- "Pierre Beaumarchais, playwright, diplomat and bon vivant."
- ―Beaumarchais introducing himself to Arno Dorian, 1794.[src]
Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732 – 1799), commonly known as Pierre Beaumarchais, was a French playwright, diplomat, inventor, spy, publisher and revolutionary.
At a young age, Beaumarchais became involved in watchmaking, which earned him the attention of the aristocracy. Louis XV appointed him to give his daughters music lessons, and Beaumarchais also involved himself in the slave trade.
During the American Revolutionary War, Beaumarchais acted as a diplomat for France and set up the fictitious organization Roderigue Hortalez and Company as a cover for arms dealing with George Washington and the Patriots.
He became famous for his Figaro trilogy of plays, consisting of The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro and The Guilty Mother. The Figaro plays comedically criticized the privileges of the aristocracy, adding to the popular discontent with the latter. The Marriage of Figaro in particular proved damning to the upper-classes, and was scrutinized by censors.
The French Revolution
- "Mademoiselle Montansier oversees several "actresses" who have intimate liaisons with important people. Any secrets their lovers tell them are sent to Montansier. Those secrets could help move the Revolution in a more fruitful direction."
- ―Beaumarchais asking Arno to recover Mademoiselle Montansier's diary, 1794.[src]
As the French Revolution developed, Beaumarchais came into conflict with revolutionary authorities and was briefly imprisoned in the Prison de l'Abbaye. The night before the September Massacres of 1792 began, he was released.
After the founding of the republic, public censors began suppressing plays considered out of line with revolutionary principles, including The Marriage of Figaro. Planning to censor the production of it, they also paid a critic to give a scathing review of the play. To end the censors' plans, Beaumarchais contacted the Assassin Arno Dorian and had him steal the review before killing the chief censor.
Beaumarchais later discovered that the theatre director Mademoiselle Montansier employed several prostitutes who relayed information from their powerful clients, including members of the Committee of Public Safety. Knowing that she kept this information in her diary, Beaumarchais had Arno infiltrate a party hosted by Montansier and steal the diary. With the valuable secrets in his hands, the playwright hoped to influence the revolution in what he believed would be a more beneficial direction.