Short summary - Captain Fracasse - Théophile Gautier

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Captain Fracasse
Théophile Gautier

17th century, during the reign of Louis XIII. In Gascony, in a dilapidated castle, Baron de Sigognac eats out a miserable existence, the last offspring of a once noble and powerful family, a young man of about twenty-five, "who would easily be reputed to be handsome if he did not completely abandon the desire to be liked." Together with him, his poverty is shared by his faithful servant Pierre, the cat Beelzebub, the dog Miro and the horse Bayard.
On one of the rainy autumn evenings at the door of the castle, "this citadel of Great Lent" and "shelter of poverty", the actors of the wandering theater knock and ask for shelter. As is customary, each comedian has his own constant role, which is why he often behaves in life the same way as on stage. Blasius is a pedant everywhere and in everything; Leander's first lover is handsome and vell; the roguish servant Scapen resembles a fox in manners; the boastful soldier Matamor, as it should be, "thin, bony and dry, like a gallows in summer"; flirtatious and proud Serafina plays the roles of heroines; the venerable aunt of Leonard - "noble mother" and part-time duenna; irresistible for men, coquettish soubrette Zerbina “seems to be made of dough flavored with salt, pepper and spices”; shy and charming young Isabella plays the role of simpletons and, unlike her companions, does not try to attract attention to herself. Isabella "did not dazzle - she captivated, which is certainly more valuable." The head of the troupe is the Tyrant, a great kind-hearted man, endowed by nature with “all the outward signs of ferocity,” which is why he is destined to play Herods and other formidable kings.
With the arrival of this colorful company, the castle comes to life: the firewood crackles in the fireplace, food appears on the table. For the first time in a long time, the young baron feels happy. Listening to the chatter of the actors, he constantly casts his eyes towards Isabella: the baron has fallen in love ...
In the morning, the comedians are getting ready to go. Isabella, in whose soul tender feelings for Sigonyak have also awakened, invites him to go with them - in search of fame and adventure. The knight in love happily leaves the dull walls of the family nest and follows his beautiful lady in the carriage of Thespis.
In a roadside tavern, the actors meet Sigonyak's neighbor, the Marquis de Bruyere. The Marquis recognizes the Baron, but realizing that he was in the troupe because of his love for Isabella, he lets him know that he is not going to reveal his incognito. Moreover, the Marquis himself is captivated by the flirtatious sabrette and, wishing to continue the love affair, invites the troupe to give a performance in his castle.
On the way to the Marquis, the actors are attacked by the former leader of the gang, and now a lone bandit Agostin, who is helped by the little thief and robber Chiquita. To intimidate passers-by, Agostin places the corpses of his former comrades-in-arms along the road, armed with muskets. However, the brave Sigonyak is not afraid of any villains, he easily disarms Agostin and reveals his deception. Assessing the invention, the actors reward the inventive bandit with a pair of pistols, and Isabella gives Chiquita her pearl necklace, thus earning the touching gratitude of the little thief: the girl promises to never kill her.
The play played by the Tyrant troupe at the Bruyere castle is a huge success. The Marquis falls head over heels in love with the charming soubrette, and Leandro manages to win the heart of the beautiful Marquise de Bruyere. However - alas! - his fervent letter to the marquis is intercepted by her husband, and he orders the servants to beat the poor histrion with sticks. The Marquis de Bruyere reserves the sole right to change the marital duty.
Having considerably replenished their treasury, the actors leave the castle. Leander rubs his bruised sides. On the way, their van is caught up by a rich carriage decorated with the arms of the Marquis de Bruyere. Servants in the livery of the Marquis take the pretty subrette - with her full consent, of course - to the ardent admirer. On the way, Isabella tells Shigonyak the sad story of her life. Her mother, an actress who played in the tragedies of queens, was not only very pretty, but also proud and always rebuffed annoying suitors. Only once did her heart tremble, and she yielded to a powerful and noble nobleman. Isabella was the fruit of this love. State interests did not allow the nobleman to marry an actress. Isabella's mother, not wanting to owe anything to her treacherous lover, fled with her little daughter and continued to play on stage. Soon she died - withered from melancholy, and little Isabella remained in the Tyrant's troupe, where she was raised. She does not know the name of her father, from him she only has a ring with the family coat of arms.
On the way, the actors are caught in a blizzard, during which Matamor dies. The troupe is in despair - without a comic captain it is impossible to play a single play from their repertoire! Wanting to thank his new friends, Sigonyak decides to take the place of Matamor on the stage. He declares that he is shedding his baronial title, "hiding it in the pack like an unnecessary dress" and takes the name Captain Fracasse!
On the farm of the actor Bellombra, Sigognac successfully debuts as Fracass in front of the peasants. But a severe test awaits him ahead: in Poitiers he will have to go on stage in front of a noble audience, that is, grimace, play a coward and a fanfare, take blows with a stick from a fat Leander in front of his equal by birth. To overcome his shame, Sigonyak wears a cardboard mask with a red nose that matches his image.
