There are few if any of Molière's plays to which greater interest is attached than to Le Malade Imaginaire. It was Molière's last dramatic production. And his symptoms culminated during the performance of this play, so that he may be said almost actually to have died on the stage whilst acting it.
In 1672, the year preceding the production of this play, Molière had been sadly tried by domestic affliction, by his own failing health, and by the cold reception given to his great work (Les Femmes Savantes).
Now feeling and knowing himself to be attacked by an incurable malady, he conceived the desperate idea of representing on the stage a hypochondriac, victim of his own terrors, and trembling at the prospect of death; and, as if to hurl a last shaft at the Profession which he had already held up to ridicule in so many of his former comedies, he introduces in the part of Béralde a skeptical freethinker on the subject of medicine, into whose mouth he places long tirades against the inefficacy of all drugs and their dispensers to cope with human ailments.
But one of the most curious features of this play is that in the principal part of "Argan," the "Imaginary Invalid," the part played by himself, he expresses horror at the heretical doctrines uttered by his sensible brother Béralde ; and when the latter suggests taking him to see one of Molière's plays in which the Profession is held up to ridicule, he gives vent to a violent diatribe against Molière for daring to introduce such venerable personages into his plays, and to represent them in such ridiculous colors.
Argan was played by Molière.