The Barber of Seville Historical Context

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France on the Brink of Revolution

Though France was the largest and most powerful nation in Europe during the 1700s, it experienced serious domestic discord by the middle of the century. French society had long been stratified. French people belonged to one of three legal, social, and political classes, called estates. The First Estate consisted of members of the Roman Catholic clergy, who made up less than one percent of the population. The Second Estate consisted of members of French nobility, who made up less than two percent of the population. People were born into the Second Estate, but they also could purchase titles, as did Beaumarchais. The Third Estate consisted of everyone else in France, from the peasants to the bourgeoisie, and constituted about ninety-seven percent of the French population. Neither the First nor the Second Estate paid any significant taxes, thrusting France's growing financial burden upon...

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This section contains 810 words
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The Barber of Seville from Drama for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.