Two actors from Paris, Robichon and Quinquart, fall in love with a woman, their co-star on stage. The trouble is, the lady loves both the men! Finally she devised a plan – she would marry the one whom the Parisians awarded the best actor title. How will they judge the two actors?
Robichon and Quinquart were two comedy actors in Paris and Suzanne was a beautiful actress in their troupe. The two actors loved Suzanne and Suzanne loves the two of them alike. When she was pressed from both the sides, Suzanne had to agree to marry one and consider the other as friend. (I wonder, who made it a law that one should marry only one!) Suzanne leaves the decision to the Paris audience. Whomever the audience chose as the best actor, she will marry him! Now the big question arises – how will Paris choose the best actor? How? How? While the two actors were seriously thinking and discussing about this, they had a visitor. Jacques Roux. Jacques Roux was once an executioner – an official who executed convicted criminals under the guillotine.
Now that Jacques Roux had retired from service and is spreading the awareness that capital punishment was a crime against humanity. He wanted his message to be spread through dramatic monologues. Because Jacques had stage-fright, he seeks Robichon’s help and the latter agrees. Robichon enacted Jacques’ role in front of the Paris audience and everyone was spell bound. Suzanne was almost Robichon’s. At this, Quinquart counteracts. He disguises as Marquis de Thevenin, a judge, and invites Robichon to dine with him. During the meeting the Marquis (Quinquart) informs Robichon that he (Robichon) was going to die of the poisoned wine he had taken as a punishment for wrongly sentencing his son. Robichon believes this and is outwitted.
Paris chooses Quinquart as the better actor and the judgment goes in favor of Quinquart.
What happens if two equally talented actors in Paris (or anywhere else) want to marry the same woman? This was a haunting question that Robichon and Quinquart had to answer because the two actors wanted to marry the beautiful Suzanne. When the duo failed to resolve the issue, Suzanne said, “Let Paris decide.” “But how will Paris decide?” they asked. “By your performance!,” she replied. That was again another problem. They were like Aamir Khan and Sha Rukh Khan or like Mohanlal and Mammootty or Will Smith and Sylvester Stallone! No, I am wrong – they were comedians. They were like, like, yeas, Charley Chaplin and Johny Lever (I am not good at comparison!)
By the way, students of Functional English, I do not have your text. If you send me the scanned/photographed copies of chapters, I can publish those chapters too. So, Robichon and Quinquart had to find a more convincing way to stand above the other. While they were thinking of this, they had a visitor – a retired executioner, and his name was Jacques Roux. You know that an executioner’s job is to kill the criminals whom the court sentences to death.
In Paris execution is carried out by a guillotine, a terrible machine whose suspended blade falls on the culprit’s neck. Jacques Roux was disillusioned so he wanted to spread awareness in France about the cruelty of capital punishment. Being no good speaker (he had stage fright), Jacques Roux requested Robichon and Quinquart to do that for him. Without much thinking, Robichon accepted the offer and in a couple of days he gave a terrible shock to the Parisian audience as Jacques Roux but what Quinquart did was more than a shock. You will find that in the analysis section.
“Alas!” persisted the newcomer, “with me time presses. I, too, am considering my latest part–and it will be the only speaking part I have ever played, though I have been ‘appearing’ for twenty years.” 1. What does Jacques Roux mean by his latest parts?
Jacques Roux was an ex-executioner who had resigned from his profession to spread the message that capital punishment was evil by telling the audience of the horrors of the post he had resigned. By his latest part, Jacques Rous meant this. 2. What does Jacques Roux refer to the ‘only speaking part’ that he had ever played? Jacques Roux was an ex-executioner. While he was an executioner, he never had a speaking part to do. All he had to do was to see the guillotine blade killed the convict in the best way, without a word. As he resigned from his profession for the horror of it, he was now aiming the stage to tell the world of the horror of capital punishment, the only speaking part in his life. 3. Why did Robichon take an acute interest in
Jacques Roux’s case? On listening to Jacques Roux’s story and his intentions in life, Robichon thought of performing his story as to prove his acting skills for marrying Bruette.
