The Barber of Seville Symbols, Allegory and Motifs
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Written by Polly Barbour
Trickster of Seville Allegory
The play itself is an allegory of Baudron's earlier work, "The Trickster of Seville", which told basically the same story of an amusing and entertaining character who uses disguises as a way of engineering the romantic outcome that he desires. The character of the Count, who is physically disguised, is allegorical for the trickster, but Figaro is an allegory too because he is the one who masterminds the disguises and how they are going to work.
As this is an operatic work, the motif of music is a constant. However, it is also a motif when it comes to the romantic aspects of the play. Music as a motif is used for the romantic connections between the Count and Rosine. For example, when he tells her that he has fallen in love with her she reciprocates his love in song. When he wants to spend some time with her the Count disguises himself as a music teacher and uses the opportunity to sneak in some kisses whilst the doctor is lulled to sleep by their music. Every time there is music, there is romance in the play and this is the constant motif from beginning to end.
Disguise is a constant motif and one of the foundations of the play. The chief exponent is the Count who disguises himself on multiple occasions, always with a particular purpose in mind. He disguises himself as a student so that he can be sure Rosine is falling in love with his character and not with his wealth. He disguises himself as a music teacher so that he can spend time with her and warn her about the doctor's plan to force her into a marriage. Disguise is the key component in the courtship between the Count and Rosine and is always seen as something that is positive, not something underhanded or sneaky.
Women As Possessions Motif
The doctor is Rosine's guardian, and as such is in total control of his ward. Now that she is "aging out" of his legal guardianship he intends to maintain possession and control of her. Knowing that she does not feel romantically towards him he plans on forcing her to marry him. Whilst Rosine believes that she is in love with the Count, she has no experience of relationships at all and when he comes up with a plan for their marriage she is still not really given a choice other than the Count or the doctor. The motif of women as a possession of a man is a reflection of the way in which women were viewed and treated at the time of the writing of the play.
Music is a symbol of love in the play. Whenever love is mentioned it is in a song. When the Count asks if Rosine loves him as much as he loves her, she sings her answer. When the Count and Rosine want to spend time together it is against a background of music, as when they practice their music the doctor is lulled to sleep and they are able to get closer to each other. Music is a symbol of the positivity of their relationship and of the general air in of love in the play.
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