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Pierre-Augustin Caron earned a post as King Louis XV's personal watchmaker at age 24. He married a wealthy widow and bought a position at court, enlarging his surname to fit his new rank by adding "de Beaumarchais." He played more roles in any given year than most people manage in a lifetime:  inventor, merchant, ambassador to Spain, spy, gunrunner, prisoner, reformer, outcast, music teacher, composer, and of course, playwright. His fortunes rose and fell but he always shook off his failures and started over. More than any other playwright of his time, Beaumarchais was the inheritor of a rich tradition and the herald of major changes to come. The Barber of Seville, which premiered in 1775, was a smash hit. The Marriage of Figaro (1778), though widely read, was banned by Louis XVI and not performed in Paris until 1784.
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