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Scapin constantly lies and tricks people to get ahead. He is an arrogant, pompous man who acts as if nothing were impossible for him. However, he is also a diplomatic genius. He manages to play the other characters off of each other very easily, and yet manages to keep his overall goal — to help the young couples — in sight.
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The Impostures of Scapin
LONDON ∙ NEW YORK ∙ TORONTO ∙ SAO PAULO ∙ MOSCOW
PARIS ∙ MADRID ∙ BERLIN ∙ ROME ∙ MEXICO CITY ∙ MUMBAI ∙ SEOUL ∙ DOHA
TOKYO ∙ SYDNEY ∙ CAPE TOWN ∙ AUCKLAND ∙ BEIJING
Published by Urban Romantics
First published in 2016
Copyright © 2016 Urban Romantics
All Rights Reserved.
ARGANTE, father to OCTAVE and ZERBINETTE.
GÉRONTE, father to LÉANDRE and HYACINTHA.
OCTAVE, son to ARGANTE, and lover to HYACINTHA.
LÉANDRE, son to GÉRONTE, and lover to ZERBINETTE.
ZERBINETTE, daughter to ARGANTE, believed to be a gypsy girl.
HYACINTHA, daughter to GÉRONTE.
SCAPIN, servant to LÉANDRE.
SILVESTRE, servant to OCTAVE.
NÉRINE, nurse to HYACINTHA.
The scene is at NAPLES.
SCENE I.—OCTAVE, SILVESTRE.
OCT. Ah! what sad news for one in love! What a hard fate to be reduced to! So, Silvestre, you have just heard at the harbour that my father is coming back?
OCT. That he returns this very morning?
SIL. This very morning.
OCT. With the intention of marrying me?
SIL. Of marrying you.
OCT. To a daughter of Mr. Géronte?
SIL. Of Mr. Géronte.
OCT. And that this daughter is on her way from Tarentum for that purpose?
SIL. For that purpose.
OCT. And you have this news from my uncle?
SIL. From your uncle.
OCT. To whom my father has given all these particulars in a letter?
SIL. In a letter.
OCT. And this uncle, you say, knows all about our doings?
SIL. All our doings.
OCT. Oh! speak, I pray you; don’t go on in such a way as that, and force me to wrench everything from you, word by word.
SIL. But what is the use of my speaking? You don’t forget one single detail, but state everything exactly as it is.
OCT. At least advise me, and tell me what I ought to do in this wretched business.
SIL. I really feel as much perplexed as you, and I myself need the advice of some one to guide me.
OCT. I am undone by this unforeseen return.
SIL. And I no less.
OCT. When my father hears what has taken place, a storm of reprimands will burst upon me.
SIL. Reprimands are not very heavy to bear; would to heaven I were free at that price! But I am very likely to pay dearly for all your wild doings, and I see a storm of blows ready to burst upon my shoulders.
OCT. Heavens! how am I to get clear of all the difficulties that beset my path!
SIL. You should have thought of that before entering upon it.
OCT. Oh, don’t come and plague me to death with your unreasonable lectures.
SIL. You plague me much more by your foolish deeds.
OCT. What am I to do? What steps must I take? To what course of action have recourse?
SCENE II.—OCTAVE, SCAPIN, SILVESTRE.
SCA. How now, Mr. Octave? What is the matter with you? What is it? What trouble are you in? You are all upset, I see.
OCT. Ah! my dear Scapin, I am in despair; I am lost; I am the most unfortunate of mortals.
SCA. How is that?
OCT. Don’t you know anything of what has happened to me?
OCT. My father is just returning with Mr. Géronte, and they want to marry me.
SCA. Well, what is there so dreadful about that?
OCT. Alas! you don’t know what cause I have to be anxious.
SCA. No; but it only depends on you that I should soon know; and I am a man of consolation, a man who can interest himself in the troubles of young people.
OCT. Ah! Scapin, if you could find some scheme, invent some plot, to get me out of the trouble I am in, I should think myself indebted to you for more than life.
