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- The Love-Tiff - 1/15 -
LE DÉPIT AMOUREUX.
A COMEDY IN FIVE ACTS.
(_THE ORIGINAL IN VERSE_.)
_The Love-tiff_ (_Le Dépit-amoureux_) is composed of two pieces joined together. The first and longest is a comparatively modest imitation of a very coarse and indecent Italian comedy, _L'Interesse_, by Signer Nicolo Secchi; its intrigue depends chiefly on the substitution of a female for a male child, a change which forms the groundwork of many plays and novels, and of which Shakespeare has also made use. The second and best part of the _Love-tiff_ belongs to Molière alone, and is composed chiefly of the whole of the first act, the first six verses of the third scene, and the whole of the fourth scene of the second act; these, with a few alterations and a few. lines added, form, the comedy which the _Théâtre Française_ plays at the present time. It was first represented at Béziers towards the end of 1656, when the States General of Languedoc were assembled in that town, and met with great success; a success which continued when it was played in Paris at the Théâtre du Petit-Bourbon in 1658. Why in some of the former English translations of Moliére the servant Gros-René is called "Gros-Renard" we are unable to understand, for both names are thoroughly French. Mr. Ozell, in his translation, gives him the unmistakably English, but not very euphonious name of "punch-gutted Ben, _alias_ Renier," whilst Foote calls him "Hugh." The incidents of the _Love-tiff_ are arranged artistically, though in the Spanish taste; the plot is too complicated, and the ending very unnatural. But the characters are well delineated, and fathers, lovers, mistresses, and servants all move about amidst a complication of errors from which there is no visible disentangling. The conversation between Valère and Ascanio in man's clothes, the mutual begging pardon of Albert and Polydore, the natural astonishment of Lucile, accused in the presence of her father, and the stratagem of Éraste to get the truth from his servants, are all described in a masterly manner, whilst the tiff between Éraste and Lucile, which gives the title to the piece, as well as their reconciliation, are considered among the best scenes of this play.
Nearly all actors in France who play either the _valets_ or the _soubrettes_ have attempted the parts of Gros-René and Marinette, and even the great tragédienne Madlle. Rachel ventured, on the 1st of July, 1844, to act Marinette, but not with much success.
Dryden has imitated, in the fourth act of _An Evening's Love_, a small part of the scene between Marinette and Éraste, the quarrelling scene between Lucile, Éraste, Marinette, and Gros-René, as well as in the third act of the same play, the scene between Albert and Metaphrastus. Vanbrugh has very closely followed Molière's play in the _Mistake_, but has laid the scene in Spain. This is the principal difference I can perceive. He has paraphased the French with a spirit and ease which a mere translation can hardly ever acquire. The epilogue to his play, written by M. Motteux, a Frenchman, whom the revocation of the Edict of Nantes brought into England, is filthy in the extreme. Mr. J. King has curtailed Vanbrugh's play into an interlude, in one act, called _Lover's Quarrels_, or _Like Master Like Man_.
Another imitator of Molière was Edward Ravenscroft, of whom Baker says in his _Biographia Dramatica_, that he was "a writer or compiler of plays, who lived in the reigns of Charles II. and his two successors." He was descended from the family of the Ravenscrofts, in Flintshire; a family, as he himself, in a dedication asserts, so ancient that when William the Conqueror came into England, one of his nobles married into it.
He was some time a member of the Middle Temple; but, looking on the dry study of the law as greatly beneath the attention of a man of genius, quitted it. He was an arrant plagiary. Dryden attacked one of his plays, _The Citizen turned Gentleman_, an imitation of Molière's _Bourgeois-Gentilhomme_, in the Prologue to _The Assignation_.
