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Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais    (1732-1799)


Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was born in Paris in 1732, the son of a watchmaker. He became a watchmaker himself, and at the age of 19 invented an escapement mechanism still used in watches today. In 1756, at 24, Beaumarchais married a rich widow who died a year later. He found himself with a fortune -- the first of several he made and then lost. Musically talented, he became harp teacher to the daughters of Louis XV in 1759. For two years (1764-65), he lived in Madrid. On his return to France, he began his career as a playwright. The Barber of Seville was written in 1770, but not presented on the stage until five years later.
Meanwhile Beaumarchais became an over- night literary success with the publication of his Memoires (1773-74). At the same time he served as a secret agent on behalf of the king. In 1775, The Barber of Seville was produced for the public and increased his fame. The Frenchman became interested in the American Revolution and aided the revolutionary cause by organizing funds, arms, supplies, and ships. Between 1779 and 1780, he wrote a sequel to The Barber of Seville, called The Marriage of Figaro, featuring the Count and Rosina, now the Countess Almaviva, after several years of married life. Cruelly, yet with great humor, this comedy mocked the privileged classes. The first performance was delayed until 1784 because of royal opposition. After the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Beaumarchais became involved in political struggles which eventually forced him to flee the country in 1792 and put his family, which remained behind, in terrible danger during the most violent period of the Revolution. Beaumarchais' great comedies were not only wildly successful, they also fueled the fires of revolution which were sweeping Europe at that time. He returned to Paris in 1796 and died there in 1799.

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