‘Le mariage de Figaro presents a thoroughly pessimistic view of human relations’ Discuss.
Le marriage de Figaro is the second in a trilogy of plays written by Beaumarchais, it was written in 1778, as a follow up to Le Barbier de Seville. The play was very well received by the general public. King Louis XVI, however thought that it misrepresented the aristocracy. He had reportedly said that ‘This play must never be given. The man mocks everything that should be respected in the government. The bastille would have to be torn down before the presentation of this play could be anything but a dangerous folly.’(Madame de Campan, 1849, cited in Carlson, 1966) All of this negative press however regarding the production of the play on added to the desire of the population to see it, as Cook says ‘ by banning the play and then allowing it to go ahead, the King was proving, if only to the nobility, that his authority could be questioned.’(1992) As this play is the second of a trilogy the some characters are already known, Beaumarchais wanted the characters to appear to have changed or matured from the first book, and the addition of other characters helps achieve this. In Le mariage de Figaro there are many different interactions and relations between all of the characters, some of which appear at first glance to be negative. This essay will look at these relationships and how they may be perceived by the reader. The play starts off with Figaro, the counts valet, and Suzanne, the countess’ maid talking about their impending nuptials, from the very first scene it is obvious that they are in love. Keffallonitis says ‘Figaro est sincèrement amoureux de Suzanne. Dès la première scène de la pièce, les deux domestiques apparaissent comme un couple uni par l’amour.’(1999). As the count has designs on Suzanne, he attempts to do everything in his power to stop the wedding from taking place. In order to do this he tries to exercise the ‘droit de seigneur’ in which a young girl who lives on his estate could be made to spend her wedding night with him, the count himself specifically renounced this feudal right as a declaration of love for the countess. Figaro was blind to these advances and after learning of them he and Suzanne try to plot against the count. As Suzanne is loyal to the countess she tells her of her husband’s plans, after learning this information the countess then joins forces with Figaro and Suzanne in trying to thwart the counts plans. It is not just the count that does not want the marriage to take place however, Marceline wants Figaro to marry her, not Suzanne, and Bartholo wants to prevent the marriage out of sheer revenge for Figaro’s actions in the previous play. As Niklaus says ‘The story is simply a battle of wits between Figaro, Suzanne and the countess on the one hand and the count and his allies on the other.’(1995) the interactions between these characters are both positive and negative. Firstly let’s take Figaro and Suzanne, from the moment that Figaro learns of the count’s desires, there is no doubt in his mind that Suzanne would even entertain the idea for a moment, which presents the idea that they are truly in love. Throughout the play Figaro and Suzanne plot and scheme to outwit the count and have their wedding, the trust and confidence in their relationship is always there. As each scheme that Figaro attempts fails due to circumstances out of his control the countess, who has her own reasons for overcoming the count, plots with Suzanne and tells her to keep their plan from Figaro as she does not trust that he will not try to interfere. Here Suzanne is faced with a potential dilemma as her loyalties to both sides are tested, but as the countess’ plans are in her benefit, she does not tell Figaro. As Figaro and Suzanne are usually honest to each other, when Figaro learns from Franchette that Suzanne (really the countess) is planning to meet the count he gets angry and jealous in his assumption that Suzanne...
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