The tender participation of the beautiful Isabella helps Sigonyak to play his role brilliantly. The performance is a wild success. Moreover, Zerbina returns to the troupe, who is bored with the role of her mistress. However, the marquis is behind her: he cannot deny himself the pleasure of seeing his eccentric beloved on the stage.
Advertising:
The modest Isabella unexpectedly has a noble admirer - the young Duke de Vallombrez, an arrogant handsome man, spoiled by easy victories over women, flared up with passion for her. Having received a well-deserved rebuff, the duke is furious. Having penetrated into the dressing room, he with a careless gesture wants to glue the front sight on the chest of the young actress. Sigonyak's iron hand stops the impudent man. Without removing his mask, the baron challenges the duke to a duel.
The Duke does not believe that a nobleman is hiding under the guise of Frakass, and sends his bosses in his service to beat off the impudent comedian. But Sigonyak, along with fellow actors, disperse the servants of the duke. And in the morning the Marquis de Bruyere appears to the duke and brings him a challenge from the Baron de Sigonyac. The Marquis confirms the nobility of the baron's family and hints that the young man, precisely because of Isabella, joined the wandering actors. Vallombrez accepts the challenge.
Sigonyak, whose teacher was only the faithful Pierre, who once struggled in the field of a fencing teacher, without knowing it himself, studied the noble art of wielding a sword to subtlety. He easily defeats the duke - he wounds him in the arm, thereby depriving him of the opportunity to continue the fight.
Advertising:
Upon learning of the duel, Isabella is frightened and moved at the same time - because of her, the noble Sigonyak risked his life! An explanation of the lovers takes place. The Baron offers Isabella his hand and heart. But she rejects him: a rootless actress has no right to the hand of a nobleman, and honor does not allow her to become his mistress. Like his beloved, Sigonyak is simultaneously in despair and delight, but he has no choice but to continue to follow the troupe, protecting Isabella from the machinations of Vallombrez.
In an effort to hide from the duke's persecution, the actors travel to Paris, hoping to get lost in his crowd. But a vengeful nobleman watches over them. In Paris, he hires a first-class swordsman and shoulder strap Jacques Lampourd to kill Sigonyak. However, the baron wields a sword better than an assassin and disarms him. Lampurd, admiring the young man's swordsmanship, swears eternal loyalty to him. An honest brute even promises to return the customer the money paid to him for the murder of Sigonyak.
Vallombrez tries to steal Isabella from the hotel where the actors are staying, but he fails. The enraged duke goes to the trick. He sends his servant to the Tyrant, and he, on behalf of a certain count, invites the actors to a castle near Paris, promising to pay well. As soon as the van leaves the city limits, the servants of the duke kidnap Isabella: they attack her when she, together with Sigonyak, unhurriedly follows the cart. To prevent Sigonyak from repelling the girl, a wide cloak with lead sewn into the edges is thrown over him, in which he gets entangled, as if in a net. When the baron manages to free himself, the kidnappers are already far away. The actors understand that they have been deceived. Sigonyak vows to kill the duke.
Advertisement: The
kidnappers bring Isabella to Vallombreza Castle. In it, the girl discovers Chiquita: a little thief accompanies Agostin, who is hired along with other shoulder straps to guard the castle. Isabella asks the girl to tell Sigonyak where she is.
The Duke de Vallombrez tries to take possession of Isabella, but Sigonyak and his friends-actors who have arrived in time frustrate his plans. A fierce duel begins between Sigonyak and Vallombrez, and the baron mortally wounds his opponent. Suddenly, the Duke's father appears - the majestic Prince de Vallombrez. Having learned about the dishonest act of his son, he came to punish the guilty and restore justice. Noticing the ring that she inherited from her mother on Isabella's hand, he recognizes it and realizes that the girl kidnapped by his son is his daughter.
The actors leave the castle with Sigonyak. The prince keeps his newfound daughter with him. The Duke of Vallombrez, who happens to be Isabella's brother, is dying.
Sigonyak, who is no longer kept in the troupe of itinerant comedians, leaves them and, mourning his love, returns to his native castle, intending to spend the rest of his days in its dull walls.
Through the efforts of the doctors and the care of Isabella, the duke recovers. Wanting to redeem his sister, he goes to Sigonyak in order to make peace with him and offer him the hand of Isabella, whom the Prince de Vallombrez recognized as his daughter.
Advertising:
Isabella marries Sigonyak. She takes her friends-actors to their service, as well as Chiquita, who has lost her patron: the bandit Agostin was sentenced to the wheel, and the little thief, saving her friend from the shameful execution, stabbed him with her dagger.
So, the baron's dreams came true: the ancestral castle was restored, the coat of arms of Sigonyak flashed - three storks in the azure field, the faithful Bayard and Miro found a warm stall, and Pierre - a rich livery. True, Beelzebub dies, but through his death Sigonyak becomes rich - having gone to bury the cat, he finds a treasure.
The lovers united, the abode of sorrow became the abode of happiness. "Truly, fate knows what it is doing!"