Places: The Barber of Seville

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Le Barbier de Séville: Ou, La Précaution inutile, 1775 (English translation, 1776)

First produced: 1775

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Comedy

Time of work: Eighteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Seville

*Seville. Barber of Seville, TheThough a real Spanish city, Seville is never portrayed as a real place. However, it provides a pretext for Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais to mention stereotypical Spanish customs, such as singing to the accompaniment of a guitar, an instrument regarded as exotic in France in the 1770’s, and to include spurious supporting color by naming other real places in Spain, such as Madrid, the provinces of Extremadura and Andalucía, and the mountains of Sierra Morena.

Bartholo’s house

Bartholo’s house. Street scene set outside Bartholo’s house enables Beaumarchais to have the count and Figaro meet by chance and to have the count’s hat pulled down low because of the rain, so that he is not immediately recognized. The street decor emphasizes Rosina’s window, later to be seen from inside, through which a note is thrown and through which the conspirators, having stolen the key, will enter.

Rosina’s apartment

Rosina’s apartment. With its locked window, this is where Bartholo keeps his ward away from outside contacts, athough Figaro and the count gain access to the apartment. Bartholo’s removal of the ladder from outside the window constitutes the useless precaution which, by preventing the count’s escape, ironically ensures his triumph by trapping him in the apartment with Rosina, the notary, and enough witnesses to have their marriage legally registered.


*Madrid. Spain’s capital city is mentioned several times, partly to emphasize that the action is not taking place in France and partly because it is here that the count first glimpses Rosina. Seville is far from Madrid, and the count’s determination to pursue her so far emphasizes the strength of his passion.


*France. France merits a single ironic mention, when Bartholo contrasts French courtesy toward women, unfavorably as he sees it, with less liberal social attitudes in Spain.

BibliographyCox, Cynthia. The Real Figaro: The Extraordinary Career of Caron de Beaumarchais. London: Longmans, 1962. Focuses mostly on Beaumarchais’ many other activities, particularly diplomacy. Places The Barber of Seville in the context of Beaumarchais’ traumatic trial. Provides much information on early performances, such as the one in which Marie-Antoinette played Rosine. Illustrations and bibliography.Grendel, Frédéric. Beaumarchais: The Man Who Was Figaro. Translated by Roger Greaves. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1977. Interprets the figure of Figaro as Beaumarchais’ complete alter ego, the two having a similar ability to keep reinventing themselves for new situations. The complicated plot of The Barber of Seville demonstrates this ability at its best. Illustrations and selected bibliography.Ratermanis, J. B., and W. R. Irwin. The Comic Style of Beaumarchais. New York: Greenwood Press, 1961. Interesting scene-by-scene analysis of The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro and discussion of what makes the comedy work on stage. Stresses that Figaro, as the central character, sets the plot of The Barber of Seville in motion without being affected by the consequences himself, unlike the situation in The Marriage of Figaro.Sungolowsky, Joseph. Beaumarchais. New York: Twayne, 1974. Concise biography, including an account of the development of The Barber of Seville from a parade (brief comic sketches) through an opera comique to its present form. Stresses Beaumarchais’ honing of his playwriting skills and his ability to reinvent comic traditions and character types.Wood, John. Introduction to “The Barber of Seville” and “The Marriage of Figaro.” London: Penguin, 1964. Excellent concise discussion of the plays and their social context. Sees The Barber of Seville as more concise and “manageable” than The Marriage of Figaro. Edition includes Beaumarchais’ own notes on the characters and their costumes.
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