The period of restoration (1660-1800) in England has brought many changes in different spheres of life, and art, as the mirror of the society, had reacted to these changes as well. This period is known for loosened moral issues, open display of luxury and wealth. At the same time, it was a good period for theatre as due to King Charles, English theatres and stages were opened for different dramatic forms and productions after the ban, which had lasted eighteen years. As for English literature of this period, it was represented mostly by neoclassic writers, who tended to preserve the rules and methods of the classical era. Being rather conservative concerning the techniques used in writing, the topics of neoclassic writers were very relevant for the society and its worries and problems. One of the most favorite devices used in literary texts of those times was the satire as it was applied to show the drawbacks of the humans nature in particular and the whole society in general (Traill).
This is the brief characteristic of the period, in which appeared one of the most prominent representatives of the genre of the Restoration comedy the play The Beaux' Stratagem by George Farquhar. The genre of Restoration comedy of the comedy of manners is a part of the Restoration drama, which was called so because of the period, in which it appeared. As the Restoration period celebrated the end of the era of Puritanism and its strict rules concerning human body and interpersonal relationship, Restoration comedies were often included lavish details and sexual adventures (Styan). This was considered immoral according to Puritan standards, but at the same time it was rather natural and understandable for ordinary people, that Restoration comedies quickly gained popularity.
As for the playwright, George Farquhar was a famous Irish dramatist, whose most prominent plays are The Recruiting Officer and the Beaux Stratagem. After the success of his first play, Farquhar decided to become a playwright, but being a soldier he had to divide his time between military service and playwriting. His career influenced his writings, as the characters of some of his plays were soldiers and officers. The first night of The Beaux Stratagem took place in 1707, when George Farquhar was already seriously ill; therefore, he acknowledged that the play might have had some drawbacks. He states this in his advertisement for the play The reader may find some faults in this play, which my illness prevented the amending of; but there is great amends made in the representation, which cannot be matched, no more than the friendly and indefatigable care of Mr. Wilks, to whom I chiefly owe the success of the play (Farquhar, "The Beaux Stratagem"). This play is based upon personal experience of the playwright and reflects his views on the English laws concerning marriage and divorce (Levitan, 130).
The play The Beaux Stratagem itself tells the story of two young and smart, but poor men John Archer and Tom Aimwell, who come to the country side with the same goal to meet a rich woman and get married with her. As the genre of the play is the Restoration comedy, the presence of young and handsome men, who come from the upper class is inevitable. Theyve made an agreement that whoever marries the first, is obliged to share half of the dowry he receives with another one. This is how their adventures begin.
To understand the point of the play correctly, it is important to know about the marriage laws which ruled the society of England in 18th century. As the period of Restoration followed the period of strong Puritan influence, the views upon family, marriage and divorce have undergone serious changes. Previously the institutions of marriage and family played a very important role in the society, being an essential part of its basis. A wife was completely dependent on her husband, who had all the rights concerning his spouse. But in the period of Restoration the situation has changed significantly as all the moral rules and issues have been loosened, therefore the idea of marriage and its high importance for the society has lost its leading positions. It started with the court of Charles II, where prevailed loose ideas of marriage and spread among the society. It resulted in women discharging their duties of wives and mother, which led to the fact that the institution of marriage was unsettled to its foundation (Levitan, 130). Though, it is important to mention that such loosened moral prevailed mostly in the upper classes of the society and in greater account in London, while the ideas of marriage and family in the country remained more or less unchanged.
