In the case of L’Étourdi ou les Contretemps, the short video featured on 5 February is very useful. It is about the young lovers of comedy, called the innamorati in the commedia dell’arte. Molière’s comedies are often rooted in the commedia dell’ arte. Monsieur de Pourceaugnac features a cruel zanno. Sbrigani goes too far in ensuring that Julie marries Éraste.
In the Blunderer, we have a kind zanno, Mascarille but a young lover who blunders. Lélie is in love with Célie, but in Scene One of Act One, he tells us that he has a rival. The rival is a fine young man named Cléandre. So he needs help, Mascarille’s help. Mascarille is the best fourbe or trickster, but Lélio is, the worst young lover. He foils every one of Mascarille eleven attempts to ensure Célie marries Lélie. Mascarille is the best among zanni.
L’Étourdi originates in Nicolo Barbieri’s L’Inavvertito. Barbieri is also known as Beltrame di Milano. Molière’s play also borrows from Luigi Groto’s Émilia, Fornaris’ Angelica, Cervantès’ La Belle Égyptienne, a Christmas tale by Noël du Fail, and by Tristan’s le Parasite. In the Middle Ages, it may have been called a sotie. Molière also used elements from Plautus and Terence.
L’Étourdi was first produced in Lyon in 1655, but it may have been written earlier. In 1655, Molière still toured the provinces. After Molière returned to Paris, l’Étourdi was performed at the Théâtre du Petit-Bourbon in November 1658 by the Troupe de Monsieur, Frère Unique du Roi. Molière had found patronage, Louis XIV’s only brother, called Monsieur. The play was a great success.
Our Dramatis Personæ is
- Lelio (Lélie in the French original), a young aristocrat
- Leander (Léandre), Lelio’s rival
- Mascarille, Lelio’s servant
- Hippolyta (Hippolyte), a young woman
- Celia (Célie), a gypsy girl
- Trufaldin, an old man
- Pandolphus (Pandolfe), Lelio’s father
- Anselmo (Anselme), Hippolyta’s father
- Ergaste, a servant
- Andrès, a young man
The Scene is in Messina.
Lélie, who loves Célie, has learned that he has a rival. Léandre also loves Célie. He therefore needs Mascarille’s help.
In an attempt to know Célie’s wishes, Mascarille visits Célie. Lélie follows. Mascarille needs to ascertain whether Clélie would marry Lélie. Lélie tells Célie that he loves, but uses metaphors she does not like; she does not want to injure anyone’s eyes.
Mon cœur qu’avec raison votre discours étonne,/ N’entend pas que mes yeux fassent mal à personne;/ Et, si dans quelque chose ils vous ont outragé,/ Je puis vous assurer que c’est sans mon congé.
Célie à Lélie (I. iii, p. 6)
[My heart, which has good reason to be astonished at your speech, does not wish my eyes to injure any one; if they have offended you in anything, I can assure you I did not intend it.]
Célie to Lélie (I. 3) Gutenberg’s [eBook #6563]
Clélie lives in Trufaldin’s house. He has bought her when she was a child and is willing to sell her. She loves Lélie.
In Scene Four, Célie says
Si ton maître en ce point de constance se pique,/165 Et que la vertu seule anime son dessein,/ Qu’il n’appréhende pas de soupirer en vain;/ Il a lieu d’espérer, et le fort qu’il veut prendre/ N’est pas sourd aux traités, et voudra bien se rendre.
Célie à Mascarille (I. iv, pp. 8 – 9)
[If your master is really constant in his affections, and if virtue alone prompts him, let him be under no apprehension of sighing in vain: he has reason to hope, the fortress he wishes to take is not averse to capitulation, but rather inclined to surrender.]
Célie to Mascarille (I. 4)
She’s about to tell Mascarille what he must do:
But Lélie/Lelio joins the group. He wants to know how much he must pay:
Cessez, ô! Trufaldin, de vous inquiéter,/ C’est par mon ordre seul qu’il vous vient visiter;/175 Et je vous l’envoyais ce serviteur fidèle,/ Vous offrir mon service, et vous parler pour elle,/ Dont je vous veux dans peu payer la liberté,/ Pourvu qu’entre nous deux le prix soit arrêté.
Lélie à Trufaldin (Clélie’s owner) (I. iv, p. 9)
[Trufaldin, give yourself no farther uneasiness; it was purely in obedience to my orders that this trusty servant came to visit you; I dispatched him to offer you my services, and to speak to you concerning this young lady, whose liberty I am willing to purchase before long, provided we two can agree about the terms.]
Lélie to Trufaldin (I. 4)
La peste soit la bête.
[(Aside). Plague take the ass!]
We are still in Act One. Mascarille no longer wants to help Lélie, but he wants to protect his reputation as a fourbe.
Lélie needs money. So he visits Anselme, Hippolytes’ father and tells him that his Nérine is in love with him and wants to marry him. Anselme is flattered. He wants la bourse, a word he replaces with bouche (mouth): “la bouche avec la sienne.”
(Endeavouring to take the purse). So that she dotes on you; and regards you no longer…
The purse has fallen to the ground.]
