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Beaumarchais, Pierre Augustin Caron de

Beaumarchais, Pierre Augustin Caron de pyĕr ōgüstăN´ karôN´ də bōmärshā´ [key], 1732–99, French dramatist. Originally a watchmaker, he rose to wealth and position among the nobility. His two successful comedies were Le Barbier de Séville (1775), the basis of an opera by Rossini , and Le Mariage de Figaro (1784), the source of an opera by Mozart . Brilliant in their clever dialogue and intricate plots, they satirize the privileges and foibles of the upper class. Beaumarchais was a famous litigant, and the pamphlets he wrote about his cases were witty and effective. Beaumarchais's employment as a secret agent by the monarchy led to his involvement in the American Revolution as a supplier of arms. The expected payment was never forthcoming, and the claims of Beaumarchais against the Americans were settled only in 1835 through a grant by Congress to his heirs. Another costly venture was his 70-volume edition of Voltaire (1785–90 volumes dated 1784–89).

See biography by M. Lever (2008).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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