THE STORY: Molière’s THE BUNGLER (1655) takes place in the Sicilian city of Messina and is a fresh, zestful verse treatment of the familiar elements of Italian popular comedy. A beautiful young woman named Célie has been traveling with a gypsy band and, shortly before the play begins, has been left by the gypsies with a rich old man named Trufaldin as security for a loan. Two young men of Messina, Lélie and Léandre, have lately been rivals for the hand of a girl named Hippolyte, but when Célie appears on the scene they are both smitten by her, and she becomes the new object of their rivalry. The warm, impetuous Lélie turns to his valet, a cunning trickster named Mascarille, for help in out-witting Léandre and in freeing the pawned Célie from what amounts to captivity. Mascarille, who loves to plot and deceive, contrives ruse after ruse in his master’s interest, but is repeatedly frustrated by the blunders of Lélie—who, even when he is an informed participant in his valet’s schemes, manages unintentionally to spoil them. This joke is repeated for nearly five acts, and does not grow tiresome: One delights in the resilience of Mascarille, the wondrous variety of his intrigues, and the astonishing ability of Lélie to botch them. As the result of certain discoveries, the play is able at its close to unite Lélie with his Célie, who turns out to be of gentle birth. Léandre is reunited with Hippolyte, to the satisfaction of her father, Anselme, and indeed the dénouement pleases everyone, including Trufaldin, Pandolfe (Lélie’s father), and Andrès, a former suitor of Célie’s who is now revealed to be her long-lost brother. It is, as Mascarille observes, “like the ending of a comedy."