Pierre-Augustin de Beaumarchais Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

An ambitious activist by nature, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, born Pierre-Augustin Caron, led a far more eventful life than is customary for a man of letters. The ups and downs of his often agitated existence, however, were seldom directly related to the literary life, resulting rather from his determined pursuit of wealth, preferment, and pleasure, from his involvement in legal wrangles, and, most honorably, from Beaumarchais’s disinterested struggles against injustice.

The son of a watchmaker, Beaumarchais was apprenticed at an early age to his father’s craft and mastered it so thoroughly that, when only twenty-one, he worked out a solution to one of the craft’s most difficult problems in mechanics: the contrivance of a radically simplified escapement, the device that transfers the energy of a watch’s spring to the network of interlocking wheels that make up its movement. The naïve young watchmaker made the mistake of showing his device to an older colleague, who promptly published a description of it as his own invention. The younger Caron complained to the Academy of Sciences, won public vindication and recognition thereby, and from that notoriety was able to establish himself as a personage of consequence at the court of Louis XV, even becoming music teacher to the king’s daughters. Thus launched into the social whirl, Beaumarchais went on to a series of other activities and enterprises over the next fifteen years, increasing his fortune and prestige, while marrying and acquiring the title that enabled him to call himself Caron de Beaumarchais. In those years, he continued to encounter envy and injustice and continued to fight against those evils with courage and energy, at the same time learning valuable lessons about the human heart.

Those lessons came to fruition when Beaumarchais began his career as a playwright in 1767,...

(The entire section is 766 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (kah-rohn duh boh-mahr-shay) is one of the few outstanding French writers of prose comedy during the eighteenth century. He is best known for his two great plays, The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro, which were set as operas by Gioacchino Rossini and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and for his action-filled career as watchmaker, businessman, secret agent, and financier of revolutions. Born to the bourgeois jeweler Charles Caron, Beaumarchais first learned his father’s trade before becoming the music teacher to one of the daughters of Louis XV. Having married advantageously, he became wealthy through careful speculations; these investments enabled him in 1761 to buy the title of royal secretary to Louis, who conferred noble rank upon him. After traveling throughout most of Europe on various official and private missions, he became embroiled in a series of lawsuits in Paris. His accounts of his trials, notably that involving Goezman, as told in his Mémoires, made his reputation as a caustic, effective, and popular writer.{$S[A]Caron, Pierre-Augustin;Beaumarchais, Pierre-Augustin Caron de}

Beaumarchais’s literary career was as stormy as his personal life. The Barber of Seville, which was based on an unfortunate alliance between his sister and the Spanish writer José Clavijo, was prohibited in 1773, then received with great success two years later. This play, which seems to borrow situation and plot from an older Italian comedy and from Molière’s The School for Wives, ridicules the figure of the jealous guardian. The latter, in love with his young ward, finds himself at the mercy of the girl, her true lover, Count Almaviva, and several sly servants and persons of lower caste, including the barber...

(The entire section is 737 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Beaumarchais was born in Paris, France, on January 24, 1732. In 1753, working as an apprentice to his watchmaker father, Beaumarchais devised...

(The entire section is 435 words.)