Turcaret Essay - Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

Alain-René Lesage

Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

In TURCARET, plot is subordinated to the depiction of character, much in the manner of Moliere. The rich financier is revealed in all his diversity: gallant lover, jealous lover, rapacious businessman. The portrait of Turcaret reaches completion with the satirical touches in his character that render him not only obnoxious and ridiculous, but menacing. As a type, Turcaret represents everything that the people had come to detest in those difficult times: bad taste, execrable manners, alleged immorality, and especially easy success and influence. He worships money and uses any means to obtain it, including speculation, usury, and crooked deals.

The world in which Turcaret operates is depicted with exceptional acuity. It is a sort of no-man’s-land between the middle class and the common people, whose denizens are of the most doubtful stripe; at the center is the Baroness, an adventurous coquette, around whom flutter suspicious businessmen, worldly young fops, a go-between, and dishonest valets. The Baroness, busily occupied with her plans to extract as much money as possible from Turcaret, herself appears ridiculous when the Knight easily fleeces her.

Lesage’s TURCARET, although without the power of Moliere’s psychological analysis, does offer a vivid picture of the manners of the time. The satire in the play is not very ferocious, but its low ethical tone does provide a unique style of humor; the characters all possess such loose moral codes that they cannot avoid preying upon one another, until they seem to be involved in a grotesque kind of dance. Although the play is episodic, the plot possesses a certain briskness, bringing Turcaret to an effective end. The greatest character in the play may be Frontin, a lively and unscrupulous rogue with quick wits and amoral ambitions; he suggests both Moliere’s Scapin and Beaumarchais’ Figaro. Despite whatever faults the play possesses, TURCARET is genuinely amusing, filled with acute observation, a rapid pace, and witty speeches. TURCARET shows life as Lesage saw it about him, without too much comment; he is content to let the story make its own point, without philosophizing, and to make it with that happiest of mediums, laughter.