SCA. To tell you the truth, there are few things impossible to me when I once set about them. Heaven has bestowed on me a fair enough share of genius for the making up of all those neat strokes of mother wit, for all those ingenious gallantries to which the ignorant and vulgar give the name of impostures; and I can boast, without vanity, that there have been very few men more skilful than I in expedients and intrigues, and who have acquired a greater reputation in the noble profession. But, to tell the truth, merit is too ill rewarded nowadays, and I have given up everything of the kind since the trouble I had through a certain affair which happened to me.
OCT. How? What affair, Scapin?
SCA. An adventure in which justice and I fell out.
OCT. Justice and you?
SCA. Yes; we had a trifling quarrel.
SIL. You and justice?
SCA. Yes. She used me very badly; and I felt so enraged against the ingratitude of our age that I determined never to do anything for anybody. But never mind; tell me about yourself all the same.
OCT. You know, Scapin, that two months ago Mr. Géronte and my father set out together on a voyage, about a certain business in which they are both interested.
SCA. Yes, I know that.
OCT. And that both Léandre and I were left by our respective fathers, I under the management of Silvestre, and Léandre under your management.
SCA. Yes; I have acquitted myself very well of my charge.
OCT. Some time afterwards Léandre met with a young gipsy girl, with whom he fell in love.
SCA. I know that too.
OCT. As we are great friends, he told me at once of his love, and took me to see this young girl, whom I thought good-looking, it is true, but not so beautiful as he would have had me believe. He never spoke of anything but her; at every opportunity he exaggerated her grace and her beauty, extolled her intelligence, spoke to me with transport of the charms of her conversation, and related to me her most insignificant saying, which he always wanted me to think the cleverest thing in the world. He often found fault with me for not thinking as highly as he imagined I ought to do of the things he related to me, and blamed me again and again for being so insensible to the power of love.
SCA. I do not see what you are aiming at in all this.
OCT. One day, as I was going with him to the people who have charge of the girl with whom he is in love, we heard in a small house on a by-street, lamentations mixed with a good deal of sobbing. We inquired what it was, and were told by a woman that we might see there a most piteous sight, in the persons of two strangers, and that unless we were quite insensible to pity, we should be sure to be touched with it.
SCA. Where will this lead to?
OCT. Curiosity made me urge Léandre to come in with me. We went into a low room, where we saw an old woman dying, and with her a servant who was uttering lamentations, and a young girl dissolved in tears, the most beautiful, the most touching sight that you ever saw.
SCA. Oh! oh!
OCT. Any other person would have seemed frightful in the condition she was in, for all the dress she had on was a scanty old petticoat, with a night jacket of plain fustian, and turned back at the top of her head a yellow cap, which let her hair fall in disorder on her shoulders; and yet dressed even thus she shone with a thousand attractions, and all her person was most charming and pleasant.
SCA. I begin to understand.
OCT. Had you but seen her, Scapin, as I did, you would have thought her admirable.
SCA. Oh! I have no doubt about it; and without seeing her, I plainly perceive that she must have been altogether charming.
OCT. Her tears were none of those unpleasant tears which spoil the face; she had a most touching grace in weeping, and her sorrow was a most beautiful thing to witness.
SCA. I can see all that.
OCT. All who approached her burst into tears whilst she threw herself, in her loving way, on the body of the dying woman, whom she called her dear mother; and nobody could help being moved to the depths of the heart to see a girl with such a loving disposition.
SCA. Yes, all that is very touching; and I understand that this loving disposition made you love her.
OCT. Ah! Scapin, a savage would have loved her.
SCA. Certainly; how could anyone help doing so?
OCT. After a few words, with which I tried to soothe her grief, we left her; and when I asked Léandre what he thought of her, he answered coldly that she was rather pretty! I was wounded to find how unfeelingly he spoke to me of her, and I would not tell him the effect her beauty had had on my heart.
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