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Written by Polly Barbour
The Title Character
Typically when a character is mentioned in the title of a play or a book, the focus of the work is on them. However, this is ironic in this play since Figaro, the Barber, is not the main focus of the plot. That role falls to the Count. Although Figaro is instrumental to the success of the Count's plans, he is still secondary in terms of plot and actual spoken lines. He is the title character, yet not the main one.
Music is a motif throughout the play. First of all, it is an opera and so the characters sing many of the lines within it, particularly those relating to love. As well as vocal music, there is also piano music, which is key to the story. The doctor's closest confidante is Rosine's music teacher and plays piano whilst she sings. When the Count disguises himself as a piano teacher, this enables the couple to enjoy each other's company and kiss whilst the music has acted like a lullaby and sent the doctor to sleep. Throughout the book music and love are synonymous.
The assuming of different characters is a key motif in the book. The chief exponent of this is the Count who dons two different disguises in his quest to woo Rosine. When she meets him he is disguised as a university student of limited means, and he also disguises himself as a stand-in music teacher when he wants to get close to her and warn her about the doctor's plan to force her to marry him. Each disguise is linked to his romantic endeavors and so is not only linked to the broader theme of disguise in the play but also to the theme of love as well.
Women Controlled By Men Motif
In the time that the play is set, women were possessions of men. A recurring motif is that of Rosine's future being dictated to her by the powerful men in her life, rather than being her own choice. For example, the doctor knows that she does not want to marry him but instead of putting her feelings ahead of his own, or considering her best interests, he decides to trick her into marrying him and forcing her to do so. The Count, too, is really not considering her feelings as much as he is her own. He is using the threat of marriage to the doctor as a kind of leverage to make her marry him instead. Rosine in this way is never asked what she actually wants and this is a motif throughout the play.
Trickster of Seville Allegory
The play is an allegory of "El Burlador de Sevilla" by Baudron, which translates to "The Trickster of Seville". The character of the Count is allegorical of the trickster who dons different disguises in an attempt to make women fall in love with him. Although allegorical, this play is more operatic than its inspiration and also encourages more participation from the audience. The basic theme, though, is an allegory of the earlier work.
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