Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 672
Figaro (FEE-gah-roh), a valet to Count Almaviva. In Beaumarchais’ earlier comedy The Barber of Seville (1775), Figaro had helped the young count to marry Rosine. With the passage of time, however, the count has begun to treat Figaro rather badly, and Figaro fears that the count may...
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Figaro (FEE-gah-roh), a valet to Count Almaviva. In Beaumarchais’ earlier comedy The Barber of Seville (1775), Figaro had helped the young count to marry Rosine. With the passage of time, however, the count has begun to treat Figaro rather badly, and Figaro fears that the count may assert his nonexistent “lord’s right” to sleep with Figaro’s fiancée, Suzanne. Figaro is quite willing to assist the count in his amorous adventures with women other than the countess, but he draws a line when it concerns Suzanne. Although he loves Suzanne, Figaro is tormented by jealousy. In his famous monologue in act V, Figaro laments both the allegation of Suzanne’s infidelity, which is based on misinformation, and the corruptive power of the nobility. Throughout this comedy, Figaro expresses both subservience to his master and a desire to free himself from the count’s oppressive power over his life. Fortuitous events prevent unsympathetic characters from achieving their evil designs, and Figaro and Suzanne are married at the end of act V.
Suzanne, a maid to Countess Almaviva and the fiancée of Figaro. She truly loves Figaro but regrets that Figaro and the count tend to take women for granted. She and the countess decide to teach Figaro and the count a lesson. Suzanne and the countess trade places and clothing. When the count is with the woman he believes to be Suzanne, he actually is with his wife. By switching roles and deceiving both Figaro and the count, the women achieve their goal of teaching their men to pay more respect to them.
Count Almaviva (ahl-mah-VEE-vah), an Andalusian nobleman who had married Rosine in act V of The Barber of Seville. In the earlier play, the count was a sympathetic and considerate suitor, but here he is insensitive and exploitative. He does not hide his interest in other women from his wife and thus humiliates her in front of others. The count does his best to prevent Suzanne from marrying Figaro, but his attempts to separate them fail when his wife disguises herself as Suzanne and allows her husband to court her. She plays her role so well that both the count and the jealous Figaro believe her to be Suzanne. Once his error is made public, the humiliated count has no choice but to permit Suzanne’s marriage to Figaro and to reaffirm his love for the countess.
Countess Almaviva, the wife of Count Almaviva. She is portrayed as a very lonely but dignified woman. She resents her husband’s rakish behavior, but she does not want other women to learn that the count is now more attracted to younger women. With the assistance of her maid Suzanne and the count’s young page Chérubin, she tricks her husband into realizing that her mature love for him is more meaningful than his lust for more physically attractive women. She is a psychologically profound character who seeks to reconcile her search for happiness through married love with her desire to maintain her high social standing.
Chérubin (SHAY-rew-ban), the count’s male page. The role of Chérubin traditionally is played by a young actress. Having a woman play the role of Chérubin makes it more believable when the countess has Chérubin dress as a woman in order to attract the attention of the lascivious count.
Bridoison, a judge with a noticeable speech defect whose main role is to come on stage for the planned marriage of Figaro and Suzanne. His final comments end the play and underline the central role of chance in the count’s failure to frustrate the search for happiness by Suzanne, Figaro, and the countess.
Dr. Bártholo (BAHR-toh-loh), the former guardian of the countess. He seeks revenge on the count and on Figaro.
Marceline (mahrs-eh-LAYN), the elderly housekeeper, a creditor of Figaro. She demands repayment or marriage. She eventually discovers that he is her son, by Dr. Bártholo.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 967
The Count's main interest in the play is fulfilling his amorous desires, and intrigue surrounds his efforts to seduce Suzanne. To this end, he promises her money if she will spend her first night as a married woman with him. Although he places a monetary figure on the situation and also holds the power to prevent Suzanne and Figaro's marriage, the Count views his designs as merry and light-hearted; as Beaumarchais describes the character of the Count in the playscript, ‘‘In keeping with the morals of those days, the great regarded the conquest of women as a frolic.’’ While he actively pursues women, the Count becomes extremely angry when he suspects his wife of infidelity, thus demonstrating the double standards of his day.
