Short summary - The Guilty Mother - L'Autre Tartuffe, ou la Mère coupable - Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Guilty Mother - L'Autre Tartuffe, ou la Mère coupable
Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais

Paris, late 1790 From the conversation of Figaro, the valet of the Spanish nobleman, Count Almaviva, and his wife Suzanne, the first maid of the Countess, it becomes clear that since the eldest son of the count, a dissolute rake, died in a duel, it was as if the whole family fell black shadow. The count is gloomy and gloomy all the time, he hates the youngest son, Leon, but he can hardly endure the countess. Moreover, he is going to make an exchange of all his possessions (to obtain with the permission of the king of the land in France, by giving away the Spanish estates).
Bejars, the cunning Irishman who was with the count as secretary when he served as ambassador, is to blame. This cunning intriguer "possessed all family secrets", lured the count from Spain to France, where "everything is upside down" (there is a revolution), hoping to quarrel the count with his wife, marry their pupil Florestina and take possession of the count's fortune. Honore Bejars - “a man of a low soul, a hypocrite, impeccably pretending to be honest and noble. Figaro calls him "Honore-Tartuffe" (a venerable hypocrite). Bejars is a virtuoso master of the art of sowing discord under the guise of the most loyal friendship and deriving benefit from it. The whole family is fascinated by him.
But Figaro, a Seville barber who went through a harsh school of life, a man endowed with a sharp mind and strong character, knows the true value of a deceiver and is determined to bring him to clean water. Knowing that Bejars has a certain inclination towards Suzanne, he tells her to "placate him, do not deny him anything" and report on his every step. To increase Bejars' confidence in Suzanne, Figaro and his wife act out in front of him a scene of a violent quarrel.
What are the plans of the new Tartuffe based on and what are the obstacles to their implementation? The main obstacle is love. The count still loves his wife, Rosina, and she still has an influence on him. And Leon and Florestina love each other, and the Countess encourages this affection. So, you need to remove the countess, finally quarreling with her spouse, and make the marriage of Leon and Florestina impossible, and so that everything would happen without the participation of Bejars. The count suspects that the countess, who has always "had a reputation for a highly moral woman, a jealous woman of piety and therefore enjoyed universal respect," cheated on him twenty years ago with the former page of Count Leon Astorga, nicknamed Cherubino, who "had the audacity to love the countess." The count's jealous suspicions are based on the fact that when he was appointed viceroy in Mexico, his wife decided to spend three years of his absence in the rundown castle of Astorga and, nine or ten months after the count's departure, gave birth to a boy. In the same year, Cherubino died in the war. Leon is very similar to Cherubino and, in addition, surpasses the deceased heir in everything: he is "a model for his peers, he enjoys universal respect", he cannot be reproached for anything. Jealousy for the past and hatred for Leon flared up in the Count's soul after the death of his eldest son, because now Leon has become the heir to his name and fortune. He is sure that Leon is not his son, but he has no evidence of his wife's betrayal. He decides to secretly replace his portrait on the countess's bracelet with a portrait of Cherubino and see how the countess takes it. But Bejars has much more convincing evidence. These are letters from Cherubino (Bejars served in the same regiment with him) to the Countess. Bejars himself handed these letters to her and read them many times with the Countess. They are kept in a secret-bottom box, which he himself ordered for the countess, along with jewelry. At the request of Bejars, Suzanne, remembering Figaro's command not to deny him anything, brings the chest. When the count replaces one bracelet with another, Bejars, pretending that he wants to prevent this, as if accidentally opens a secret compartment, and the count sees the letters. Now the evidence of treason is in his hands. “Ah, the treacherous Rosina! After all, in spite of all my frivolity, I was the only one with her ... ”- exclaims the count. He has one letter left, and the rest he asks Bejars to put in place. Left alone, the count reads Rosina's letter to Cherubino and the page's answer on the back. He realizes that, being unable to cope with insane passion, the young page took possession of the Countess forcibly, that the Countess deeply regrets her involuntary crime and that her command not to see her again made the unfortunate Cherubino seek death in battle. The last lines of the page's answer are written in blood and blurred with tears. “No, these are not villains, not monsters - they are just unfortunate madmen,” the count admits with pain, but does not change his decision to pass off Florestina as a loyal friend of Bejars, giving her a huge dowry. So, the first part of the Bejars plan has been completed, and he immediately proceeds to the implementation of the second. Left alone with Florestina - a joyful one who has just congratulated her beloved on the day of an angel, full of hopes for happiness - he announces to her that the count is her father, and Leon is her brother. In a stormy explanation with Leon, who, having learned from Figaro that Florestina was promised by the Count of Bejarz, is ready to grab the sword, Bejars, playing an insulted dignity, reveals the same "secret" to him. The invulnerable hypocrite so perfectly plays his usual role of guardian of the common good that Leon, with tears of repentance and gratitude, throws himself on his neck and promises not to divulge the "fatal secret." And Bejars leads the count to an excellent idea: to give Leona, who is to leave for Malta, Figaro as an escort. He dreams of getting rid of Figaro, because "this cunning beast" stands in front of him.
