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concerning Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle

     One of Dumas' most successful plays, part of the repertoire of the Comédie Française into the twentieth century, and revived in France as recently as 1976. The play is set in 1726, and takes place in the Chateau Chantilly, near Paris. 'The Great Lover' of the English title is Louis-Francois-Armand du Plessis, duc de Richelieu, (1696-1788) later Marshal of France, whose long life spanned that of three French Kings. The Duke was also apparently a favorite character of Dumas, since he appears in many of Dumas' historical novels, including the Chevalier d'Harmental, Memoirs of a Physician, and The Queen's Necklace.
     In this play, the Duke opens the play by ending a liason with the Marquise de Prie, mistress of the Duke de Bourbon, the Prime Minister. The Duke confesses that he has fallen in love with a young girl from Brittany, Gabrielle de Belle Isle, who has come to Paris to to seek the release of her unjustly imprisoned father. The Marquise confesses that she has also fallen in love with someone else, a young soldier named Sevran, for whom she obtained a Lieutenant's commission.
     In front of several onlookers, the Duke boasts of his prowess, and bets that he can seduce Gabrielle within 24 hours. The bet is taken up by Lieutenant Sevran, who reveals that he is betrothed to Gabrielle.
     Subsequently, the Duke claims to have won his bet, while Gabrielle protests her innocence. Sevran challenges the Duke, but, forbidden to duel, he invites a desperate alternative: the Duke and Sevran will roll dice, and the loser will commit suicide within eight hours. Sevran loses. A master of plotting, Dumas gathers up all the loose ends and delivers a surprise happy ending in a slamdunk final act.

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