The Marriage of Figaro and the Sunset of Ancien Régime Legacy on Modern Legal Culture

  • Elena FallettiEmail author


The purpose of this abstract is focused on the character of the Count of Almaviva as representative of the transition from the Ancien Régime to the Nouveau Régime. Despite the fact that the opera plot is focused on the adventures of Susanna and Figaro in order to get married, its legal pivot is on the feudal lord who seeks to enforce his status and his rights, first of all his “ius primae noctis” on Susanna, his wife’s lady-in-waiting. He tried to seduce her for all the opera but he fails, proving himself ridiculous and surpassed.

From the private law perspective, the Count exploits Figaro’s promise of marriage to Marcellina in the event of the breach of a debt incurred some time before. Despite his conflict of interest because he is the master, the Count tries to mislead the judgement of his subordinate, unsuccessfully, due to the parent–child relationship between Marcellina and Figaro themselves. However, he does not give up and the final double exchange of role keeps him in a ridiculous situation to obtain forgiveness from his wife, the Countess, quite a proto-feminist in this opera.

From the public law perspective, the crisis of the figure of the Count of Almaviva clearly represents the decline of aristocracy itself. None of his subjects are afraid of him. For instance, Cherubino escapes the mandatory enrollment in the Count’s regiment by dressing up as a girl. This is not only of scenic value, but it could also represent a crisis of social roles on the eve of the French Revolution.

The Marriage of Figaro represents an indispensable inspiration for historical and multidisciplinary reflections to analyze the paradigm shifts which occurred in the late seventeenth century and the legacy they have left on today’s legal culture.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Carlo Cattaneo UniversityCastellanzaItaly

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