Molière’s 17th century take on physicians

I sat in the darkened theatre, laughing out loud along with my fellow play-goers at Molière’s 17th-century comedic portrayal of the physician in his play Don Juan (Dom Juan ou le Festin de Pierre). Although Molière wrote this play hundreds of years ago, there’s something strikingly modern about it, and something that may feel familiar to long-suffering doctors out there who are  feeling less respect than they deserve. In fact, Georgetown University even uses Don Juan as a case study in its course on Interacting With The Medical Humanities in a section called Medical Uncertainty & Error: Physician Arrogance.

Molière was famous for his merciless skewering of the powerful in the fields of politics, law, and (in the following scene) medicine. Don Juan is a cynical opportunist and hedonist. After ruthlessly abandoning yet another young woman, we see him fleeing in disguise along with his servant, Sgaranelle.  While more law-abiding than his master, Sgaranelle is also more of a simpleton. Don Juan’s character appears complex because his own hypocrisies allow him to see through the pretences of others, as Molière describes here: Continue reading