So, the story begins when two young gentlemen, who had already spent all their money in London, arrive in the country in search of rich brides and huge dowry. They have a particular sum of money with them, but they want more But two hundred pound Why, we have very good fortunes now for moderate people; and, let me tell you, that this two hundred pound, with the experience that we are now masters of, is a better estate than the ten we have spent (Farquhar, "The Beaux-Stratagem"). They are disguised as master and his servant, which is traditional for the genre of Restoration comedy, when different kinds of disguise were very common. They had a particular plan and even have invented the explanation for their sudden disappearance from London Ay, and our going to Brussels was a good pretence enough for our sudden disappearing; and, I warrant you, our friends imagine that we are gone a-volunteering (Farquhar, "The Beaux-Stratagem"). It was a traditional device of Restoration comedy to use paired or twin rakes, but in the play of George Farquhar this device has undergone some changes, as they appear as friends not as brothers. Being friends and companions, John Archer and Tom Aimwell are very different personalities. Archer appears to be rather pragmatic and even cynical man, who is seeking himself, while Tom Aimwell looks much more emotional and tender-hearted (Middendorf, 149). This is what Archer says about Aimwell: Ay, you're such an amorous puppy, that I'm afraid you 'll spoil our sport; you can't counterfeit the passion without feeling it, therefore, he accepts that Tom is of different nature than he himself. About himself Arche states the following I can stick to my bottle while my wine, my company, and my reason, hold good; I can be charmed with Sappho's singing without falling in love with her face: I love hunting, but would not, like Actaeon, be eaten up by my own dogs; I love a fine house, but let another keep it; and just so I love a fine woman. (Farquhar, "The Beaux Stratagem")
Still the two young men thought highly of themselves and were absolutely self-confident and sure in their success Come, come, we are the men of intrinsic value who can strike our fortunes out of ourselves, whose worth is independent of accidents in life, or revolutions in government: we have heads to get money and hearts to spend it. They know perfectly well what they want to get and how to achieve this and right from the beginning of the play the two men start implementing their strategy into life. Moreover, they had their own view on money and the way people should leave And that's enough. Men must not be poor; idleness is the root of all evil; the world's wide enough, let 'em bustle. Fortune has taken the weak under her protection, but men of sense are left to their industry. (Farquhar, "The Beaux Stratagem")
Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume in their article "The Beaux' Stratagem": A Production Analysis state that the play is written according to the expectations of the potential audience. It is seen from the way couples are shown, especially taking into consideration class distinction. According to the scholars, among eight different potential couples, only one of Dorinda and Aimwell have some chances for further development. All the other male-female combinations appear as serious mismatches, which is proved by the fact that they are not paid much attention to and completely forgotten by the end of the comedy (80). The issue, that Aimwell accepts the idea of marriage without receiving the long-awaited dowry proves the alternations, which occurred in his mind after he had met Dorinda and only prove the difference between the two beaux, stated above.
As for the setting of the play, it takes place in a little town Linchfield situated somewhere in the country side. It is not typical for the genre of the Restoration comedy, as traditionally London serves as the location for all the plays. But in the play The Beaux Stratagem the country side with its customs and views appears to be the best place for the characters. As for the setting inside the town, it contains five main locations the public room situated in the Inn, the bedroom of Mrs. Sullen and one more bedroom; a gallery in the house of Lady Bountiful and one more room, which is not described in details. It is important to mention, that all the actions of the play take place indoors, but no special directions for staging are given as the descriptions of the settings by Farquhar contain to authors comments concerning the look of stage while making the play.
Some scholars underlined the importance of the setting in the play, as it is situated exactly in the country, nor in London neither in any other big English city. It may be connected with the idea the nature prevailing in the country and literary critic Rothstein even associated one of the characters of the play Lady Bountiful with Nature (Milhous, Hume 82). At the same time country side setting has a symbolic meaning, as Archer and Aimwell have to return to London, to its high life from the country due to their stratagem. It is obvious that being in the province, they cannot help dreaming about London as Archer says: Had I millions, I would go to the same market again. O London! London! Well, we have had our share, and let us be thankful: past pleasures, for aught I know, are best, such as we are sure of; those to come may disappoint us. (Farquhar, "The Beaux Stratagem")
What concerns the plot of the play, Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume consider it to have an unclear rhythm, which resembles a series of interruptions than a plot consisting of particular and clear lines, each of which develops in its own way, but in coordination with the other ones. The time of the actions of comedy is limited it takes a little more than one day. What is interesting about the way the comedy is organized, is that some of the actions are taking place at the same time. As the example, the scholars provide the first two scenes from Act III, which are taking place simultaneously. The reader knows this due to the time stated in the play they occur after visiting the church, but before the afternoon dinner, traditional feature of Sundays. The same can be said about the first and second scenes from Act V, which both happen at 2 a.m. The following lines prove this statement:
ACT V., SCENE I
_Squire Sul_.Burn me, sir! I can't go home, 'tis but two a clock. (Farquhar "The Beaux Stratagem")
ACT V., SCENE II.
_Mrs. Sul_. Here! what, in my bedchamber at two o'clock o' th' morning, I undressed, the family asleep, my hated husband abroad, and my lovely fellow at my feet!--O 'gad, sister! (Farquhar "The Beaux Stratagem")
Money is one of the main motives of the play The Beaux Stratagem by George Farquhar. It is proved by the attitude to money of the two main characters, which has been stated before and by the main goal of the two gentlemen in general to marry for dowry, not for love. According to Ronald Berman, the final cause of the comedy is money, ten thousand pounds in particular and the author himself u...
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