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GETTING EVEN—THEATRICALLY PART 2

WHEN WE LEFT Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, his life of French polymath/entrepreneur was complicated by a court case involving business dealings with the late Joseph Paris Duverney. Today in Part 2, there’s big money, maybe adultery, and eventual retribution, this last achieved theatrically.

L’Affaire Goëzman. A verdict in 1772 favored Beaumarchais, but it was overturned on appeal a year later, this time by a magistrate named Louis Valentin Goëzman. This ruling was even though Beaumarchais had attempted to bribe Goëzman through the judge’s wife.

Beaumarchais subsequently published a four-part pamphlet Mémoires contre Goëzman. Goëzman retaliated with a lawsuit.

Neither side triumphed: Beaumarchais and Goëzman’s bribed spouse were sentenced to blâmé, a deprivation of civil rights. Goëzman was removed from his post and his ruling in the Duverney case was overturned. According to Wikipedia, “The Goëzman case was so sensational that the judges left the courtroom through a back door to avoid the large, angry mob waiting in front of the court house.”

Statute of Beaumarchais by Louis Clausade, 1895, in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. Image by Jastrow.

L’Affaire Bergasse. In 1787, Beaumarchais became acquainted with a Mme. Korman, alleged adulteress accused by her husband in an attempt to expropriate her dowry. Beaumarchais sided with Madame; Monsieur Korman had celebrity lawyer Nicolas Bergasse.

The court found Monsieur Korman and attorney Bergasse guilty of slander, but, as Wikipedia notes, “Beaumarchais’s reputation was also tarnished.”

Retribution Enters, Stage Right. As early as 1767, Beaumarchais had made a name for himself as a playwright. Among his staged works were Le Barbier de Séville, 1775; Le Mariage de Figaro, 1784; and La Mère Coupable, 1792.

What with royal approval and censor dithering, each of these plays had been written several years prior to these first performance dates. “Kabuki, Shakespeare, and Mozart” here at SimanaitisSays gives an idea of Beaumarchais’ mocking of the ruling class, albeit a necessarily gentle one.

It was fine to mock court adversaries, though. In Le Mariage de Figaro, one of the characters is a ridiculed judge named Don Guzman Brid’oison.

Don Guzman Brid’oison, Le Mariage de Figaro. Illustration by Émile Bayard, 1876.

In La Mère Coupable, there’s Bégearss, described as a “very deep man, and great schemer of intrigues, accomplished in the art of troublemaking.”

Bégearss, La Mère Coupable. Illustration by Émile Bayard, 1876.

Sound familiar? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019

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