1. Why do you think that Robichon and Quinquart were the best of actors?Robichon and Quinquart were the most loved comedians of Paris. Their very presence on the stage made the audience fall with laughter. When the fat Robichon merely opened his mouth, people started laughing and when the skinny Quinquart remained silent, the audience could not stop laughing. 2. Why did Robichon and Quinquart plague Miss Brouette? How did she solve this crisis? Both Robichon and Quinquart loved Miss Suzanne Brouette as she loved them, flirted with them and had passion for them. But when she was asked to choose one of them as her husband, she could not take a decision. She solved this crisis by asking them to prove their skills on the stage and be judged by the Paris audience.
3. What were the practical difficulties for Paris being the judge? There were two practical difficulties for Paris being the judge. If the usual Paris audience was to be the judge, the two actors should stage their performance on the same stage, same theater but the authorities would not allow them to play serious roles as they had always been identified with comic roles. Besides, both Robichon and Quinquart were equally loved and admired by the Parisians. 4. What brought the friendship of Quinquart and Robichon to a halt because they were both men of the world? Because Quinquart and Robichon were men of the world with emotions, they had both fallen in love with the fair Mademoiselle Brouette, their companion on the stage and for the very same reason, none of them could sacrifice his love for his friend. 5. Why was it necessary that the two actors remained funny till either they reached their death-bed or they demonstrated the supremacy of one of them? The two actors, Quinquart and Robichon, were determined to woo their companion actress Brouette by establishing their acting caliber above the other for the judgment of their Paris audience.
6. “Our only hope lies in versatility – the conqueror must distinguish in a solemn part.” What did Robichon mean by this? Why were Robichon and Quinquart pleased to accept this? Robichon and Quinquart were the best of comedians and no one had a doubt on this, therefore proving their skills in handling serious roles as well was important. Robichon agreed to this idea because he knew that the audience would never accept his rival Quinquart as a serious actor because his very presence made the audience laugh. Quinquart was glad to accept this idea because he believed that a man like Robichon with his very heavy body would not get the sympathy of the audience. 7. Why did Quinquart readily agree with Robichon to play tragedy? Quinquart readily agreed to play a tragedy role because he believed that he could better than Robichon because the latter happened to be a fat man for whom playing a serious role was difficult and unlikely.
8. Why did Robichon think that doing a serious role was not going to be easy for the two actors? Robichon was of the opinion that the management of the theatre for which they had been hired and employed would not allow them do an off-track role, a change from comedy to tragedy. Besides, the two had been successful in comedy and the audience would not accept them doing solemn roles. 9. “There are Robichon and Quinquart, how amusing they always are!” What is ironical about this public opinion? For Paris people both Robichon and Quinquart were their dear comedians and therefore they could never think that they too had pains and sufferings. While they were amused to see them, the comedians were going through one of their hardest trials as to how to win their lady by defeating each other which was almost impossible.
10. Why did Robichon suggest performing off stage? Why was doing an off-the-usual stage performance not a good idea? Robichon, seeing that the two are equally good at acting and were loved by their usual audience for whom they played, because their audience would not choose a better actor, thought it wise to performing privately off-stage. Though this appeared to be a good idea, Quinquart found it not serving the desired purpose because their performance was to be judged by Paris. 11. Who was Jacques Roux? What did he want to tell the world? Why did he seek Robichon’s help? Jacques Roux was once a public executioner whose profession was to behead criminals under the guillotine. Having abandoned his profession because he believed capital punishment was evil, he wished to spend the rest of his life spreading this message on stage. Though he was determined to do so and having got an audience at Appeville-sous-Bois, he found it hard to perform for an audience due to stage-fright. He approached Robichon and Quinquart seeking advices to solve his fear on the stage.
