A Flea in Her Ear Analysis
A Flea in Her Ear is 1907 play written by French playwright Georges Feydeau. Some analysts argue that a more accurate translation of the title would be A Bee in her Bonnet. Because of its overly humoristic and fast paced narrative, the play is considered to be a farce. Thus, many people compare it to Moliere’s Don Juan, and even Wilde’s and Shakespeare’s comedies. A Flea in Her Ear was written in the Belle Époque, which was one of the most memorable periods in European history, mainly because of the numerous artistic, cultural, political, and scientific achievements.
The play tells the story of Victor Emmanuel and Raymonde Chandebise—a happily married couple from Paris. However, they have recently begun to doubt their marital bliss. Raymonde begins to suspect that her husband is having an affair with someone else, as he can no longer sleep with her. She devises a plan in which she tells her close friend, Lucienne, to write Victor Emmanuel a letter from a “secret admirer” and invite him on a date, in order to see his reaction and “catch him in the act.”
However, once he receives the letter, Victor Emmanuel immediately assumes that it was intended for his friend Tournel, as he has no interest in anyone else other than his wife. Tournel, on the other hand, is in love with Raymonde, and Carlos—Lucienne’s husband—recognizes his wife’s handwriting. Thus, chaos ensues.
Feydeau focuses on the interplay between the plot and the characters, which is why his writing style has often been described as mechanic, technical, and very precise, but also very natural and spontaneous. He incorporates a myriad of social themes like love, marriage, class, status, identity, violence, codependency, infidelity, and the bourgeois society and lifestyle. Because of this, many critics and readers see A Flea in Her Ear as a play of misunderstandings, miscommunication, mistaken identity, wit, and hilarity.
The play has gained many positive reviews, and it has had numerous stage productions all over the world. It has also received various film and TV adaptations, with the most famous one being the 1976 BBC production starring Anthony Hopkins.
The play opens in the comfortable apartment of Chandebise and his wife, Raymonde. Two servants, Étienne and his wife, Antoinette, and Chandebise’s nephew, Camille, live with them. Because Camille has a cleft palate, he can pronounce only vowels; household members sometimes understand him, but others cannot.
Raymonde suspects that Chandebise is having an affair: The title of the play derives from her nagging suspicions. He has not been ardent recently, and a pair of suspenders has been sent to him from Hôtel Minet-Galant (the gallant pussycat hotel), a meeting place for adulterers. Even though she is considering having an affair with Tournel, Raymonde is outraged. The audience soon learns she is wrong. Chandebise is temporarily impotent; the suspenders were left at the hotel by Camille when he went there with Antoinette.
Raymonde devises a plot to trap her husband. She will send him a letter from an unknown admirer inviting him to meet her at the hotel. Because Chandebise would recognize her handwriting, Raymonde gets Lucienne to write the letter. Chandebise is flattered by the letter, but because he is a faithful husband, he forwards the assignation to Tournel. When Lucienne’s husband, the fierce South American Don Carlos Homénidès de Histangua, sees the letter, he recognizes his wife’s handwriting, goes berserk, threatens to shoot everyone, and leaves for the hotel. Camille attempts to warn Tournel but cannot find an artificial palate that makes him understandable. After Tournel leaves, Camille finds the device, inserts it, and speaks comprehensibly.
The second act takes place in the Hôtel Minet-Galant’s central hall. The hotel has several staircases and doors leading to many bedrooms, the most visible of which has a special bed. When a button is pushed, the bed and the wall behind it revolve, and...
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