Princes Leonide, in disguise, arrives in the garden of the philosopher, Hermocrate. She has come to try and win some time in his retreat for she has fallen in love, from afar, with Hermocrate's student, Agis, who is the "legitimate" prince of the realm over which Leonide rules. Knowing that Hermocrate is steadfastly against women joining the retreat (except for his sister, Leontine, who helps run the place), Leonide puts on the disguise of a man, calling herself Phocion, and brings along her servant Corine, under the alias Hermidas. Phocion proceeds to woo all the people at the retreat depending on what they figure out about her/him. Hermocrate sees through the disguise so Phocion convinces him she has fallen in love with him and until Hermocrate gives her some time to prove herself, she will not leave. When Phocion meets up with Leontine, who buys the disguise, Phocion persuades her he is in love with her so she will petition Hermocrate to let Phocion stay. All the while, the jester and gardener, who now know of the disguise, are being bought off by Leonide and wooed by Corine. All of this just so Leonide can find some time alone with Agis. Once she corners Agis, she first wins him over as a friend, then later reveals she is a woman. Since he has been taught to loathe love, and women as the object of love, he is at first resistant; but soon, attracted to Phocion, and he so very innocent, he is won over and falls in love. Now all the major players in the retreat prepare to marry Phocion (who by now calls herself by all different names). When they all meet in the courtyard, in wedding attire, Leonide not only reveals to Leontine that she is a woman, but reveals to all that she is the illegitimate ruler—so often feared and reviled—she is not hateful, loves Agis, and wants to abdicate the crown to him. The two young lovers go off together, leaving the older philosopher and his sister stunned and silent.
First presented by the Comediens Italians in 1732, this timeless comedy, newly translated, clearly demonstrates the ageless affinity of laughter and love. "Marivaux's command of comedy is so adroit that the exploit moves as effortlessly as a master chess game, while the humor is pure delight…The present translation by James Magruder…maintains such a delicious soufflé lightness to it all, that amusing phrases which might have jarred here merely enchant." —NY Post "Thanks to the talent of translator/dramaturge James Maguder, this typically frantic, light French farce comes alive en Anglais, acquiring a surprisingly lyrical depth and sexiness that registers somehow as topical as our beloved American soaps today." —Warfield Business Record. "Mr. Magruder retains the flavor of Marivaux's flowery locutions,…his translation also accommodates the kind of anachronisms that give the charade a contemporary edge." —NY Times.