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Marriage of Figaro


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AT: Figaro's Marriage; The Follies of a Day; A Mad Day's Work A: Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais W: 1778 Pf: 1783, Gennevilliers (private perf.); 1784, Paris (public perf.) Pb: 1785 Tr: 1785 G: Com. in 5 acts; French prose S: The Castle of Aguas-Frescas, near Seville, Spain, mid-18th c. C: 13m, 5f, extrasCount Almaviva, now Governor of Andalucia, wishes to invoke his feudal right to sleep with Suzanne, the bride of his servant Figaro. Figaro is trying to extricate himself from a long-standing promise to wed the Count's housekeeper, Marceline. Invoking the help of the Countess, who is angry at her husband's philandering, Figaro plans to outwit both his master and Marceline. Almaviva is consumed with jealousy over his wife's supposed love of Chérubin, and sends the young page to join the army. However, Almaviva is outwitted in his plan to seduce Suzanne: she changes clothes with her mistress, and Almaviva finds that his night-time wooing is directed at his wife. Shamed into marital fidelity, Almaviva withdraws from his pursuit of Suzanne, and Figaro, having discovered that he is Marceline's long-lost son, is free to marry his beloved.

AT: Figaro's Marriage; The Follies of a Day; A Mad Day's Work A: Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais W: 1778 Pf: 1783, Gennevilliers (private perf.); 1784, Paris (public perf.) Pb: 1785 Tr: 1785 G: Com. in 5 acts; French prose S: The Castle of Aguas-Frescas, near Seville, Spain, mid-18th c. C: 13m, 5f, extras

Now best known in its operatic version by Mozart (1786), this sequel to The Barber of Seville remains one of the best comedies of the 18th century. Apart from the hilarious intrigues, disguises, and the way in which characters are hidden and revealed with the dexterity of one shuffling a pack of cards, the play contained revolutionary dynamite. ‘For this play not to be a danger, the Bastille would have to be torn down first,’ declared Louis XVI with prophetic insight. Figaro's famous monologue, in which he points out that those in power ‘took the trouble of being born and nothing more’, was greeted with thunderous applause by the Parisian audiences, giving rise to Napoleon's description of the piece as ‘the Revolution in action’.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732—1799) French dramatist


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