THE IMAGINARY INVALID is Molière’s final and most famous play. It premiered in 1673 with Molière himself on stage in the title role. The piece portrays the relationship between a self-pitying hypochondriac and his money-grubbing doctors as a win-win symbiosis. The parasitic field of medicine charges a tidy sum for its charlatanry, and in its ignorance breeds new suffering as the imaginary illness grows in tandem with the patient’s power over his surroundings. Molière dedicated the piece to the Sun King, who was cruelly treated to death by a host of “healers.” As Argan in the piece, he attacks himself, the comic poet Molière, on whom he wishes the doctors’ revenge, and bleeds – as if a higher power had written the punch line – to death on stage.
In their version, Barbara Sommer and Plinio Bachmann have adapted it into a spinning top of hypersensitivity, whose centrifugal force decenters the sufferer, the doctor, and the generally incorrigible, thereby radicalizing these positions. Only those who self-present as wounded are allowed a say in the matter. The rhetoric of victimhood is used for the expansion of power – whereas the intrigue itself, of course, remains timeless.