No, my lord Count, you won’t have her… you won’t have her. Just because you’re a great nobleman, you think you’re a great genius! Nobility, riches, a title, high positions, that all makes a man so proud! What have you done for such fortune? You went to the trouble of being born, and nothing else. Otherwise, a rather ordinary man; while I, good grief! lost in the obscure crowd, I had to use more skill and planning just to survive than has been put into governing all of Spain for the last hundred years.
— The Marriage of Figaro, by Pierre Beaumarchais.
This 18th Century character is one of the archetypes of the Jack-of-All-Trades, the Clever Servant, and of course, the Trickster. He was also a subversive figure and a symbol of revolution. He originally appeared in a series of plays by the French writer (and a Jack-of-all-Trades himself),Pierre Beaumarchais. He is best-known to modern audiences from the famous operas based on the first two Figaro plays: Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.
Figaro was inspired by the character Brighella from the Commedia dell’arte, a comical servant and perpetual schemer. In his famous aria, Largo a factotum, from The Barber of Seville, he boasts of having served in many professions; most recently that of Barber-Chirurgeon. He comes to the aid of his former master, Count Almaviva, to help him win the love of a beautiful maiden. And Hilarity Ensues.
In the sequel, The Marriage of Figaro, the hero is still in the Count’s service as his valet and concierge of his castle. Figaro is about to marry the Count’s head chambermaid, Suzanne; but the Count, who has grown bored with his marriage, is interested in the maid himself. With Suzanne’s help, Figaro orchestrates an elaborate plot to get the Count out of his love life and back with his own wife. This play was controversial when it was first written for its criticism of the aristocracy. It was banned in France by King Louis the XVI; (although his wife, Marie Antionette, liked it).
The French newspaper Le Figaro was founded as a satirical weekly in 1826, named after the clever barber. (The paper’s motto, "Sans la liberté de blâmer, il n'est point d'éloge flatteur" was taken from The Marriage of Figaro and translates as "Without the freedom to criticise, there is no true praise".) Over time, though, the paper’s editorial stance has shifted and today it is conservative in its politics.
Game and Story Use
- A clever servant like Figaro might make a useful NPC
- He would also make a good PC in his own right, if the player is okay with taking a servant's role