Title: The Barber of Seville or the Useless Precaution.
Author: Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais.
Genre: Literature, fiction, plays, humour, satire.
Publication Date: 1773 (first performed February 23, 1775).
Summary: In a Spanish town of Seville, a count has fallen in love at first sight with a girl called Rosine. To ensure that she really loves him and not just his money, the Count disguises himself as a poor college student named Lindor, and attempts to woo her. His plans are foiled by Rosine's guardian, Doctor Bartholo, who keeps her locked up in his house and intends to marry her himself against her will. The Count's luck changes, however, after a chance reunion with an ex-servant of his, Figaro, who is currently working as a barber and therefore has access to the Doctor's home, armed with a sharp tongue and exceptionally sharp wits.
My rating: 8/10.
My review: I have absolutely adored this play (and, conversely, the opera) since I was a kid. It's one of the few "humourous" pieces of fiction I ever remember reading (I didn't have access to anything other than my Mother's Everyman Library, almost no children's books, plus Russians' idea of funny is very unique), and I still find it as hilarious as I did back then. One often hears Beaumarchais criticized for highfalutin and over-flowery language, but the language is actually one of the aspects I really love. And though it is a translation from the French, I can't imagine anything more befitting for the time or the genre. It has just the perfect amount of pompous, tongue-in-cheek flair as I am confident Beaumarchais intended (and why, I believe, Rossini and, before him, Mozart, thought this type of book would make a perfect opera). Figaro is like a Shakesperean pan and fool tied into one - a "clown" that sees all, understands all, and runs a perfect social commentary. The scene where everyone is whispering to each other literally had me in tears of laughter, which is uncommon for me. Just a fun, poetic literary romp!
♥ FIGARO: No, I felt I was lucky to hear no more of it - knowing as I did that a great man is doing you pretty well if he's doing you no harm.
♥ THE COUNT: Oh, the critics! Typical disappointed author!
FIGARO: Yes, we are all alike, and why not? They gave me the bird, but if ever I can get them together again I...
THE COUNT: You'll bore them to death in revenge, eh?
♥ THE COUNT: And what taught you such a cheerful philosophy?
FIGARO: Habitual misfortune. I forced myself to laugh at everything for fear of having to weep.
♥ FIGARO: ...If you want to see how clever the most artless of women can become - try locking them up!
♥ THE COUNT: Yes, you know now, but if you gossip...
FIGARO: Gossip? Me? I won't waste any of the much-abused and high-sounding phrases about honour and devotion upon you. I can put the position in two words: self-interest. Self-interest will answer me. Use that as your yardstick.
♥ THE COUNT: So much the better. Is he honest?
FIGARO: Just enough to avoid being hanged.
THE COUNT: Better still. To punish a rogue and at the same time achieve one's own happiness...
FIGARO: Is to combine public interest and private advantage! Truly a master stroke of morality, My Lord!
♥ THE COUNT [embracing him]: Ah! Figaro! My friend! You shall be my guardian angel, my liberator, my guiding spirit.
FIGARO: Plague on it! How friendly people do become when they find they've a use for you.
♥ FIGARO: Give people problems of their own to think about and you prevent them from interfering with others.
♥ THE COUNT: Oh, come! That's just vulgar drunkenness.
FIGARO: It's the right sort. It's the enjoyable sort.
♥ THE COUNT: I can't make up the words...
FIGARO: Anything that comes into your head will do, My Lord. When it comes to love-making it doesn't matter whether what one says makes sense or it doesn't. Here, take my guitar.
♥ FIGARO [vigorously]: Look! I'm going in there - and with one stroke of my wand I'll lull vigilance to sleep, awake the transports of love, thwart the machinations of jealousy, confound base intrigue, and overcome every obstacle that confronts us. As for you, My Lord, to my house, in soldier's uniform with billeting notice in your hand and plenty of gold in your pockets.
THE COUNT: Who's the gold for?
FIGARO: Goodness me! Never mind who it's for! Gold is the sinews of intrigue!
♥ FIGARO [To Rosine]: Unfortunately he has one great defect which will always stand in the way of his getting on in the world.
ROSINE: A defect, Figaro? A defect? Are you sure?
FIGARO: He's in love.
ROSINE: Of course - considering that he hasn't any money.
♥ FIGARO: Frighten you! Fie! That's quite the wrong attitude. Once give way to fear of the consequences and you begin to experience them.
♥ FIGARO: Ah, Madam! Did you ever know love and tranquility go together? Youth is so unfortunate today - it's always faced with the same terrible choice: love without tranquility or tranquility without love.
♥ ROSINE: Yet I'm only afraid he may be put off by the difficulties... and...
FIGARO: Like a will-o'-the-wisp, eh? But remember, Madam, that the same wind which extinguishes a lamp will fan a fire and that we men are like fires.
♥ BAZILE: Calumny, Sir. You don't realize its effectiveness. I've seem the best of men pretty near overwhelmed by it. Believe me there's no spiteful stupidity, no horror, no absurd story that one can't get the idle-minded folk of a great city to swallow if one goes the right way about it - and we have some experts here! First the merest whisper skimming the earth like a swallow before the storm - pianissimo - a murmur and it's away sowing the poisoned seed as it goes. Someone picks it up and - piano piano - insinuates it into your ear. The damage is done. It spawns, creeps, and crawls and spreads and multiplies and then - rinforzando - from mouth to mouth it foes like the very Devil. Suddenly, no one knows how, you see Calumny raising its head hissing, puffing, and swelling before your very eyes. It takes wing, extending its flight in ever-widening circles, swooping and swirling, drawing in a bit here and a bit there, sweeping everything before it, and breaks forth at last like a thunder clap to become, thanks be to Heaven, the general cry, a public crescendo, a chorus universal of hate, rage, and condemnation. Who the deuce can resist it?
♥ BAZILE: Things like an unequal marriage, an iniquitous verdict, a miscarriage of justice are dissonances within the ordered harmony of things: they need to be resolved by the harmonizing influence of gold.
♥ FIGARO: What a scoundrel he is, this Bazile! Fortunately he's an even bigger fool. You need position in the world, family name, rank, standing in fact, to achieve anything effective by Calumny. A fellow like Bazile could lie to his heart's content - no one would believe him.
♥ BARTHOLO [aside, dropping her hand]: How we long to learn what we most fear to know!
♥ FIGARO: Upon my word, Sir, mankind has no choice between one sort of folly and another, so where I can't have the profit at least let me have the pleasure. Here's to a life of mirth and jollity, say I! Who knows whether the world will last another three weeks?
♥ BARTHOLO: But, by the way - talking of the tip - why did you accept it?
BAZILE: You seemed to be all friends together. I knew nothing about what was going on. In a case where it's difficult to make up one's mind a purse of gold always seems to me to be a conclusive argument.
♥ BARTHOLO: If you were in my place, Bazile, wouldn't you go to any lengths to possess her?
BAZILE: Upon my word, Doctor, I would not. With any sort of property it isn't possession that matters, it's the enjoyment of it that gives satisfaction. In my opinion marrying a woman who doesn't love you is running the risk of...
BARTHOLO: Unfortunate consequences, you think, eh?
BAZILE: Well, well, you know - one sees it often enough nowadays... I wouldn't marry her against her will.
BARTHOLO: Thank ye kindly, Bazile. Better she should weep at having me than that I should suffer by not having her.
♥ ROSINE: Isn't that the most dreadful fate imaginable - to hate when one knows that love is what one is made for?
♥ FIGARO: We may be certain, Doctor, that when youth and love are at one anything that age may do to prevent them can only be described as a