In the opening chapter of ‘Casanova in Paris’ each of the scenes revolves around either Casanova or The Southerner, two of the central protagonists of the story, although neither are present together in any particular scene. These juxtapositions set up an expectation on the part of the audience that the paths of the characters are fated to intersect. However, it is not until the ninth chapter and well into the story that the two men do, in fact, meet face to face. Delaying the meeting allows the audience to get to know them more as individuals and therefore engage more closely with how they interact. Their understanding of the characters will set up predictions to be confirmed or contradicted. In addition, there is a certain amount of situational irony at play. The audience possesses information about each of the men and their intentions which the men don’t possess about each other. This adds another dimension of interest.
We chose Café Procope for the meeting as a public indoor setting meant that the two men would have to supress to some extent their feelings and emotions, adding tension to the encounter. Nonetheless, conflict between the two is evident in their language, particularly in The Southerner’s breaking of the normal rules of conversational politeness. Typically, conversational exchanges between strangers will follow particular patterns. For example, a greeting will elicit a greeting, a compliment will elicit a compliment and/or a thank you, and a question will elicit an answer. In this case we can see the usual rules of co-operation and politeness are flouted. The Southerner refuses to introduce himself despite Casanova’s request or to answer a question about his employer, and he uses passive voice, imperatives and formal, legalistic terms (linguistic devices commonly used to assert authority and intimidate). He is also sarcastic and disparaging. Unsurprisingly, the two men don’t hit it off and the audience can look forward to an escalation of the conflict which this meeting has now foreshadowed.
‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ is freely available here.
27 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.
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