Anselme is about to leave, but turns around. He would like to buy Nérine a ring or other bagatelle. Mascarille has a ring which he will give to Nérine. Anselme will pay if the ring pleases her. Mascarille planned to return.
In Scene Six, Lélie sees the purse on the ground and returns it to Anselme. Mascarille planned to take the fallen purse, but Lélie has made a mistake. Lélie says that Anselme would have lost his money, which is to his credit. Lélie doesn’t realize that the money would be used to help him marry Clélie.
Lélie asks: Qu’est-ce donc? qu’ai-je fait?
[What is the matter now? What have I done?]
275 Oui, bourreau, c’était pour la captive,/ Que j’attrapais l’argent dont votre soin nous prive.
Mascarille à Lélie (I. vi, p. 15)
[Yes, ninny; it was to release the captive that I was getting the money, whereof your officiousness took care to deprive us.]
Mascarille to Lélie
In Scene VII, Pandolfe (Lélie’s father) tells Mascarille that he is not very pleased with his son. Mascarille agrees with Pandolfe. He’s having a hard time. Given that Pandolfe wants Lélie to marry Hippolyte (Anselme’s daughter), Pandolfe and Mascarille have different reasons to object to Lélie’s behaviour. Ironically, he tells Pandolfe that Lélie should not refuse to marry Hippolyte.
À l’heure même encor nous avons eu querelle,/ Sur l’hymen d’Hippolyte, où je le vois rebelle;/ 305 Où par l’indignité d’un refus criminel,/ Je le vois offenser le respect paternel.
Mascarille à Pandolfe (I. vii, p. 16)
[Just now we had a quarrel again about his engagement with Hippolyta, which, I find he is very averse to. By a most disgraceful refusal he violates all the respect due to a father.]
Mascarille to Pandolfe (I. 9)
Pandolfe is surprised. But Mascarille has the audacity to tell Pandolfe that he urges his son, Lélie, to be like his father.
He adds that reason is no longer his son guide and that Pandolfe’s wishes are betrayed. He is in love with Célie, which Pandolfe knew.
… Sachez donc que vos vœux sont trahis,/ Par l’amour qu’une esclave imprime à votre fils.
Mascarille à Pandolfe (I. vii, p. 17)
[Know then that your wishes are sacrificed to the love your son has for a certain slave.]
Mascarille to Pandolfe (I. 8)
Anselme is on good terms with Trufaldin. So, Mascarille suggests to Pandolfe that Anselme be asked to buy Célie, who will be transported to a foreign land. However, she will not be sold, will be given to to Lélie.
Hippolyte, Anselme’s daughter, is within hearing distance. She feels betrayed, by Mascarille , but Mascarille reassures her.
Non; mais il faut savoir que tout cet artifice/ Ne va directement qu’à vous rendre service:/385 Que ce conseil adroit qui semble être sans fard,/ Jette dans le panneau l’un et l’autre vieillard:/ Que mon soin par leurs mains ne veut avoir Célie,/ Qu’à dessein de la mettre au pouvoir de Lélie:/ Et faire que l’effet de cette invention./390 Dans le dernier excès portant sa passion,/ Anselme rebuté de son prétendu gendre,/ Puisse tourner son choix du côté de Léandre.
Mascarille à Hippolyte (I. viii, p. 19)
[No; but you must know that all this plotting was only contrived to serve you; that this cunning advice, which appeared so sincere, tends to make both old men fall into the snare; that all the pains I have taken for getting Celia into my hands, through their means, was to secure her for Lelio, and to arrange matters so that Anselmo, in the very height of passion, and finding himself disappointed of his son-in-law, might make choice of Leander.]
Mascarille to Hippolyte (I. 10)
At this point, everyone thinks that Mascarille is working for a person other than Lélie. He makes believe he is working for Pandolfe and for Hippolyte. But, Mascarille continues to work for Lélie, who blunders. Lélie is his master.
In Scene Nine, when Anselme tries to purchase Célie, Lélie believes that she will belong to Anselme and not to him. So, he prevents Anselme from buying Célie. She is returned to Trufaldin.
In forthcoming acts, Lélie continues to blunder, but he is not always to blame. How could he know the purse he returned to Anselme contained money that would be used to buy Célie, who is a slave. At one point, it is suggested that the two should accorder leurs flûtes. But if this were done, we would lose our Étourdi.
I will tell about other blunders in a second post, but one should know that all ends well.
It turns out that Célie is Trufaldin’s daughter and Andrès, whom Célie once loved, is her brother. A marriage between Andrès and Célia is impossible. Andrès allows Lélie to marry his sister. Anselme had rejected Lélie. Hippolyte will marry Léandre.
(to be continued)
Sources and Resources
- L’Étourdi is a toutmoliere.net publication
- The Blunderer is Gutenberg’s [eBook #6563]
- Images belong to theatre-documentation.com
- Notes et Variantes (Maurice Rat’s 1956 Pléiade edition)
Love to everyone 💕
Menuet des Trompettes – Jean-Baptiste Lully
© Micheline Walker
7 February 2020