The Happy Ending

An examination of the endings of three different comedies and the cost in each of a perfect resolution.

This paper discusses how one of the basic tenets of a comedy is a neat and satisfying resolution and how, in order to achieve a happy ending, playwrights often end up hastily tying up loose ends and glossing over unresolved problems. It looks at how the ending of Moliere’s The Miser is a good example; either as a result of sloppiness, hastiness, or just plain indifference, Moliere writes an ending that elides rather than resolves some of the play’s major issues. It examines how the ending of George Bernard Shaw’s Widowers’ Houses also involves characters not only forgetting their previous gripes about society’s ills, but embracing those ills wholeheartedly. Finally, it analyzes how Eugene Ionesco’s Amedee ends more bizarrely and ambiguously, and how the same idea repeats itself.
The main obstacle to characters’ happiness in The Miser is Harpagon, the title character. His children, Cleante and Elise, wish to marry Marianne and Valere (respectively). They realize, however, that Harpagon will not agree because their two prospective spouses are poor. The play centers around Harpagon’s miserliness and other characters’ attempts to get by him. Then the ending comes out of nowhere and in one fell swoop makes everything all right. In the midst of Harpagon’s attempts to catch the man who has stolen his 10,000 crowns, Marianne and Valere discover that they are siblings and that the rich Anselme is their father. This is enough for Harpagon he readily agrees that his children be married to Anselme’s children. This hasty ending allows the characters to avoid the problem of Harpagon’s miserliness.