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Don Garcia of Navarre   By: (1622-1673)

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[Proofreader's Note: The scenes in Act III are misnumbered in the original, they are labeled I, II, III, VI, and VII. This has been retained in the text.]











Nothing can be more unlike The Pretentious Young Ladies or Sganarelle than Molière's Don Garcia of Navarre . The Théâtre du Palais Royal had opened on the 20th January, 1661, with The Love Tiff and Sganarelle , but as the young wife of Louis XIV., Maria Theresa, daughter of Philip IV., King of Spain, had only lately arrived, and as a taste for the Spanish drama appeared to spring up anew in France, Molière thought perhaps that a heroic comedy in that style might meet with some success, the more so as a company of Spanish actors had been performing in Paris the plays of Lope de Vega and Calderon, since the 24th of July, 1660. Therefore, he brought out, on the 4th of February, 1661, his new play of Don Garcia of Navarre . It is said that there exists a Spanish play of the same name, of which the author is unknown; Molière seems to have partly followed an Italian comedy, written by Giacinto Andrea Cicognini, under the name of Le Gelosie fortunata del principe Rodrigo ; the style, loftiness and delicacy of expression are peculiar to the French dramatist.

Don Garcia of Navarre met with no favourable reception, though the author played the part of the hero. He withdrew it after five representations, but still did not think its condemnation final, for he played it again before the King on the 29th of September, 1662, in October, 1663, at Chantilly, and twice at Versailles. He attempted it anew on the theatre of the Palace Royal in the month of November, 1663; but as it was everywhere unfavourably received, he resolved never to play it more, and even would not print it, for it was only published after his death in 1682. He inserted some parts of this comedy in the Misanthrope , the Femmes Savantes , Amphitryon , Tartuffe and Les Fâcheux, where they produced great effect.

Though it has not gained a place on the French stage, it nevertheless possesses some fine passages. Molière wished to create a counterpart of Sganarelle , the type of ridiculous jealousy, and to delineate passionate jealousy, its doubts, fears, perplexities and anxieties, and in this he has succeeded admirably. However noble minded Don Garcia may be, there rages within his soul a mean passion which tortures and degrades him incessantly. When at last he is banished from the presence of the fair object of his love, he resolves to brave death by devoting himself to the destruction of her foe; but he is forestalled by his presumed rival, Don Alphonso, who turns out to be the brother of his mistress, and she receives him once again and for ever in her favour. The delineation of all these passions is too fine spun, too argumentative to please the general public; the style is sometimes stilted, yet passages of great beauty may be found in it. Moreover the jealousy expressed by Don Garcia is neither sufficiently terrible to frighten, nor ridiculous enough to amuse the audience; he always speaks and acts as a prince, and hence, he sometimes becomes royally monotonous.

Some scenes of this play have been imitated in The Masquerade , a comedy, acted at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1719, London, "printed for Bernard Linton, between the Temple Gate," which was itself partly borrowed from Shirley's Lady of Pleasure . The comedy was written by Mr. Charles Johnson, who "was originally bred to the law, and was a member of the Middle Temple; but being a great admirer of the Muses, and finding in himself a strong propensity to dramatic writing, he quitted the studious labour of the one, for the more spirited amusements of the other; and by contracting an intimacy with Mr... Continue reading book >>

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