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Game of Love and Chance


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AT: Love in Livery; Successful Strategies A: Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux Pf: 1730, Paris Pb: 1730 Tr: 1901 G: Romantic com. in 3 acts; French prose S: Paris, early 17th c. C: 4m, 2f, extrasKindly Monsieur Orgon wishes his daughter Silvia to marry Dorante, but she is fearful of marriage. She agrees to receive her suitor, provided that she can change places with her maid Lisette to give her a chance to observe his behaviour. Orgon learns that Dorante has similarly swapped roles with his valet Arlequin. Silvia finds herself soon enchanted by the ‘manservant’ and dismissive of her supposed suitor, since Arlequin exploits the situation to behave in an affected and high-handed manner. Meanwhile Lisette is alarmed to discover that her mistress's ‘suitor’ has fallen in love with her. Eventually Dorante reveals his true identity to Silvia and begs her to marry him. Despite being reminded by her of the supposed difference in their class, Dorante's love for the ‘maidservant’ remains unshaken. Convinced now that she has found a husband she can trust, Silvia too reveals her identity. Arlequin is only too pleased to make a match with Lisette.

AT: Love in Livery; Successful Strategies A: Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux Pf: 1730, Paris Pb: 1730 Tr: 1901 G: Romantic com. in 3 acts; French prose S: Paris, early 17th c. C: 4m, 2f, extras

Before Marivaux, well-born ladies in French comedy had tended to be little more than pawns in a game beyond their control (only their servants showed ingenuity and spirit in manipulating events). The play began with their being in love, and it was external hindrances (a difficult father, an insuperable class distinction) that had to be overcome before they could enjoy their love. Here the father is gentle, and willing to join in the game of his daughter, and, ironically, class is the one thing that is not a problem. It is Silvia's distrust and vanity that have to be overcome before she finds love, and Marivaux paints a subtle and persuasive portrait of this process.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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