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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Jean-François Regnard (1655–1709)

The Cowardly Marquis

From “The Gambler”


Hec.Ah, here is the marquis, that tender hero.

Val.He who sighs?

Hec.Yes, after our countess.

Mar.(behind the scenes).Let my chair wait two hundred paces from here. And you three keep at a distance too. I am incognito.(Exeunt LACKEYS.)

Hec.(to VALÈRE).What will he try to do?

Mar.Are you not the gentleman named Valère?

Val.Yes, sir, that has always been my name.

Mar.I am most profoundly charmed. Will you permit the valet to withdraw?

Val.(to HECTOR).Go.


Val.Go. Must I repeat it?(Exit HECTOR.)

Mar.Do you know who I am?

Val.I have not that honor.

Mar.(aside).Courage, Marquis! You are strong. He is afraid.(Aloud.)I am nevertheless well known in the city, and am familiar, you must know, with dukes, archdukes, princes, marquises, and great lords—everybody, in a word, most fashionable at court. There I am dangerous to every beauty, master of every feast, singer and soul of every assembly. I am perfect in everything. My courage is known. I never fight without killing my opponent. I have come out of a hundred quarrels. My ancestors are famous. You have before you a gentleman.

Val.Your appearance bears witness to that.

Mar.It seems now that I almost unawares have touched with the flame of my love a certain lady. The affair is commonplace enough, but the beauty has become enamored of me, as you can readily believe. Only, some one claims to have a right to her, and to try to oppose obstacles to my love is like trying to stem a mountain torrent.

Val.I hardly believe that any one would be so bold.

Mar.I am told, nevertheless, that you yourself are doing it.


Mar.That without respect for either my station or quality, you nourish in your heart a wish to defeat mine.

Val.That is an absolute untruth. I know well enough that fate has put a distance between us.

Mar.(aside).He trembles.(Aloud.)Do you know that I have something here to make you feel very small?

Val.So I perceive.

Mar.You think that with your caustic humor you can treat me as if I were the ace of spades.

Val.I, sir?

Mar.(aside).He is afraid of me.(Aloud.)You are plunging into it, you twopenny upstart!(VALÈRE knocks off the MARQUIS’S hat.)

Mar.(aside).He has courage after all.(Aloud.)I restrain my anger. But——

Val.(putting his hand to his sword).Since you wish it, I will give you satisfaction.

Mar.Good! Good! That makes me laugh!

Val.Your laughter is not to my taste, and your insolent airs disgust me. You are a puppy.

Mar.I know you do not mean that.

Val.A fool, a booby!

Mar.Sir, you are only jesting.

Val.(drawing his sword).Let us find out immediately whether these great gentlemen are so terrible in their anger as you say.

Mar.But must we quarrel over an absurd point of form?

Val.The wine has been drawn, sir; now it must be drunk!

Mar.(shouting).Oh! Oh! I am wounded! I am dead! Oh!