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IN ACTING SHAKESPEARE
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FIGARO
Here are some themes & sample scene from Figaro.

THEMES

Class Struggle
At the time of the play, in France, members of the aristocracy were put into positions of power even if they did not merit it.  Also, people born into the middle or lower classes were not allowed to move up.  Figaro’s plotting against his master is an act of complete rebellion.  This play foreshadows, and, indeed, helped to create the French Revolution which brought the downfall of France’s class system.

"The rich don’t uphold the law, it’s the law that upholds the rich!" – Figaro

“The law is always comfortable in the homes of the wealthy, my Lord.” – Figaro

The Role of Women/Gender Roles
The way the men in the play treat the women demonstrates how society treated women in Beaumarchais’ time.  Women faced great inequality; often subject to the whims of their husbands or guardians.  The Count happily and casually engaged in extramarital affairs, yet his wife can never be forgiven for doing the same thing.  Women were perceived as objects that belonged to their lovers.  But the plot hatched by the Countess and Suzanne show women attempting to rebel against these roles in this society.

"You seduce me when I’m young, naïve and poor, give me a child, desert me and thirty years later you call me a loose woman?!  Only in a world run by men does that logic even exist.  How many others like me did you seduce?.....It’s always the most guilty who judge our failings.  You control our bodies just as you try to control our minds; abuse our goodness and punish our weakness.” – Marceline

“What else can a woman do in a world run by men.” – Suzanne

Politics and Politicians
Many pepole were disgusted by the political atmosphere and were about to break out in a revolution.  Their world was overcome by immorality, corruption, the abuse of power and the unequal distribution of riches.

“And the Count!  He just assumes he can take whatever he wants.  Because he was born rich he thinks he’s smart!  It’s taken me more brains simply to stay alive for the past thirty years than it’s taken his kind to run the country for the past century.” – Figaro

SAMPLE SCENES

Act I, Scene 3
Count:  Why do you think the Countess played that trick on me just now?

Figaro:  Why do you think the Countess played that trick on you just now?

Count:  Why are you so evasive?

Figaro:  Why are you so suspicious?

Count:  You used to tell me everything.

Figaro:  You thought I told you everything.

Count:  I trusted you like a brother.

Figaro:  As did I, my Lord.  (Under his breath)  Until you treated me like a servant.

Count:  You have a bad reputation around here.

Figaro:  Undeserved.  Who else in this room can say that?

Count:  You’re very quick, Figaro.  With your brains, you could make something of yourself in politics.

Figaro:  Make something of yourself in politics with brains?  Impossible.

Count:  I could teach you.

Figaro:  Oh I know how to get ahead in politics.  Pretend to know what you don’t know and not to know what you do know and speak as loudly as you can about both.  Reveal every important secret and make secrets of what no one is hiding.  Insult the few who are wise in order to flatter the many that are not.  Promise the people everything and give them nothing while you promise the rich nothing and give them everything.  That’s politics in a nutshell.

Count:  That’s not politics, that’s intrigue – in a nutshell.

Figaro:  One and the same nutshell.  As for me I shall be perfectly happy being your Steward, doing your bidding and living quietly in the chateau with my wife Suzanne.

Act II, Scene 1
Figaro:  This morning I was an orphan; this afternoon I am blessed with a perfectly normal family:  a rival you hate for a mother; and an enemy I loathe for a father.

Suzanne:  And even if none of your schemes worked out as planned – it all still worked out as planned.

Figaro:  I don’t know how I do it.  It’s a gift.  But the truth is it’s all chance.  It’s chance whether you’re born rich or poor.  That’s the most important lottery to win.  After that it’s all chance.

Suzanne:  So you believe only in chance?

Figaro:  It was chance I was born poor; chance I was lost and the greater chance I was found; chance I came to serve the Count in the house where my mother works; chance I met you; chance we fell in love . . .

Suzanne:  Then there’s a chance you’ll fall out of love.  Tell me the truth.

Figaro:  The truth or the “truest truth.”

Suzanne:  Are you saying there’s more than one truth?

Figaro:  Of course.  Everyone knows that over times what was once called absolute madness becomes accepted wisdom and “absolute truths” become the biggest lies:  like the “truths” that governments and churches proclaim so loudly when it’s completely understood no one believes a word.  But the truth is that I will always love you.

Suzanne:  I’m not sure I’m smart enough to follow all of that and I know I’m too smart to believe any of it.  But my truth is that I will always love my husband.

Figaro:  Stick to that and you’ll be the rarest of wives.

Suzanne:  Must you make a joke of everything?

Figaro:  Yes.  It’s the only thing that makes life bearable.


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