase are complex and  language is pretentious. This was caused by the ambitions of that time snobs. They hated rude bourgeois manners and considered the earlier romances of chivalry. They used old antique sources and subjects of classical epoch, had refined lyrics, strong metaphors, allegories. Their plots were long-winded, unfinished and sentimental.

The genres of this literary trend are two forms of a romance: Le roman héroïque (heroic) and Le roman pastoral (pastoral) « ,, l'Astrée’’ –Honoré D’Urfé. Poetry : La poésie galante united mediaval epigrams, madrigals, (for praizing women’s physical and moral features) : La poésie ingénieuse: enigmas and anagrams. La poésie psychologique  was intended for portraits, allégories, métamorphoses.

In order to understand the preciosity language, we present some examples from Molière's farce-comedy Les précieuses ridicules :

water  - liquid element  - ,,-l'élément liquide’’                                                                              

tooth -  mouth equipment, furniture - l'imeublement debouche.’’     

lackey – necessary person - ,,Un nécessaire’’                                                                

      death – all-mighty - ,, la toute puissante’’

music – the daughter of Gods ,,-le paradis des oreilles’’                                                                  

shadow – the Sun’s maiden ,,la fille du soleil.’’

poetry   - the daughter of the God      ,,les filles des dieux‘‘                                                                 

eyes – mirrors of a soul ,,les miroirs de l'âme’’

      the Sun – Nature’s husband ,,l'époux de la nature.‘‘…

     mirror – counselor of Beauty le conseiller des grâces ‘’

marriage – allowed love donner dans l’amour permis.

 With the course of time the style of preciosity has become more and more artificial.

Like Madam de La Fayette, Marquise de Sévigné and others the classicist dramatist Jean-Baptiste Molière used the genre of preciosity with great success. For him it was the subject of mocking. Molière made the symbol of preciosity “funny”. His comedy Les précieuses ridicules  (“The Pretentious Young Ladies”) is a comedy-pamphlet of his time (1659 :18.11). The satirist is totally opposed to all rough immitations. This major argument is formulated by him in a préface given by him to the comedy: ,,Les plus excellentes choses sont  sujettes à être copiées par de mauvais singes qui méritent d’être bernés[...] aussi les véritables précieuses auraient tort de se piquer,lorsqu’on joue les ridicules qui les imitent mal.’’(Molière 1995 :10)      He states that « true » précieuses would be wrong to see themselves in these ridiculous provincial imitations, and thus should not be offended (1982 :514). Although the writer of these words tried to avoid the range of influential  précieuses  and therefore it looked like he criticized only provincial imitations.

     Molière's new play was an immediate success in France. The plot is as follows: a bourgeois, Gorgibus, seeks to marry off his daughter and niece who had just come from province to the city. He had chosen two respectable suitors for them but the précieuses reject them as unworthy lovers because they require suitors to follow a strict protocol gleaned from salon literature. audiences in the They had read ,,Clélie~, thoroughly studied a map of the country of Tenderness” , they knew that the name should have more expressiveness and that is why they chose their real names Cathos and Magdelon on        “ Polyxène” and “Aminte”.   Their fixed idea is to get in touch with educated people and appear in the circle of preciosites. The two girls rejected the suitor chosen by Gorgibus, as unworthy lovers La Grange and Du Croisy. How could they receive kindly those who were so “awkward in gallantry”?. ..”they have not even seen a map of the country of Tenderness, and that Love-letters, Trifling attentions, Polite epistles, and Sprightly verses, are regions to them unknown. ..and their external appearance is not such as to give at first sight a good opinion of them… and their breeches were not big enough by more than half-a-foot. In the view of these young ladies “matrimony ought never to happen till after other adventures” But to come out point-blank with a proposal of marriage--to make no love but with a marriage-contract, and begin a novel at the wrong end! Once more, father, nothing can be more tradesmanlike, and the mere thought of it makes me sick at heart.” (SceneIV, 1982:520:521).

