Famous quotes explained: « One must eat to live, not live to eat. »The Miser, Act III, Scene V, Molière, 1668.
This quote has entered popular language. Originally attributed to Socrates as an aphorism, Molière incorporated it into one of his most famous plays, The Miser. (L’Avare)
The main character Harpagon symbolizes a pathological miser. Various situations and dialogues are humorous, while others show a more pathetic side of the character. Here, Harpagon is preparing to host a dinner and his chef offers him a sumptuous meal composed of a multitude of dishes. Of course, he is skeptical about the impending expense. His nephew Valère helps him to counter the chef’s enthusiasm with this very sentence: one must eat to live, not live to eat.
This means that eating has a purpose, that of providing us with the energy necessary to stay alive and active. Eating is no longer presented as a pleasure, but as a necessity. The chiasmus (eat, live, live, eat) strongly opposes gluttony. The verb « must » reminds us of a duty, that of avoiding the sin of gluttony, of lust through food. Therefore, the quote presents frugality, the act of eating only until satisfied, as a virtue.
This quote can also account for cultural differences. We know in Europe that Anglo-Saxon and Latin countries do not approach the pleasures of the table in the same way. In France, tradition dictated that certain meals (especially festive ones) drag on with the multiplication of dishes. Similarly, a traditional Italian meal offers a substantial menu. Moments of conviviality and gluttony around the table seem much more limited in the countries of Northern Europe.
So, without living to eat, perhaps we should eat while living 🙂 However, in our time when food hygiene is (rightly) increasingly emphasized, Molière was a pioneer. Thus:
One must eat to live, not live to eat.
Links to Another quotes explained: Famous quotes explained: « Education is given by the family; instruction is owed by the state. », Victor Hugo, Words and deeds, 1876. Famous Quotes explained: « One person is missing, and everything is depopulated. » Méditations poétiques, « L’Isolement », Lamartine, 1820. Famous quotes explained: « To love is to know how to say ‘I love you’ without speaking. » Victor Hugo
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