Four Restoration Libertine Plays by Deborah Payne Fisk

By Deborah Payne Fisk

Those 4 performs within the Oxford English Drama sequence seize the diversity of responses to the modern and bold libertine circulate within the moment half the 17th century. A Fond Husband and Friendship in Fashion are lesser-known comedian gem stones of the recovery level; The guy of Mode is Etherege's masterpiece, and The Libertine is Shadwell's experimental and darkish model of the Don Juan tale. The texts are freshly edited utilizing sleek spelling. there's a severe advent, wide-ranging annotation, and an informative bibliography which jointly light up the performs' cultural context and theatrical capability for reader and performer alike. The advent surveys the origins and improvement of libertinism and gives an in depth studying of the performs. It additionally considers staging, and appears on the performs no longer simply as literary texts but additionally as scripts meant for functionality. This variation additionally features a wide-ranging annotation and an informative biliography which jointly light up the performs' cultural context and theatrical strength for reader and performer alike.

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Sample text

It is the consummate libertine union, a mating of leopards. A Fond Husband Some fifteen months separate The Man of Mode from Thomas Durfey’s A Fond Husband; or, The Plotting Sisters. The first known performance for Durfey’s rollicking comedy is 31 May 1677. From the start, A Fond Husband was a smash hit––Charles II was said to have attended three of the first five nights––and it enjoyed frequent revivals throughout the Restoration and well into the eighteenth century (Van Lennep, i. 257). The prompter John Downes attributed its success to the efforts of the Duke’s Company: A Fond Husband ‘took extraordinary well, and being perfectly Acted; got the Company great Reputation and Profit’ (77).

In form, Friendship in Fashion follows the outline of what Michael Cordner calls the ‘marriage play’. 65 Given the desolate subject matter and the abrasive humour, it should not surprise that Friendship in Fashion quickly fell out of repertory. Restoration audiences, accustomed as they were to libertine fare by the late 1670s, nonetheless baulked at plays that were too ill natured or coarse. Wycherley in The Plain Dealer makes apparent his disappointment in the audience, especially the women, who cried down his portrait of the randy female hypocrites in The Country Wife.

Maria admits that ‘chance’ rather than her own attempts at ‘wit’ overthrew ‘the mighty sophistress’ Emilia; and Ranger addresses the audience with the larger ‘moral’. The precipitous nature of the conclusion probably ‘plays’ better than it reads, as is true of most farce. In this kind of comedy, timing is all, and the design of the play hints strongly at the kind of pacing Durfey intended for the cast. The first three acts contain between one and three scenes; Acts 1 and 3 are long and unbroken.

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