This is a historical novel, describing the beginning of the French Revolution, i.e. the period around 1790, plus or minus a few years. The main character, Andre-Louis Moreay is of unknown parentage, but has been brought up under the protection of his landed-gentry godfather. Andre-Louis is well educated and has a gift for glib rejoinders. He has no firm political views, but becomes politicized when his best friend is murdered by a marquis, allegedly under cover of a duel. Andre-Louis vows revenge.
First off, he gives a speech, channeling the fervent ideas of his murdered friend, which is considered to be seditious by the nobles, in particular the murderer of his friend. The nobles seek to arrest Andre-Louis so he can be hanged for sedition. Andre-Louis seeks cover by joining an itinerant band of actors, actors in the tradition of Commedia dell'Arte
. In that tradition, each actor has a pat role, rich buffoon, jokester, inamorata, etc. One such role is Scaramouche
, a glib schemer, the role Andre-Louis obtains. He excells in that role, and again, during one of his scenes manages to stir up the populace against the nobles, in particular the murdering marquis who happens to be in the audience.
Andre-Louis must once again flee for his life, and ends up in Paris, where he becomes a fencing master. I could go on, but I won't. One might better read this book for one's self. It's rather good. Sabitini is a master story teller and an astute observer of the human condition. Another benefit of reading this book is that one will also learn something about the root causes of the French Revolution and how things proceeded. An added bonus for me was that I read the part about the storming of the Bastille on Bastille Day. How cool is that?