The Marriage of Figaro

Definition

Theater

  • A comedy by Pierre de Beaumarchais, one of the mostpolitically inflammatory works ever staged in Europe. It was firstperformed in 1784 at the Comédie-Française, Paris, afterbeing banned for three years by Louis XVI because of its attacks onsocial injustice. When it finally opened, somewhat weakened by thecensor, the city was tense with anticipation. Although the play'ssubversive ideas provoked Louis to call the text detestable and theproduction "a dangerous folly", it ran for 80 performances,a record in 18th-century France.

    Beaumarchais's play was not performed in London until 1974,when Jonathan Miller staged it at the National Theatre. It was thesource for Mozart's opera Le nozze di Figaro (1786; librettoby Da Ponte).

    A sequel to The Barber of Seville, the play continuesthe story of Figaro, the shrewd valet to Count Almaviva. Figaro is about to marry Suzanne, maid to the Count's wife. The Count, however,desires Suzanne himself and tries to reinstitute his ancient rightof droit de seigneur. At the same time Figaro's debts haveput him in the power of Marceline, the Count's housekeeper, who isintent on marrying him. Figaro looks doomed until he learns the truthabout his parentage (he previously believed himself an orphan). Itturns out that Marceline is actually his cousin and that his fatheris rich enough to pay off his debts. Figaro and Suzanne are thereforefree to marry.

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