L'Homme au cabriolet


16 pages

L'Homme au cabriolet

| 1861 | Paris, France
Le Charlatan, Polichinelle, Pierrot, Le Locataire, La Dame, Le Paysan, Cassandre, Le Boutiquier, Mme Polichinelle, Le Laquais, La Mort, Le Diable
Number of acts

L'Homme au cabriolet develops a complex dramatic action through five parts in five different locations (in front of a charlatan's cabriolet, in a living room, in a kitchen, in a forest and in Hell). The changes of scenery were made by a machinery operated by an innovative system of pulleys and counterweights. The exact date of the play's premiere is unknown, but we know that it was performed under the title Le Charlatan on 21 July 1861 thanks to a report in the newspaper Le Temps (dated Monday 29 July 1861). The columnist, Louis Ulbach, did not appreciate this play very much: according to him, it deviated from the traditional role of Polichinelle to make him an unscrupulous banker who spoke "like a bourgeois" and made "dupes by crushing them, by dominating them, and not by deceiving them with subtleties". Not perceiving the satire, he retains only the harshness of the situations and lines. He also underlines the perplexity of children faced with a show whose meaning escapes them, particularly because of the use of the vocabulary of finance. This show, which he considers unhealthy, shocks him to the point of describing Duranty's Polichinelle as "the Robert-Macaire of children's theatre. [...] It is terrible, merciless irony, sparing nothing, and going through everything like a drop of acid that eats away at the obstacle."

Plot summary

A villain triumphs over everyone but his wife

Fleeing his wife, Polichinelle steals a charlatan's cabriolet with Pierrot. First he wins the trust of the population with free advice, then he launches a subscription for a phantom financial company. When the shareholders demand their money, he sends them away with good words and blows, until the Public itself comes to threaten him directly. Mrs. Polichinelle offers to take care of the punishment. Terrified, Polichinelle flees into the forest. Abandoned by Pierrot, he walks to Hell. There, he tries to swindle Death and stands up to the Devil who, in desperation, goes looking for Mrs. Polichinelle. She brings her husband home firmly, with the approval of the audience.

Composition date

Other titles

Le Charlatan

First performance

Paris, France, 1861 -

Théâtre des marionnettes du jardin des Tuileries

Publications and translations


Duranty, Théâtre des marionnettes du jardin des Tuileries, texte et composition des dessins par M. Duranty. Paris: MM. Dubuisson et Cie, Éditeurs-Libraires, 1862.

Modern edition

Louis Edmond Duranty, Théâtre des marionnettes. Arles: Actes Sud, 1995.

Literary tones
Comical, Satirical, Farcical, Ironic
Animations techniques
All audiences
Public domain


Theatrical techniques



Written by

Carole Guidicelli