sentimental drama, this late Restoration comedy exposes the reformed
rake Loveless to the temptations of London and the charms of a merry
widow, neither of which he is able to withstand. More memorable than
the straying husband, however, is Restoration comedy's ultimate
follower of fashion, Lord Foppington, who defends himself in the
Epilogue by observing that no highwayman or Jacobite was ever well
dressed. As the introduction to this edition argues, Sir John Vanbrugh
- dramatist, architect and member of the influential Kit Cat Club -
presents courtship and marriage not only with cynicism, but also with
moral bravery and social impudence; qualities not much in evidence in
his sentimental rivals.
have been quick to respond to the themes of disputed royal succession,
Francophilia and loyalty among subjects in his most successful
tragicomedy. In the tragic plot, written in verse, young Leonidas has
to struggle to assert his place as the rightful heir to the throne of
Sicily and to the hand of the usurper's daughter. In the comic plot,
written in prose, two fashionable couples (much more at home in London
drawing-rooms than at the Sicilian court) play at switching partners in
the 'modern' style. The introduction of this edition argues that
Dryden's own ambivalence about King Charles and his entourage, on whom
he came to rely more on more for patronage, manifests itself in both
plots; most of all perhaps in the excessively Francophile Melantha,
whose affectation cannot quite hide her endearing joie-de-vivre.
measures of success for the fashionable set who watched themselves
being represented on the Restoration stage. Yet idealisation and
satire, as this edition of Etherege's masterpiece shows, are flip sides
of the same coin, and the play betrays deep anxieties about ridicule
and social failure. Any London beau would emulate Dorimant, the
unconscionable rake who loves 'em and leaves 'em, but he would also
secretly fear that he in fact resembled Sir Fopling Flutter, the model
of all Restoration fops, in his vanity and affectation. The women fare
no better, being offered for identification Dorimant's discarded
mistress Loveit, scheming for revenge, or the beautiful but hard-headed
Harriet, who dares Dorimant to woo her in the country, for 'I know all
beyond Hyde Park is a desert to you and that no gallantry can draw you
This bawdy, hilarious, subversive and wickedly satirical drama pokes fun at the humourless, the jealous, and the adulterous alike. It features a country wife, Margery, whose husband believes she is too naïve to cuckold him; and an anti-hero, Horner, who pretends to be impotent in order to have unrestrained access to the women keen on 'the sport'. A number of licentious and hypocritical women request Horner's services – the country wife among them.
The Country Wife has provoked powerfully mixed reactions over the years. The seventeenth century libertine king Charles II saw it twice, and is said to have joined the 'dance of the cuckolds' at the end of one performance; the eighteenth century actor-playwright David Garrick declared it 'the most licentious play in the English language'; the Victorian Macaulay compared it to a skunk, because it was 'too filthy to handle and too noisome even to approach'. Twentieth century productions heralded it a Restoration masterpiece. Sexually frank, and as ready to criticise marriage as infidelity, the virtuosity, linguistic energy, brilliant wit, naughtiness and complexity of this ribald play have made it a staple of the modern stage.
This student edition contains a lengthy, entirely new introduction, by leading scholar, Tiffany Stern, with a background on the author, structure, characters, genre, themes, original staging and performance history, as well as an updated bibliography and a fully annotated version of the playtext.
Their beſt and richeſt Stores, have made this Law:
That each ſhould neighbourly aſſiſt his Brother,
And ſteal with Decency from one another.
To-night, your matchleſs Hogarth gives the Thought,
Which from his Canvas to the Stage is brought.
And who ſo fit to warm the Poet's Mind,
As he who pictur'd Morals and Mankind?
But not the ſame their Characters and Scenes;
Both labour for one End, by different Means:
Each, as it ſuits him, takes a ſeparate Road,
Their one great Object, Marriage-a-la-mode!
Where Titles deign with Cits to have and hold,
And change rich Blood for more ſubſtantial Gold!
