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Literature / Scaramouche

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"He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad."

So begins Rafael Sabatini's classic novel of revenge. First published in 1921, this is the story of Andre-Louis Moreau's life in The French Revolution. After his friend is killed by a powerful noble, the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr, Andre-Louis' quest for vengeance leads him to become an orator inciting the people of France to rebel. Along the way, he becomes a renowned actor for his role as Scaramouche — the sly, roguish trickster.

This novel was adapted for film twice, in 1923 and 1952. Much like other Sabatini novels like Captain Blood: His Odyssey and The Sea Hawk, it lost something in the translation. The 1952 film does, however, feature one of the most epic sword fights ever committed to celluloid, clocking in at eight minutes of combat that reportedly required eight weeks of preparation and training to film.


The novel is available on public domain and can be read here.

The book provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: The Marquis becomes this to Aline; twisted in that, although she had been quite receptive to the thought of marrying him before, discovering some unsavory facts about him destroys her interest.
  • Affably Evil: The Marquis is so polite during his conversation with Andre-Louis and Phillipe Vilmorin that you almost miss the insult.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr is the main example, although, since this is the The French Revolution, this trope comes up a lot.
  • Badass Boast: Andre-Louis to the Assembly:
    "I have been detained by an engagement of a pressing nature. I bring you also the excuses of M. de Chabrillane. He, unfortunately, will be permanently absent from this Assembly in future."
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  • Badass Bookworm: Although Andre-Louis is a lawyer by trade, he is able to—through studying fencing theory—devise a method of fencing that destroys even the most skilled of opponents.
  • Based on a True Story: The novel takes place during The French Revolution, and closely follows the events of that time, while outlining an entirely fictional plot.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: Andre-Louis reverses the Marquis's plan of legally killing republican sympathizers by provoking them into duels, when he takes a position in the States General, and in turn provokes duellist members of the First Estate into challenging him.
  • Becoming the Mask: By the end of the story Andre-Louis believes the revolutionary ideals he initially professed in the sake of revenge.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Andre-Louis is shown starting The French Revolution.
  • Betty and Veronica: Aline and Climene.
  • Blue Blood: The Marquis, Aline and M. de Kercadiou.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: M. Danton, a violent man described as having "herculean stature".
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr is a skilled fencer, and knows it. He provokes Phillipe de Vilmorin into a duel with the deliberate intention of killing him, well aware that Vilmorin, who is studying for priesthood, has scarcely held a sword in his life.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Andre-Louis.
  • Distracted by the Luxury: Climene falls for the Marquis's money.
  • Dramatic Irony: We as readers know that Aline faints out of concern for Andre-Louis, not the Marquis. Andre-Louis, however...
  • Dramatic Unmask: Andre-Louis, in character as Scaramouche, whips off his mask and delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the Marquis, who is in the audience at the theater.
  • Duel to the Death: Andre-Louis and several members of the Privileged Party, most notably the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr and M. de Chabrillane. The Marquis's killing of Andre's friend Philippe de Vilmorin starts off the conflict between them.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Comtesse de Plougastel turns out to be Andre's mother.
  • Fake–Real Turn: Andre-Louis comes to believe in the republican ideals he initially supported out of revenge.
  • The French Revolution: The setting of the novel.
  • Funetik Aksent: Danton speaks this way.
  • Gold Digger: Climene briefly becomes engaged to Andre-Louis, but only because she believes he is of noble birth. Once she finds out he is actually adopted, she breaks it off to become Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr's mistress. On his side, the Marquis dumps Climene due to personal issues, leaving her with nothing. Turns out, Andre-Louis actually is of noble birth, meaning she dumped him for nothing.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Andre-Louis manages to become a master swordsman in a very short time through reading, soon besting his teacher, who has been training all his life in the sword but never bothered to study fencing literature.
  • Heir to the Dojo: Andre-Louis inherits M. Bertrand de Amis's fencing school when he is killed in a noble-goaded street riot.
  • Heroic Bastard: Andre-Louis.
  • High-Dive Escape: The Marquis is offered this. He takes it.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard The First Estate's senators typically dispatch the rowdier, more liberal members of the Third Estate by goading them into an honor duel, then killing them, since the rich First Estate is well versed in fencing, while the commoner Third Estate mostly cannot afford such lessons. Near the end of the story, Andre-Louis uses this very same tactic against the First Estate's senators, having become a better fencer than any of them.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The Marquis claims that the bloody revolution sparked by master orators like Vilmorin and Moreau retroactively justifies his killing of Vilmorin, that the revolutionaries do not hesitate to kill their enemies any more than he did, and that a revolution brings nothing but bloodshed before the revolutionaries become the new aristocrats.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: The Marquis is Andre-Louis's father. The twist remains surprising because until that moment, Andre's parentage had not been important.
  • May–December Romance: The Marquis and Aline.
  • Meaningful Name: Andre-Louis believes that his role in the theater, the witty, roguish Scaramouche, is the best description of who he is in real life.
  • Morality Pet: Aline, for M. de La Tour D'Azyr.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: Andre-Louis starts as a lawyer. Over the course of the story, he becomes an actor, a playwright, a manager, a janitor, a fencing assistant, a fencing master, and finally a senator.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Comtesse de Plougastel is nice to her coachman, which saves her life.
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: The Marquis and much of the First Estate exploits this for all its worth, using insults to goad M. Vilmorin, and members of the Third Estate into duels, which they feel obliged by honor to accept. This ends quite badly, as the art of sword-duelling is typically only learned by nobles, leading to many a Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Andre-Louis and Aline.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: In the beginning, Andre-Louis doesn't believe in the ideals he's supporting, he just uses republican rhetoric to inflame crowds to attach his enemies.
  • Not So Stoic: Andre-Louis admits as much in a letter. Despite his best efforts at detachment and comforting himself with the words of Epictetus, he recoils at the idea that he might die of starvation.
  • Parental Substitute: M. De Kercadiou for Andre-Louis.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: M. Binet may be the original founder of his acting troupe, but his controlling nature and mismanagement of funds and effort is keeping his actors from greatness.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: Andre-Louis just keeps setting them off.
  • Real Name as an Alias: Andre-Louis Moreau splits his first name in half as an alias while he works at the fencing school, becoming just Andre Louis.
  • Revenge: Andre-Louis' reason for hunting the Marquis.
  • Royal Rapier: Moreau's weapon of choice.
  • Save the Villain: Mme. la Comtesse de Plougastel throws herself between Andre-Louis and the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: The Marquis kills Phillipe with impunity because he, as a noble, will not be punished for it.
  • Talking to the Dead: Andre-Louis to Phillipe Vilmorin after the duel with the Marquis.
  • The Trickster: Scaramouche.
  • Villainous Valor: Say what you will about the Marquis but he is NOT a coward, even when the odds are against him.
  • We Work Well Together: Andre-Louis to Pantaloon's troupe of actors. It takes him about a week to take over.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Interestingly, it happens about two-thirds of the way into the story- the acting troupe, M. Binet, and Climene do not appear again after Andre-Louis flees them after shooting Binet. We are informed that M. Binet and Climene, without the rest of the troupe, stay destitute for the rest of their lives, while the other actors step up to make their own plays and comedic routines, and end up thriving without them.
  • Wicked Cultured: The Marquis, naturally.
  • Your Mom: The insult which sets the whole plot off.


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