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The Visionaries achieved enormous popularity with Parisian audiences during its author’s (long) lifetime (1595-1676), before tastes changed with the advent of neo-classicisism. The irony is that the comedy itself is concerned with the vanity of literary fashions, as well as with forms of what has come to be known as “self-fashioning” but which the author groups under the heading of self-deluding folly (the primary meaning of the title). The question even arises of whether the charge of vanity extends to the magnificent château of Cardinal Richelieu (Demarest’s patron), which is evoked in lavish description by one of those so deluded – in his case by fantasies of wealth. Apart from poetry (dramatic and otherwise) and riches, the other satirical targets exemplify the follies of love and war, so the range of human imaginative activities is pretty well covered. This is done by way of a typical comic plot – a father with daughters to marry off – which self-destructs without reaching its generically determined conclusion, since the daughters and their eligible suitors all reject the idea of marriage. Instead, they prefer to remain within their private fantasies, which prove as irresistibly pleasing to themselves as they are hilarious to the audience.
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