Now there remains the countess, who must not only come to terms with the marriage of Bejars to Florestin, but also persuade the girl to this marriage. The Countess, who is accustomed to seeing Bejars as a faithful friend, complains about her husband's cruelty towards her son. She spent twenty years “in tears and repentance,” and now her son also suffers for the sin she committed. Bejars assures the Countess that the secret of Leon's birth is unknown to her husband, that he is so gloomy and wants to remove his son only because he sees a love blooming, which he cannot bless, because Florestina is his daughter. The Countess on her knees thanks God for the unexpected mercy. Now she has something to forgive her husband, Florestina becomes even dearer to her, and her marriage to Bejars seems to be the best way out. Bejars forces the Countess to burn Cherubino's letters so that she does not notice the loss of one of them, while he manages to explain what is happening to the Count who caught him and the Countess doing this strange occupation (he was brought by Figaro, warned by Rosina), which looks like the embodiment of nobility and devotion, and immediately after this, as if by chance, hints to the count that people in France are getting divorced.
How he triumphs when left alone! It seems to him that he is already "half Count Almaviva." But one more step is needed. The villain is afraid that the count is still too influenced by his wife to dispose of the state as Bejars would like. To remove the countess, you need to quickly provoke a major scandal, especially since the count, delighted with the "spiritual greatness" with which the countess received the news of the marriage of Florestina and Bejars, is inclined to reconcile with his wife. Bejars encourages Leon to ask his mother to intercede for him before his father. Florestina does not want to marry Bejars at all, but she is ready to sacrifice herself for the good of her “brother”. Leon resigned himself to the idea that Florestina was lost to him, and tries to love her with brotherly love, but he did not come to terms with the injustice that his father shows to him.
As Bejars expected, the countess, out of love for her son, starts a conversation with her husband, who, in anger, reproaches her for treason, shows a letter that she considered burnt, and mentions a bracelet with her portrait. The Countess is in a state of such complete mental confusion that when she sees Cherubino's portrait, it seems to her that a dead accomplice in sin came for her from the other world, and she frenziedly calls for death, accusing herself of a crime against her husband and son. The Count bitterly regrets his cruelty, and Leon, who heard the whole conversation, rushes to his mother and says that he does not need titles or fortunes, he wants to leave the Count's house with her. which it turns out that Bejars deceived everyone.
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The main proof of his heinous atrocities lies in the hands of Figaro. Having easily outwitted the silly servant of Bejars, Wilhelm, Figaro forced him to reveal through whom the correspondence of Bejars was going. Several louis to the mail servant to open letters written in Honoré-Tartuffe's handwriting, and a big sum for the letter itself. But this document completely exposes the villains. There is a general reconciliation, everyone embraces each other. "Both of them are our children!" The count enthusiastically proclaims, pointing to Leon and Florestina.
When Bejars appears, Figaro, who at the same time managed to save all the owner's money from the swindler, exposes him. Then he announces that Florestina and Leon "both by birth and by law cannot be considered relatives," and the touching count calls on the household to "forgive each other's mistakes and past weaknesses."