AT: Caelina; The Child of Mystery; A Tale of Mystery A: René-Charles Guilbert de Pixérécourt Pf: 1800 Pb: 1800; rev. 1841 Tr: 1802 G: Melodrama in 3 acts; French prose S: Dufour's house and garden, and a mountainside mill, France, late 18th c. C: 9m, 2f, extrasThe heiress Coelina is in love with Stéphany, the son of her uncle and guardian M. Dufour, and hopes to marry him. However, another uncle Truguelin wants his son to marry her for her money. Dufour has offered hospitality to a dumb beggar Francisque, who had his tongue cut out by Truguelin eight years previously, so that Francisque could not reveal the secret of Coelina's birth. When Truguelin finds Francisque at Dufour's home, he plots to kill the beggar, but Coelina overhears his plan and saves him. During a party to celebrate Coelina's engagement to Stéphany, Truguelin sends word that Coelina is the illegitimate daughter of the old beggar Francisque and so cannot inherit the family wealth. Despite the protests of the young lovers, Dufour turns Coelina out of the house. Meanwhile, Truguelin has been denounced to the police by the doctor who treated Francisque's tongue. He is captured after a spectacular chase. It is revealed that Francisque had secretly married Coelina's mother. Her legitimacy proved, Coelina is now free to inherit her fortune and to marry Stéphany.
AT: Caelina; The Child of Mystery; A Tale of Mystery A: René-Charles Guilbert de Pixérécourt Pf: 1800 Pb: 1800; rev. 1841 Tr: 1802 G: Melodrama in 3 acts; French prose S: Dufour's house and garden, and a mountainside mill, France, late 18th c. C: 9m, 2f, extras
Pixérécourt is regarded as the father of 19th-century melodrama, and Coelina is one of his best. Although the dialogue is sententious, and the characters (the innocent young girl, the wicked uncle, the improbably uncommunicative old beggar) are stereotypical, the simple moral conflicts and the spectacular chase of the last act not only prepared the way for writers like Boucicault, but offer delightfully uncomplicated theatrical enjoyment.