Ravenscroft wrote "_The Wrangling Lovers, or the Invisible Mistress_. Acted at the Duke's Theatre, 1677. London, Printed for William Crook, at the sign of the _Green Dragon_, without _Temple-Bar_, 1677." Though the plot was partly taken from a Spanish novel, the author has been inspired by Molière's _Dépit amoureux_. The scene is in Toledo: Éraste is called Don Diego de Stuniga, Valère Don Gusman de Haro, "a well-bred cavaliere," Lucile is Octavia de Pimentell, and Ascanio is Elvira; Gros-René's name is Sanco, "vallet to Gusman, a simple pleasant fellow," and Mascarille is Ordgano, "a cunning knave;" Marinette is called Beatrice and Frosine Isabella. The English play is rather too long. Don Gusman courts Elvira veiled, whilst in the French play Ascanio, her counterpart, is believed to be a young man. There is also a brother of Donna Elvira, Don Ruis de Moncade, who is a rival of Don Diego, whilst in _le Dépit-amoureux_. Valère is not the brother but the husband of Ascanio and the rival of Éraste (Don Diego) as well. The arrangement of the English comedy differs greatly from the French. Though the plot in both plays is nearly identical, yet the words and scenes in _The Wrangling Lovers_ are totally different, and not so amusing. Mascarille and Gros-René are but faintly attempted; Marinette and Frosine only sketched in outline; and in the fifth act the ladies appear to have nothing else to do but to pop in and out of closets. The scenes of the French play between Albert and Metaphrastus (ii. 7); the very comical scene between Albert and Polydore (iii. 4) and the reconciliation scene between Lucile and Éraste (iv. 3), are also not rendered in the English comedy. There are very few scenes which can be compared with those of _le Dépit amoureux_.
ÉRASTE, _in love with Lucile_.
ALBERT, _father to Lucile_.
[Footnote: This part was played by Moliére himself]
GROS-RENÉ, _servant to Éraste_.
VALÈRE, _son to Polydore_.
POLYDORE, _father to Valère_.
MASCARILLE, _servant to Valère_.
METAPHRASTUS, _a pedant_.
LA RAPIÉRE, _a bully_.
LUCILE, _daughter to Albert_.
ASCANIO, _Albert's daughter, in man's clothes_.
FROSINE, _confidant to Ascanio_.
MARINETTE, _maid to Lucile_.
(LE DÉPIT AMOUREUX.)
* * * * *
SCENE I.--ÉRASTE, GROS-RENÉ.
ERAS. Shall I declare it to you? A certain secret anxiety never leaves my mind quite at rest. Yes, whatever remarks you make about my love, to tell you the truth, I am afraid of being deceived; or that you may be bribed in order to favour a rival; or, at least, that you may be imposed upon as well as myself.
GR.-RE. As for me, if you suspect me of any knavish trick, I will say, and I trust I give no offence to your honour's love, that you wound my honesty very unjustly, and that you show but small skill in physiognomy. People of my bulk are not accused, thank Heaven! of being either rogues or plotters. I scarcely need protest against the honour paid to us, but am straightforward in every thing.
[Footnote: Du Parc, the actor who played this part, was very stout; hence the allusion in the original, "_et suis homme fort rond de toutes les manieres_." I have, of course, used in the translation the word "straightforward" ironically, and with an eye to the rotundity of stomach of the actor. Molière was rather fond of making allusions in his plays to the infirmities or peculiarities of some of his actors. Thus, in the Miser (_l'Avare_) Act I, Scene 3, he alludes to the lameness of the actor Béjart, "_Je ne me plais point a voir ce chien de boiteux-la_." "I do not like to see that lame dog;" in the Citizen who apes the Nobleman (_le Bourgeois gentilhomme_), Act iii. sc. 9, he even gives a portrait of his wife.]
As for my being deceived that may be; there is a better foundation for that idea; nevertheless, I do not believe it can be easily done. I may be a fool, but I do not see yet why you vex yourself thus. Lucile, to my thinking, shows sufficient love for you; she sees you and talks to you, at all times; and Valère, after all, who is the cause of your fear, seems only to be allowed to approach her because she is compelled so to act.
ERAS. A lover is often buoyed up by false hope. He who is best received is not always the most beloved. The affection a woman displays is often but a veil to cover her passion for another. Valère has lately shown too much tranquillity for a slighted lover; and the joy or indifference he displays at those favours, which you suppose bestowed upon me, embitters continually their greatest charms, causes this grief, which you cannot
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