Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

James R. Briscoe


The social structure at the close of the 18th century was a picture of instability and change, as Europe watched the unfolding of the American Revolution, Napoleon redrew the map, and the Enlightenment swept across the face of the earth, bringing with it new political and social ideas relating to equality and the unfairness of the aristocratic class and government structure throughout Europe. This new awareness was expressed intellectually and passionately in the work of the artists, musicians, and writers of the time, as is demonstrated clearly in Pierre Augustin de Beaumarchais's radical play, "The Marriage of Figaro." The Enlightened ideas expressed in the comedy caused it to spread across Europe like wildfire in many forms, including as an opera in Mozart's grand "Le Nozze di Figaro." Analysis and comparison of these two works, including the libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, the men behind them, and the cultural and political atmosphere surrounding their creation and their reception, illustrates that the middle class and the working class of Europe were on the rise and that cultural and political ideas found their outlet in the literature, music, and art of the times. Beaumarchais, Da Ponte, and Mozart all used the character of Figaro as an extension of themselves; through Figaro, they were able to present their own political and social identities.