THE RIVALS

The Rivals

Author: Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816)
Downloaded: Project Gutenberg via iBooks

Introduction

Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan was born in Dublin, Ireland. His family moved to England in 1758. The Rivals was his first play and debuted in Covent Garden Theatre in 1775 to bad reviews. He rewrote it and the new version was very well received. Another of his plays, The School for Scandal, first performed in 1777, was also very popular. Both plays are still being performed today. Sheridan served as a Whig Member of Parliament from 1780 to 1812. He was buried at Poets’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.

What is the story about?

A comedy of errors around assumed and mistaken identities.

Themes etc

The Rivals is the source for the term malapropism, from the character Mrs Malaprop who is fond of using words so ingeniously misapplied, without being mispronounced. Examples:

But the point we would request of you is, that you will promise to forget this fellow – to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory (Act I scene II)
He is the very pine-apple of politeness! (Act III scene III)
… she’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of Nile (Act III scene III)

Finally …

Funny.

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THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO

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Author: Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870)
Publisher: Penguin Books (2003 edition)
Bought from: Book Depository

Introduction

Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, better known by the nom de plume Alexandre Dumas, is one France’s most famous authors. He is sometimes also called Alexandre Dumas père (father) in contradistinction to his son Alexandra Dumas fils (son).

The life of Alexandre Dumas’ father rivals, and may have inspired, his adventure novels. Thomas–Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie was born to a French aristocrat and a freed Afro–Caribbean slave. He adopted the name of his mother at some stage. Against a backdrop of the French Revolution (1789–1799), the abolition of slavery in the French colonies (1794), and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte (1799), a mixed race soldier like Thomas–Alexandre was able to climb up the ranks of the French army. He became a distinguished general under Napoleon but eventually fell out of favour : Napoleon may have viewed him as a rival. General Dumas was in Egypt when Napoleon withdrew following his loss to Nelson at the Battle of the Nile (1798). In 1799, General Dumas and some men left behind enemy lines escaped by boat but only reached Taranto, Naples because of storms. They were imprisoned by the local monarchist (anti–republican) regime. General Dumas spent 2 years in the dungeons before the Napoleon government secured his release. He returned to his family a physically broken man and died four years later of cancer. General Dumas is the subject of The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo (2012), written by Tom Reiss and winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.

Alexandre Dumas was only 4 years old when his father died leaving the family impoverished. He grew up listening to his mother tell stories of his father’s exploits. Even though he did not receive any formal education, he took up writing and embarked on a literary career early in his life, starting with dramas before finding fame with novels. Alexandre Dumas was a prolific author. Two of his works, Les Trois Mousquetaires (The Three Musketeers) (1844) and Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo) (1844–1846), are recognised as literary classics and have been translated and adapted many times.

In an lavish ceremony in 2002, the bicentennial of his birth, Dumas was reinterred in the Pantheon together with the remains of many of France’s national heroes.

What is the story about?

Edmond Dantès was falsely imprisoned. He befriended a priest from whom he learned of an immense treasure hidden in the island of Monte Cristo. When he finally escaped (after 14 years), he claimed the treasure and then set out to reward those who had tried to help him and ruin those who had wronged him.

Themes

The novel is set against a specific historical background. This is described in note 1 to chapter VI.

How is the book?

The most common English translation is one by an anonymous translator published by Chapman & Hall (1846).

This is a new translation by Robin Buss under the Penguin Classics imprint (1996). It includes an introduction and explanatory notes.

Finally …

Too long and somewhat unrealistic.