The Count holds the ultimate authority on his estate, even deciding the outcome of Figaro and Marceline's court case. He demands the respect of those who surround him but does not realize that his own actions, at times bordering on the ridiculous or petty, make this difficult. At the end of the play, however, he laughingly accepts that he has been outwitted.
The Countess is the Count's wife. She is torn between two conflicting feelings for her husband: anger and love. She seeks to regain his affections and, to this end, secretly hatches a plan with Suzanne. Unlike her husband, the Countess is a very human, likable figure. She is clever enough to devise the plot that ends in success for her, Suzanne, and Figaro. She is a good friend to Suzanne, despite the vast difference in their classes, doing what she can to bring about the maid's marriage. Also, as further demonstration of her humanity, she cannot help but be drawn to Cherubino who shows her affection at the very time her husband has withdrawn his.
Antonio is the castle's tipsy gardener. He is also Suzanne's uncle and guardian as well as Fanchette's father. Antonio is prepared to oppose Suzanne's marriage to Figaro. Antonio is the one who reports on the man who jumped into the flowerbed, causing Figaro to devise a story about what happened so the Count will not learn of Cherubino's presence.
Bartholo is a doctor from Seville. He helps Marceline, his former mistress, attempt to win Figaro for her husband. After they discover that Figaro is their son, he marries Marceline.
Basil is the Count's music master. He loses the Count's favor when he delivers the note from Figaro that falsely accuses the Countess of infidelity. Basil dislikes Figaro greatly. Although he wanted to marry Marceline, he loses all interest in her once he discovers she is Figaro's mother.
Don Guzman Bridlegoose
Bridlegoose is the judge of the district. However, in this role he is generally ineffective, failing to understand the cases that are put before him as well as the events that have taken place during the day.
Cherubino is a page in the Count's household. A prepubescent youth, he is beginning to feel sexual stirrings, and he is infatuated with many of the females on the estate, including the Countess, Suzanne, Fanchette, and even Marceline. Dismissed from the household after the Count finds him in Fanchette's bedroom, he becomes a part of Figaro's plan; he is the one initially chosen to meet the Count, dressed as Suzanne.
Fanchette is the twelve-year-old daughter of Antonio. As befits her youth and inexperience, she is naíve, not understanding the Count's true desires toward her. She is also important to the plot, being the person who reveals to Figaro the rendezvous between the Count and "Suzanne."
Figaro is the Count's faithful servant as well as his competition. The Count's pursuit of Suzanne requires that Figaro conspire against his master. He must rely upon his wits to carry out a plan for keeping Suzanne out of the Count's hands that still allows the couple to marry. Because the plot that he devises is complex and even backfires in key instances, the Count's suspicions are raised, and Figaro is unable to make it work. Figaro further jeopardizes the situation by deliberately playing with the Count. In this respect, his belief that he is more resourceful and smarter than the Count, though borne out by the play, fails to serve him well, for he increases the Count's wrath.
Suzanne and the Countess come up with their own plan for thwarting the Count but do not inform Figaro about it. His isolation contributes to a jealous rage that overtakes him when he believes Suzanne is unfaithful. His monologue in act V asserts his rights, despite a lack of parentage, fortune, or social rank.
Marceline is the housekeeper of the castle. She has strong feelings for Figaro. Not realizing that it is maternal love, she conspires to marry him, even if it means forcing him to do so against his will. Upon finding out the truth, however, she embraces her long-lost son and helps him to find happiness with Suzanne. At the end of the play, she marries Bartholo.
See Countess Almaviva
Suzanne is the maid to the Countess. ‘‘In her role . . . there is not a word that is not inspired by goodness and devotion to her duty,’’ writes Beaumarchais of her in his character descriptions. She is also intelligent, honorable, and full of wit. She has the good sense to tell the people she trusts the most—Figaro and the Countess—of the Count's intentions toward her. As the object of the Count's lust, Suzanne must be careful to protect herself without alienating the Count to such an extent that he will forbid her marriage. Suzanne and the Countess, her friend and confidante, conspire secretly against the Count. It is their plan that ends in success, bringing Suzanne her happy marriage.