This is a play about a middle class merchant whose goal in life is to become a member of the aristocracy and he tries many things, including arranging his daughter's marriage, to achieve that goal. In a way this desire is almost an obsession, and his friends take advantage of this by playing a joke on him: they pretend to be members of the Turkish court and bestow him with the title of Paladin.
The desire to better oneself socially and to raise oneself up the social ladder as been with us since time began and while we no longer have the aristocracy, we do have an elite ruling class of which many people desire to be a part. In a way it is a middle-class phenomena with somebody not happy with the fortunate lot they have in life and desiring more, and doing whatever they can to get there. In some cases, such as this play, there are rather comic results, but in other places, such as The Great Gatsby, the results are disasterous.
The desire to be a member of the aristocracy is purely a social desire. People of the middle class tend to have their luxuries (I know I have) while not having ridiculous amounts of wealth. The wealth is only a part of it, the desire is to be noticed among the people that matter, and to be looked at with envy by those who do not.
I can't say that I have necessarily interacted to a large extent with the ruling elite of my society, though in the corporate world they do come and go, and they do throw parties for us. I have sipped champagne at the races in a marquis with high profile lawyers, and have hated it. I have also sat on buses travelling through the fashionable streets in Naples and have felt a depression come over me that I would never be wealthy enough to shop there, yet not realising that there are many people here in Australia that will never have a chance of going on a bus ride through Naples.
I have spoken to people who drive expensive cars, and have even been in them, and an envy rises up inside of me until I realise that I don't actually want to spend money that I don't need to on a car that I don't want. Okay, some of these cars are really nice, but others of them are simply horrible. Somebody once proclaimed that they had spent $70 000 on a new BMW and I resisted the temptation to reply with 'well, that'll teach you,' or 'I guess you won't be doing that again in a hurry.' Buying expensive things and going to expensive places is all about status and looking good, however when the money runs out we discover that these idols desert us just like all the others.
When I was in Milan our travel agent had booked us at a five star hotel and I thought it was simply way over the top. To me huge marble foyers and chandeliers don't make me feel important, but rather take resources away from people who need them. For instance, when we went to breakfast I saw a smorgasbord of food and a handful of people eating it and I said to myself, 'is that all going to waste'. My brother looked at all the food and then did what he always does: poured himself a bowl of cornflakes. Mind you, the only thing I like about diamonds is that people will pay ridiculous amounts of money for them, and they are a good store of value. However, the catch is that they don't pay any interest, therefore you have no income stream.