The two repulsed lovers decided to play a trick with the help of their valets Mascarille and Jodelet disguised as marquise and viscount. First appeared “marquise” de Mascarille (the valet to La Grange) fashionably dressed, wearing an enormous wig which touched the floor when making a curtsy, with remarkable ribbons of the breeches. He was boasting before ladies with his talents, erudition and closeness to the high rank of society (Moliere himself played this part).

Later the “viscount” enters (the valet to Du Croisy) is also very amuzing, dressed in a coat fastened up to the upper jaw. With a long sword, he pretends to be a great warrior who struggled in numerous battles and numerous adventurous stories, a real knight, gallant and with perfect manners. It does not take much time for Mascarille and Jodelet to win the ladies’ hearts with their exquisite language. However, the farce ends very soon and the rejected lovers unmask the stupid “preciosites”.

In his comedy Molière made fun of French women who wanted to display wit and exquisite taste, refined ideals, whilst they only uttered vapid and blatant nonsense.

Two centuries later this Molière’s comedy became topical in Georgia too. It must not have been a chance phenomenon in Georgian literature of that time to translate Les précieuses ridicules. The thing is that in the sixties of the 19th century Georgian high rank society was also hit with analogues disease as French society in the epoch of classicism. Naturally, in Georgia too this phenomenon became the subject of ridicule and criticism. It was time when as a result of the abolishment of serfdom and development of capitalism, Georgian landlords and ordinary people rushed to the towns. There they found different culture came from Russia, with new way of life and new language.  A majority of them  tried to adapt to new way of life but often they failed to do it and forgot their own traditions and mother-tongue. This was ridiculous and tragic at the same time. In the literary journal “Tsiskari” the subject of criticism became the language spoken by the educated Georgian women which was a ridiculous blend of Russian and Georgian words. [“Tsiskari”, 1862].

In the letter dated from 1845, sent by N.Baratashvili to Maiko Orbeliani he wrote about his cousin who had forgotten the Georgian language but did not know Russian too. (1968:194). [ If we draw a parallel, the same is with the present day Georgian language where numerous English words have been entered: “feshen viki”, damiseive”, damikopire”, “sitkvebi daakastinge”, ,,gamiseila’’et].

Clearly it was because of language problems that Georgia’s literary society decided to translate Molière’s comedy Les précieuses ridicules into Georgian language. First Les précieuses ridicules was translated by Elene Lordkipanidze with the title “The Affected Ladies’ in 1883. The translation was included into the collection of works “Georgian Library” published in the Kutaisi city. Later the comedy was translated by Nunu Kadeishvili under the title “The Pretentious Preciosites”. The second title seems to be more accurate because it reflects Molière’s irony to preciosites.

The language of Molière’s protagonists is typical to provincialisms, dialects, jargon, plain speech, an abundance of folk sayings which adds special flavor to his farce.

With all this the dramatist opposed to precious language of the high society, “High style” of the representative of the classicism.  The Georgian literary characters of that time speak in same blend language as any city-dweller kinto (seller in old Tbilisi) or karachogeli, which was the blend of Georgian, Russian and Armenian languages. This devise has its own aim to display Georgia’s social and historical environment. As to the character’s blend language as a phenomenon in literature, Akaki Tsreteli termed it “Bazazkhanum language”.

