Thursday, 10 December 1998

Molière: The Sicilian, or Love the Painter (1667)

Translation: John Wood, 1959
Edition: Penguin, 1969
Review number: 178

The Sicilian is one of Molière's one act entertainments dashed off for the pleasure of Louis XIV, complete with scenes for dancers and musical interludes. Despite their slight plots, they are usually fun to see or read, and The Sicilian is no exception.

Adrastes and Don Pedro are both in love with Isidore, a slave girl owned by Don Pedro. He has freed her so that they can get married, but his intense jealousy means that she has even less freedom than she had before. Meanwhile, Adrastes is plotting to gain opportunities to spend time with Isidore, which he does by pretending to be a painter commissioned to paint her portrait by Don Pedro. The best scene in the play is the sitting for this, consisting of outrageous complements poaid by Adrastes to Isidore, to Don Pedro's jealous rage, not assuaged by Adraste's assurances that as a Frenchman he pays such compliments to every woman he meets. The play ends as Adrastes abducts the willing Isidore, leaving Don Pedro furious.

The play leaves, at least on the page, the impression of not really having an ending; you could easily envisage further acts detailing Don Pedro's attempts at revenge. The introduction of a new character, a magistrate who is a friend of Don Pedro's, in the last lines of the play makes such a continuation seem even more likely. Yet what we have is quite delightful; you are certainly left wanting more.

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