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An Italian Straw Hat


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AT: A Leghorn Hat; Horse Eats Hat; The Italian Straw Hat A: Eugène Labiche (with Marc Michel) Pf: 1851, Paris Pb: 1851 Tr: 1917 G: Farce in 3 acts; French prose S: Paris, 1850s C: 11m, 6f, extrasFadinard, a young gentleman due to be married that very day, is kept from his wedding by the hysterical Anais Beauperthuis, a young married woman. Fadinard's horse has chewed a straw hat which Anais had hung in a tree while she had a secret meeting with her lover. Now she dare not return hatless to her jealous husband and insists that Fadinard replace it. The wedding party, including the bride's domineering father and her deaf uncle, arrive at Fadinard's home, and he sets off with them in search of a hat, while they imagine they are going to the wedding. The quest leads him to the shop of a milliner, who turns out to be a jilted lover, which the guests think is the city hall, and to a society hostess, who mistakes Fadinard for an Italian opera singer, and everyone sits down to the ‘wedding breakfast’. Fadinard marries his bride in the street, and the trail leads eventually to someone who bought an identical hat. Unfortunately, this is Beauperthuis himself, to whom Fadinard explains the reason for his search. Just as Beauperthuis is about to confront his wife, Fadinard finds an identical hat amongst the wedding presents, which saves Anais from disgrace.

AT: A Leghorn Hat; Horse Eats Hat; The Italian Straw Hat A: Eugène Labiche (with Marc Michel) Pf: 1851, Paris Pb: 1851 Tr: 1917 G: Farce in 3 acts; French prose S: Paris, 1850s C: 11m, 6f, extras

One of the best known of the 174 plays by Labiche, the greatest comic playwright of 19th-century France, this has all the classic elements of farce: a recognizably normal individual who gets caught in an extraordinary situation, here the conflicting demands of getting married and finding a hat, and pursues this with relentless logic. The improbabilities of the plot are helped along by the disabilities of the elderly guests, notably deafness and short-sightedness. This may not seem ‘politically correct’, but the joke is much more at the expense of those who fail to understand than on the disabled themselves.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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