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Reviews (ADR)

from Reviews (ADR)
concerning La Jeunesse de Pierrot; Le roi de Bohême

     A charming, humorous, and well-written book-length fairy tale, enjoyable both for parents and children, in which Dumas adduces a childhood in a mythical kingdom of Bohemia for Pierrot the Clown, a stock character in French pantomimes.
     Pierrot ("sparrow" in French) is derived from Pedrolino, a stock character in the 17th century Italian Commedia dell'Arte, a form of Italian popular theatre in which the actors improvise on characters, situations, and plots with which the audience is thoroughly familiar. The Commedia dell'Arte spread into France in the 18th Century, and in Britain was anglicized into the "Punch and Judy" shows.
     In the first half of the 19th century, the French mime Jean Baptiste Gaspard Debureau (or Deburau) popularized Pierrot as a white-faced clown, the continually optimistic but always unsuccessful would-be lover of Columbine. Debureau was, for a time, the lover of Marie Duplessis, the model for the heroine of the Alexandre Dumas fils novel, La dame aux camélias.
     In Dumas' fairy-tale, Pierrot is discovered as half-frozen baby (accounting for the white face) by a poor-but-honest woodcutter and his wife. Miraculously grown up in the course of month, Pierrot finds his way to the Court of the King of Bohemia. (The real kingdom of Bohemia was incorporated into the Austrian Empire some centuries ago, and now forms the core of the Czech Republic.) Pierrot encounters the hatred of the King's Chief Minister, Renardino, and pines for the heart of the King's daughter, Columbine. Renardino attempts to extirpate Pierrot, but fails repeatedly due to Pierrot's cleverness. Ultimately, Pierrot saves the Kingdom from foreign invaders, and saves Columbine from marriage to a Barbarian prince so that she can marry her true love, who turns out not to be Pierrot. Pierrot is consoled however, when he meets the fairy-queen, who assures him that his true role in life is entertaining children. The book ends with happiness restored in Bohemia, and Pierrot embarking upon his theatrical career.

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