THE STORY: One of the most hilarious French plays ever written, Racine’s only comedy (1688) tells of a judge named Nigaud who has lost his mind from overwork and yet is possessed with the desire to go to court and try cases day and night. His son, Léandre, abetted by Petit-Jean (the judge’s porter) and Leclerc (the judge’s clerk), does his best to confine him to his house and to deny access to litigious persons—such as Chicanneau and the Countess of Pimbesche—who wish to consult him regarding their current lawsuits. The mad judge, however, threatens constantly to escape, and the situation is resolved only when Léandre persuades his father to stay at home and be the presiding judge of his own household—beginning with an uproarious trial of the family dog for filching a capon from the kitchen. That plot, which Racine adapted from Aristophanes’ The Wasps, is interlaced with a love-intrigue out of the commedia dell’arte. Léandre loves his neighbor, Isabelle, who is imprisoned in the house of a father (Chicanneau) who reserves all his money for legal squabbles and will not give her a dowry. A good part of Act Two consists of an intricate hoax in which Léandre and Leclerc, disguised as a magistrate and bailiff, get the better of Chicanneau and make possible the happy ending of Act Three. At the close of the play, Judge Nigaud is looking forward to many more intramural trials, and Léandre is betrothed to the spirited and charming Isabelle.