And honour'd Trade from Intereſt turns aſide,
To hazard Happineſs for titled Pride.
The Painter dead, yet ſtill he charms the Eye;
While England lives, his Fame can never die:
But he, who ſtruts his Hour upon the Stage,
Can ſcarce extend his Fame for Half an Age;
Nor Pen nor Pencil can the Actor ſave,
The Art, and Artiſt, ſhare one common Grave.
O let me drop one tributary Tear,
On poor Jack Falſtaff's Grave, and Juliet's Bier!
You to their Worth muſt Teſtimony give;
'Tis in your Hearts alone their Fame can live.
Still as the Scenes of Life will ſhift away,
The ſtrong Impreſſions of their Art decay.
Your Children cannot feel what you have known;
They'll boaſt of Quins and Cibbers of their own:
The greateſt Glory of our happy few,
Is to be felt, and be approv'd by you.
Delightfully entertaining, The Way of the World abounds in brilliant word play, delicious verbal battles of the sexes (some consider the famous scene between Mirabell and Millamant as one of the most profound analyses of the marriage relation ever written), and scheming villains of both genders. First presented in London in 1700, this comedy has charmed audiences for over 300 years. This inexpensive paperbound edition, complete and unabridged, makes it widely available to today's readers.
All for Love or, The World Well Lost is John Dryden's 1677 adaptation
of the tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra into a neo-classical quintet
with supporting voices: After Cleopatra's desertion of Antony at the
battle of Actium, not only his wife Octavia but also his general
Ventidius and his friend Dolabella strive to win him over to their
side. Antony, torn between the claims of duty, friendship, dignity and
love, despairs when he hears the rumour of Cleopatra's death, which is
not, as in Shakespeare's version, spread by the queen herself but by
her deceitful eunuch. This edition includes Dryden's dedication of the
play to the Earl of Danby and his preface, in which he defends against
French neo-classicist strictures the liberties he took with his
sources; it further discusses the play's austere power in the theatre,
which is unjustly considered to be inferior to Shakespeare's quite
distinct version of the story.
The chase is on in this breakneck comedy of licensed insanity, from the moment when Dr Prentice, a psychoanalyst interviewing a prospective secretary, instructs her to undress. The plot of What the Butler Saw contains enough twists and turns, mishaps and changes of fortune, coincidences and lunatic logic to furnish three or four conventional comedies. But however the six characters in search of a plot lose the thread of the action - their wits or their clothes - their verbal self-possession never deserts them. Hailed as a modern comedy every bit as good as Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, Orton's play is regularly produced, read and studied. What the Butler Saw was Orton's final play.
"He is the Oscar Wilde of Welfare State gentility" (Observer)
The Rivals, brimming with false identities and with romantic entanglements carried on amid a cloud of parental disapproval, satirizes the pretentiousness and sentimentality of the age. It features a cast of memorable characters, among them the lovely Lydia Languish, whose pretty head has been filled with nonsense from romantic novels; Capt. Jack Absolute, a young officer in love with Lydia; Sir Anthony Absolute, Jack's autocratic father; Sir Lucius O'Trigger, a fiery Irishman; and Jack's provincial neighbor, Bob Acres, a bumptious but lovable country squire in love with Lydia.
Hoping to win Lydia's affection, Captain Jack woos the pretty miss by pretending to be a penniless ensign named Beverley, an act that nearly incites a duel with Acres. His actions also provoke serious objections from Lydia's aunt, Mrs. Malaprop, a misspeaking matron whose ludicrous misuse of words gave the English language a new term: malapropism. Ultimately, the hilarious complications are resolved in a radiant comic masterpiece that will entertain and delight theater devotees and students of English drama alike.
The play is widely taught on A Level courses as well as on undergraduate literature and women's writing courses. This new edition contains a completely new introduction, and takes into account important criticism from the past decade, as well as a new understanding of the nature of theatre in Behn's time, and the significance of her contribution to English drama.