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Mercadet A Comedy in Three Acts   By: (1799-1850)

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Mercadet, authored by Honoré de Balzac, is a delightful comedy that explores the intricacies of financial deception and the moral dilemmas that arise from it. Spanning three acts, this play takes readers on a rollercoaster journey through the world of a shrewd businessman named Mercadet, who navigates the realms of love, money, and integrity in 19th-century Paris.

Set against the backdrop of a bustling financial market, Balzac masterfully crafts a tale that probes the darker corners of human nature. Mercadet, the central character, finds himself in dire straits as his fortune crumbles due to poor investments, leaving him on the brink of ruin. Determined to preserve his social standing and reputation, he embarks on a series of elaborate schemes designed to deceive his creditors.

The strength of this play lies in its multi-dimensional characters, each grappling with their own personal desires and motivations. Mercadet, desperate to maintain the illusion of wealth, skillfully manipulates those around him through charm, wit, and pure theatricality. This complex central figure leaves readers torn between their admiration for his cunning and their unease at his deceitful actions.

Balzac seamlessly weaves dramatic irony and comedic timing into the narrative. The play is punctuated by hilarious misunderstandings, mistaken identities, and ludicrous situations that amplify the humour and keep readers engaged. The playwright's sharp wit shines through in the dialogue, providing thought-provoking insights into human nature and the dangers of avarice.

Moreover, Mercadet offers a scathing critique of society's preoccupation with wealth and status. Balzac expertly highlights the moral bankruptcy that often accompanies the relentless pursuit of material gain. Through Mercadet's desperate attempts to maintain his facade, the play raises profound questions about the lengths one is willing to go in order to preserve their social standing, even at the expense of personal happiness and integrity.

While Mercadet was originally written as a satire of the financial world, its themes and messages remain remarkably relevant today. Balzac's masterful storytelling transcends time, reminding readers of the frailty of human nature and the consequences of greed and deception.

In conclusion, Mercadet is a compelling and entertaining comedy that offers a glimpse into the intricacies of human behavior. Balzac's sharp wit, well-crafted characters, and astute observations on societal values make this play a timeless piece of literature. Whether one is interested in exploring the consequences of materialism or simply seeking an enjoyable theatrical experience, Mercadet is sure to leave a lasting impression.

First Page:




Presented for the First Time in Paris At the Theatre du Gymnase Dramatique August 24, 1851


Mercadet, a speculator Madame Mercadet, his wife Julie, their daughter Minard, clerk of Mercadet Verdelin, friend of Mercadet Goulard, creditor of Mercadet Pierquin, creditor of Mercadet Violette, creditor of Mercadet Mericourt, acquaintance of Mercadet De la Brive, suitor to Julie Justin, valet Therese, lady's maid Virginie, cook Various other creditors of Mercadet

SCENE: Paris, in the house of Mercadet

TIME: About 1845




(A drawing room. A door in the centre. Side doors. At the front, to the left, a mantel piece with a mirror. To the right, a window, and next it a writing table. Armchairs.)

Justin, Virginie and Therese

Justin (finishing dusting the room) Yes, my dears, he finds it very hard to swim; he is certain to drown, poor M. Mercadet.

Virginie (her basket on her arm) Honestly, do you think that?

Justin He is ruined! And although there is much fat to be stewed from a master while he is financially embarrassed, you must not forget that he owes us a year's wages, and we had better get ourselves discharged... Continue reading book >>

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