The Heirs of Moliere, Various (18th century)

Just finished reading The Heirs of Molière, a collection of four French verse plays. It wasn’t a bad read. The first play, The Absent-Minded Lover was okay. I guess. I had a difficult time suspending my disbelief in regards to the title character. I simply couldn’t believe a person could be that flaky and survive in the world. Too stupid to live. It did have its amusing moments, though.

The Conceited Count revolves around a noble set to marry the daughter of a bourgeoisie. The count is exceedingly proud; take Mr. Darcy’s pride and pump it up on steroids. Yet, all he has is his name and titles, the wealth was lost in an old family scandal. There’s a “surprise reveal” at the end regarding a character, which I saw coming a mile away.

The Fashionable Prejudice is about a married aristocratic couple. The wife is miserable, due to her husband’s indifference and numerous infidelities, but she hides her unhappiness because it’s the right thing to do among their social set. Unbeknownst to her, her husband has rediscovered his love for her, but he’s afraid of looking a fool and being mocked by their peers. He vacillates on whether to tell her and becomes outraged when he believes she’s been unfaithful to him. All is resolved at the end, during a masked ball, when he takes the place of a confidant she’s sought out for advice. After her impassioned speech, he reveals himself and declares his love. I suspect Beaumarchais was familiar with this work. The situation of the Almavivas in The Marriage of Figaro has quite a few similarities.

The Friend of the Laws is an interesting piece of political intrigue. It’s crystal clear that the villain of the story is based on Robespierre and his machinations. Which is incredible, considering the play premiered in early January of 1793, months before the Reign of Terror and a good year and a half before Robespierre’s downfall and execution. I have to say, it was pretty ballsy on the author’s part. According to the book’s introduction, the political moderates enjoyed the play, the extremists not so much. The play was shut down and was part of the reason dramatic censorship was reinstated. The author survived by going into hiding during the Terror. Fascinating stuff.

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