12. “Across the sunlit terrace seemed to have fallen the black shadow of guillotine.” How does this statement explain the mood? Jacques Roux was once an executioner though he abandoned the profession. He was a guillotine operator, a man who cared for the precision of the guillotine and accuracy of the blade-fall, so his presence reminded of the shadow of the guillotine. 13. Why did Robichon speak dramatically about Jacques Roux’s story? Having decided to do the very dramatic role for Jacques Roux, Robichon thought of convincing Roux of his acting skills. By dramatically speaking like this, he placed himself at a position of asking Roux to let him perform for him. 14. What was ‘queer’ about Jacques Roux suffering from stage fright? Jacques Roux was once a public executioner. His profession was to kill convicted criminals under guillotine without the speck of feelings. Even though he later awakened to a conscience stricken man, it was queer to think that he had stage fear.
15. Why did Robichon ask Mr. Jacques Roux if he was known to his audience? Robichon was determined to enact the role that Jacques Roux was to play at Appeville-sous-Bois so he wanted to know if the audience could recognize him when Robichon impersonated Jacques Roux. 16. Why did Jacques Roux agree to let Robichon play his part at Appeville-sous-Bois? Jacques Roux was a changed man though he was once an executioner. He wanted to spread the message that capital punishment was itself a crime against humanity. He agree to let Robichon play the role for him because in that way his message could reach the audience in the best way and he could earn five hundred francs for not doing his role on the stage. 17. Why did Suzanne make more of Quinquart after she heard about Robichon’s prospect of winning her? Though it is not very clear if Suzanne rejoiced at the prospect of Robichon’s winning her, she was found moving and talking with Quinquart more than usual which suggests her expression of love for Quinquart. It was likely that she was aware of the fact that she had very little time left to spend with him before getting married to the worthier Robichon.
18. How did Suzanne and Quinquart respond to Robichon’s performance? Sitting with the audience, watching Robichon’s performance, Suzanne felt relieved that Robichon hadn’t been able to strike the right note and that he hadn’t been able to impress the audience while Quinquart remarked that Robichon was amusing the audience for the contrasting effect. 19. What makes you think that Robichon’s performance as Jacques Roux was a great success that sealed his victory over Quinquart? Robichon’s playing the role of Jacques Roux, from a pleasant note to a gruesome, hideous performance held the audience’ breath even after he ended and the curtain fell.
Enumerating the horrors of the condemned criminals along with his shouting that he was a murderer and sob that accompanied his cry left a pin-drop silence in the hall. The fact that the audience didn’t clap at the end of his performance, that he withdrew amid tense silence and the rush of the press representatives placed the crown on Robichon’s success. 20. Why did Quinquart generously congratulate his rival even after the latter had defeated him in the test? Robichon’s performance was remarkable and deserved the praises even of his enemies but it was not for this reason that Quinquart congratulated Robichon. Being very smart, Quinquart had devised a plan to counter Robichon and he was confident that his plan would work as he envisaged.
21. Why was Robichon amazed on reaching the Marquis’ house? Robichon had expected the residence of a typical Marquis but it was more or less like a lodging. He was admitted by a peasant and was led into an ordinary room. 22. Why did Quinquart put on a lot of make-up while impersonating the imaginary Marquis Thevenin? Quinquart was very much known to his companion Robichon so appearing in front of him as an old man was definitely risky. To make sure he would not be recognized, Quinquart put on a load of make-up so that Robichon will feel sympathy for the old man rather than suspicion. 23. What do you figure out about the exact reason why the Marquis had been late?
The character of Marquis Thevenin, the most significant role played by Quinquart to defeat his companion Robichon to win Suzanne, demanded considerable effort. Quinquart had to manage all that make-up during his journey to the lodging where his character had to meet Robichon who too would travel to this destination at the same time. To ease his efforts, to make time for his make-up, Quinquart had to give the excuse that he had been to his doctor. 24. How did Quinquart play his role of Marquis Thevenin?
Quinquart made a crafty plot to give the biggest shock to his companion and rival, Robichon. Dressed as an old Marquis, infirm and broken hearted, he invited Quinquart who made himself known as Jacques Roux, an ex-executioner who resigned his post because of his late realization that capital punishment was a crime. Having served his guest a cup of wine, Quinquart – the Marquis – informed the ‘ex-executioner’ that the wine was poisoned to kill him to avenge his son’s execution by his hands. However, Quinquart brought an end to his scary drama by revealing his identity.
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