Le Barbier de Seville, Memoires, Le Mariage de Figaro
Date: 1773, 1774, 1778
Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion
Artist: Beaumarchais, Pierre Augustin Caron de (1732-1799)
Confronting Bodies: French Parliament, Louis XVI
Dates of Action: 1773, 1774, 1778
Description of Artwork: Le Barbier de Seville, 1773 and Le Mariage de Figaro, 1778: comedies of intrigue in which the valet's resourcefulness and cunning were portrayed with definite class-conscious sympathy. Memoires, 1774: Beaumarchais' life rivals his works as drama, controversy, adventure and intrigue. The son of a watchmaker, he invented an escapement mechanism which made watches substantially more accurate and compact. The question of its patent led to the first of many legal actions. For his defense in these suits he wrote a series of brilliant polemics which made his reputation, though he was only partly successful at law.
The Incident: 1770-1780, France: During his service as a secret agent of Louis XV and Louis XVI, Beaumarchais traveled abroad to seize writings condemning Mme. Du Barry and Marie-Antoinette. 1773, For two years Le Barbier de Seville was forbidden to be performed on the stage. 1774, Memoires was condemned to flames by Parliament for criticizing the state powers. 1778, Le Mariage de Figaro was suppressed for 6 years by Louis XVI at court and in public performances on the grounds of profound immorality. 1792, Beaumarchais was charged with treason against the Republic.
Results of Incident: 1775, France: a revised version of Le Barbier de Seville was successful and allowed to be performed on the stage. 1778: Beaumarchais was imprisoned in St. Lazare. 1792: His works were suppressed. Released, he became an emigre for 4 years.
Source: Banned Books 387 B.C. to 1978 A.D., by Anne Lyon Haight, and Chandler B. Grannis, R.R. Bowker Co, 1978.