At the beginning of the story, Candide is chased away from his uncle's home after he is caught kissing and fondling Cunégonde. Shortly afterwards, Cunégonde's family is attacked by a band of marauding soldiers and she is taken prisoner. However, Cunégonde soon becomes the mistress of two wealthy Portuguese who decide to share her between them. Candide kills the two men and he, Cunégonde and the Old Woman (Cunégonde's servant) flee to Buenos Aires.
There, Cunégonde becomes the mistress of the provincial governor. Since Candide is wanted for the murders of the two Portuguese, he is forced to leave her in Buenos Aires. However he vows to find her and marry her. Finally, near the end of the novel, Candide finds Cunégonde near Constantinople, but she has lost her beauty, and is now very irritable and unfortunately very shallow-minded. Candide reluctantly agrees to marry her.
Pun of Cunégonde
While Cunégonde may be derived for Cunigunde of Luxemburg, most anthologies of literature attest that the name Cunégonde is a pun on the French and Latin terms for female genitalia.
In the 1956 operetta written by Leonard Bernstein, Cunégonde is a soprano, who sings one of the most difficult arias written for theatre: "Glitter and Be Gay". She is usually regarded as the lead female role, but occasionally a good Old Lady will give her a run for her money. The role has been portrayed by skilled actresses such as Kristin Chenoweth, a young Barbara Cook, who originated the role in 1956, and Maureen Brennan, who received a Tony Award Nomination and won the Theatre World Award for her performance in the 1974 Broadway revival.
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