Molière’s three-act farce was first staged at the Palais-Royal in Paris in 1671. Scapino, or the Trickster, is an archetypal figure used in commedia dell’arte, a theatre practice originating in Italy whose name can be roughly translated as ‘the comedy of craft.’
Friends Octave and Léandre have each found the love of their life. Octave has secretly wed Hyacinthe and Léandre has fallen in love with Zerbinetta. Unfortunately, their fathers have other ideas. When Octave’s father, Argante, returns home with marriage plans for his son, the men desperately turn to Scapino for help. However, Argante’s obstinacy drives Scapino to ever more ludicrous schemes to ensure that love wins the day.
The plot of Scapino is more uncomplicated than previous works by Molière. It seems to lack the social criticism evident in such plays as The School for Wives or The Misanthrope. Nevertheless, the stock formula at play in Scapino has far-reaching roots in the comedies of such Ancient Roman playwrights as Plautus and Terence. While it initially only ran for eighteen performances, the play grew to be very popular after Molière’s death becoming one of his best-known works and is a master class in comic construction.