What does Queen’s song lyrics “scaramooch can you do the fandango” mean?
Written by Cedric Lucas on 27 May 2022
Freddie received a thorough and rigorous education from his boarding school in India. In the evenings he and a group of boys would even gather to learn more about the arts from one of the teachers. They listened to opera and plays and read and discussed literature. So I don’t believe that the song was just a bunch of rhyming nonsense as he once told an interviewer who pressed him about its meaning. Freddie came from a very strict religious family whose religion considered being a gay male equally as sinful as devil worship. It actually says this in the Zoroastrian scripture. He constantly worried about upsetting his family. Even when he was very ill his mother said he would always brush his illness aside and worry about them asking if the press was upsetting them.
Many who were close to Freddie believe what the lyrics seem to suggest—that the man who was murdered in the song was the straight man that Freddie was pretending to be up to that point in his life. He came out to his girlfriend of six years who he loved dearly not long after the release of this song thereby ending their relationship and began living as a gay man. Some even believe that the “mama” in the lyrics represents Mary who provided him with unconditional love and remained his closest friend for life. Or maybe it represents both the literal and figurative since his Mom must have been disappointed in his decision to begin living as a gay man rather than settling down with Mary although she continued to love and support him. Sadly, years after his death when asked about his homosexuality she teared up and her son-in-law interrupted the interviewer telling him not to go there. So it is clear what Freddie was up against.
For those who are not aware, Freddie liked to incorporate his love of the arts into his music and videos. For example, “The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke” is a song he wrote entirely about a painting of the same name and the opening lyric from “It’s a Hard Life” is based on a line (Laugh, clown, at your broken love!) from the opera Pagliacci. The music video for “Made in Heaven” paid homage to Dante’s Inferno, the first section of his epic poem “Divine Comedy” and Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” which is a ballet accompanied by orchestra.
So it doesn’t seem likely to me that the names used in “Bohemian Rhapsody” were chosen randomly.
Who is Scaramouche? “Scaramouche or Scaramouch (from Italian scaramuccia, literally “little skirmisher”) is a stock clown character of the 16th-century commedia dell’arte (comic theatrical arts of Italian literature)…..Usually attired in black Spanish dress and burlesquing a Don, he was often beaten by Harlequin for his boasting and cowardice.” Scaramouche – Wikipedia
“I see a little silhouette of a man,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning are very, very frightening me.
In this context, I think “Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?” probably means Freddie is being compelled by society and his family to “dance to their tune” and play a role that makes him feel like both a clown and a coward. First of all, Scaramouch is referred to as a “silhouette of a man”, not a real man but a sham or less than a man because he is not true to himself. (Why is he asked to dance the “fandango”. What else would he be asked to dance? The fandango is a Spanish dance and Scaramouche often wore black Spanish dress.)
So where does Galileo come in? “On April 12, 1633, chief inquisitor Father Vincenzo Maculani da Firenzuola, appointed by Pope Urban VIII, begins the inquisition of physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei. Galileo was ordered to turn himself into the Holy Office to begin trial for holding the belief that the Earth revolves around the sun, which was deemed heretical by the Catholic Church.” Galileo is accused of heresy
“Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening ME.” Galileo spent the rest of his life under house arrest because he dared to challenge the religious dogma that the earth was the centre of the universe. “Galileoooo!” It’s as if the crowd in a play is warning Scaramouch what could happen to him if he doesn’t choose to play their game. As for Galileo, they never did “let him go”.
The rebellious and defiant part of the song soon begins and although Freddie ends it with “Nothing really matters to me” he began living as a gay man sometime after this song was released. “Nothing really matters to me” seems to speak of the despair of his situation. If he cannot be free then what is the point? He must therefore be at one with himself if he is to care at all. For him to create this thinly veiled masterpiece and then make such an earthshattering change in his life is hard to dismiss. Although he did not announce to the world that he was gay he took an enormous risk by living true to himself from that time forward. He might not have formally come out of the closet for the sake of his family and probably the sake of his band Queen but he kicked the door open and whistled loudly. He often wore T-shirts with the logos of gay bars on them in public and even said that he was “gay as a daffodil” but he used beards at Queen functions whether in London or Munich. He walked a very fine line that must have at times been extremely stressful but seemed also to relish dancing over it.
Now, what about this Figaro fellow? “Figaro, the Barber of Seville, is a hairdresser to the stars in 18th century Seville. He’s an apothecary, a surgeon, a gossip and a fixer. He does everything for anyone with a purse including hoisting lottery tickets and enabling “assignations”. Poet or pimp, Figaro is the creation of French dramatist and bon vivant Pierre-Auguste Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799)….I doubt Monsieur Beaumarchais intended to begin a revolution when he created a character smarter than any of the nobility….In Mozart’s day, it was unheard of for a servant (Figaro) to be smarter and better than the nobility (Almaviva) …Sensibly, Le nozze di Figaro and its prequel Le Barbier de Séville were banned in France by order of the hapless, and soon headless, Louis XVI. The young Queen Marie Antoinette, who had a fondness for expensive dress-up, saw no harm in portraying both Rosina and Suzanne at her own theatre in Versailles. Was she the only person at court to miss the irony?” Who is This Guy Figaro, Anyway?
In this series of plays, it did not end well for Figaro. But that he was portrayed as smarter than the royalty who oppressed their subjects and that the writers of the play dared to create a character who was a mockery of royalty in that day is what defines the character. It was royalty who had defined the culture and what was acceptable or not.
Was “Figaro” the answer to his dilemma? To outsmart everyone who made the rules he could not live under? Isn’t this in a sense what Freddie did? He lived his life the way he chose and yet was able to continue as front man for a rock band back in the day when it was not yet acceptable. Queen suffered a decline in popularity in America merely because of a crossdressing video that wasn’t even Freddie’s idea. But in the end, he sang “The Great Pretender” with relish—and with crossdressing.
“Magnifico-o-o-o-o.” could be the adjective meaning superb or extraordinary for Scaramouche’s performance conforming and dancing as instructed as necessary and for Galileo and Figaro for being defiant in spite of the rules and never accepting that those in real or imagined positions of authority knew better. But “Magnifico” also is an Italian word for a person of high ranking used for Venetian noblemen. In that case, the characters go from the humble Scaramouch clown to the revered but victimized Galileo to the clever and wiley Figaro and finally to nobility in the form of Magnifico.
Freddie seems to have written a coming out song that has become an anthem even for people who opposed homosexuality. He put his flamboyance on parade and yet even many fans didn’t understand this because it would have been too shocking to accept for many of them. He was a subversive wedge against hatred for the gay community. And I believe he may have ended up doing as much or more in his own way than others who championed the cause openly just by doing what he was born to do.
This is all speculation but after doing a little research I was surprised to find that what each of these characters is most known for seems to fit so well.