Although The Marriage of Figaro is a sequel to The Barber of Seville, each play is independent of the other. In The Barber of Seville, Figaro helps Count Almaviva win Rosina from the ugly, miserly Bartolo. In The Marriage of Figaro we see the same group several years later. Figaro is about to marry Suzanna, another servant in the count's household. But the count has tired of Rosina, and he has his eyes on Suzanna. As part of the plot, the mystery of Figaro's birth is unraveled. Secret late-night rendezvous in the garden help to pair off all the lovers for a joyous and hilarious ending. What chance did a servant in 18th-century Europe have against a powerful nobleman? This satirical comedy provides an answer. Figaro, perhaps the most famous rogue in all of literature, says that he steals because he was born a poor man. Since he is a servant instead of a nobleman, he contends, he has to use more intelligence and ability merely to stay alive than rulers use to govern their provinces. King Louis XVI of France was afraid that such talk on the stage would inflame the embers of rebellion which were smoldering all around him, and he tried to suppress The Marriage of Figaro. It took Beaumarchais six years to overcome the king's opposition, and the play finally reached the Paris stage in 1784. Only five years later, French peasants stormed the Bastille. As Louis laid his head on the guillotine, he had every right to say, "I told you so." However, while rebels are remembered for their opposition to monarchy, Beaumarchais (whose real name was Pierre-Augustin Caron) became famous as the author of two of the world's funniest comedies, The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro. Like many famous play scripts, these were later made into operas by Rossini and Mozart. This one-act play can be impressively staged by university, community or high-school groups, and it is superb for contests and festivals. This is not a musical; Mozart's opera was adapted from this play.
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