Written in 1697, this restoration comedy proved controversial at the time of its release due to its themes of marital adultery. John Vanbrugh’s typically sexually charged play deals with women’s rights, deceit, distraction and unfaithfulness – all to the backdrop of 17th century England.
A SECRET SUITOR
Lady Brute seeks distractions from her rude, boorish and drunken husband Sir John Brute. Theirs, it seems, is a marriage of convenience: wed for sex and wealth respectively.
Secretly however, she finds solace in a dashing male suitor named Constant – seemingly the antithesis of her obnoxious and disrespectful husband.
INFIDELITY, DRUNKENNESS AND JEALOUSY
With her niece, Belinda, the pair disguise themselves and set out on forbidden trysts with Constant and his friend Heartfree, who is courting the young Belinda.
Meanwhile, an unwitting Sir John is hauled before the courts for drunken disorder, dressed in none other than his wife’s frock!
It appears however, the pair’s infidelities are not secret to all. The vain, jealous and aptly named Lady Fancyfull has caught wind of the situation. She also vies for the affection of Heartfree – obsessed to the point of disguising herself as his wife in order to throw Belinda off the scent.
VICTORY FOR A PROVOKED WIFE?
Antics come to a head when the lovers are exposed at the Brute’s home following the surprise and unexpected return of Sir John. Dismayed by the scandalous situation, and with a very real fear of being ‘cuckholded’, Sir John engages Constant in a duel of Manlihood, but soon backs off.
Will Lady Brute elope with her dashing champion and abandon her marriage, or stay with her sour husband? Surely love will triumph for a wife provoked?