In the comedies written by G.Eristavi, A.Tsagareli, Z.Antonov, G.Sundukian similar examples occupy a special place. The order of one foreign language system is transferred to another language. For instance in G.Eistavi’s play an Armenian speaks such Georgian which is quite strange for Georgian language system. Finally, such speech makes comic effect. Any of Eristavi’s comedies are full of such examples if his personage is an Armenian. As Grigol Robakidze stated this “racial blend intensifies the comedy”. Another purpose of using this devise was to make the spectator understand that such corruption of the language along with the most negative consequences is rather ridiculous. Typical specimens of reaching comical effect with blend language are D.Eristavi’s comedies – Ramazi (“Divorce”) and Diambeg (“Litigation”): `Mravalta saqmeta gamo ara mqonda droeba. sxva,gvar, kneinav, rogor aris garemoeba tqvenis saqmisa?’’-mravalTa saqmeTa gamo ara mqonda droeba. sxva gvar, kneinav, rogor aris garemoeba Tqvenis saqmisa?~ [.I had much work to do and did not have time. Otherwise, madam, how are you doing?..]; ,, Kneignas vaxlavar, umorchilesi mona, meqneba neba bedniereba vikotxo simrtele brtskinvalebisa tkvenisa’’-`kneiJnas vaxlavar, umorCilesi mona, meqneba neba bedniereba vikiTxo simrTele brwyinvalebisa Tqvenisa!~[I am at your service, madam, your faithful servant. Have the good fortune to ask how are you getting on?..] `Tkven ar icit,rom ketildgeoba erisa aris dafudznebuli chvensa mxrebsa zedan; tkven ar icit, rom erti gzis dawerili chems mier esret ars mtkice da mkari vitarca cheshmariteba’’- `Tqven ar iciT, rom keTildReoba erisa aris dafuZnebuli Cvensa mxrebsa zedan; Tqven ar iciT, rom erTi gzis dawerili Cems mier esreT ars mtkice da myar viTarca WeSmariteba~.[ You don’t know that nation’s wellbeing lays on our shoulders], etc.

Like Molière G.Eristavi ridicules unnatural speech and overrefinement in language forms. This is evidenced from Karapet’s response (“Miser”) to Archil’s overrefined remark: `Kniaxzan, shen ghramatikulad laparakob. me arc kata,arc ghoria mistsavliao’-’`kniazjan, Sen Rramatikulad laparakob. me arc kata, arc Roria miswavliao~  [Sir, You speak grammatically but I haven’t studied either “a cat” or a “pig”( =category= kata ghoria)] (scene II, 357).

 Like Molière, G.Eristavi expresses the Georgians’ drawbacks with a heavy heart. The creative works of these dramatists, comedies creation and necessity of their translation resonates with the requirements of the epoch. This was a real ,,l’air du temps’’and not merely contemporary play. These caricature definitions go father than just the meaning of a farce.

 As journalist and editor Sergei Meskhi states, “In order for a comedy to have a positive impact on the society it is necessary for the society to comprehend its meaning. If the society watched the comedy only for fun then the performance will be fruitful” (Meskhi 1953:120).


  1. Baratashvili 1968. Baratashvili N. Selected works. “Sabchota Sakartvelo”, Tbilisi, 1968.

  2. Eristavi 1995. Eristavi G. “Divorce”. Georgian Writing. v. 10, Tbilisi, “Nakaduli”, 1995.

  3. Eristavi 1995: Eristavi G. “Litigation” Georgian Writing. v. 10, Tbilisi, “Nakaduli”, 1995.

  4. Meskhi 1953: Meskhi S. Complete collection of works. v.III, Tbilisi “Sabchota Sakartvelo”, 1953.

  5. Moliere 1982: J.B.Moliere, Les précieuses ridicules  translated by Nunu Kadeishvili Tbilisi “Sabchota Sakartvelo”, 1953.

  6. Moliere 1883: J.B.Moliere, Les précieuses ridicules  translated by E.Lordkipanidze, Kutaisi, Georgian Library, 1883.

  7. Moliere 1997 : Moliere ,,Le  precieuses  ridicules’’ Texte integral.   classique Larousse Larousse .Paris 1997.

  8. Le petit Larousse Grand format. Larousse 2002.


  10.  Larochelle  2000-2009 : Josée Larochelle  ,,Histoire de la litérature   français’’ 2000-2009 comedieclassiqu.

  11. Wronecki 1999 : Wronecki Marie-Hélène   ,,La Préciosité ‘’ http://pagesperso- 1999.  




Volume 3, Issue 2


Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature


Georgian Electronic Journal of Literature