Sir George Etherege

Definition

Theater

  • (1634 - 91). The first major Restoration playwright andthe creator of the English comedy of manners. His nickname,Easy Etherege, reflects his idle way of life and studiedlyinsouciant manner.

    Etherege's first play, much influenced by Molière,was the tragicomedy The Comical Revenge; or, Love in a Tub,which was produced in 1664 at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre and took£1,000 in one month. The tragic main plot (including a duel andsuicide) was in verse, while the farcical subplot (including the imprisonmentof a French valet for impertinence) was in prose.

    In 1668 Etherege's She Would if She Could, consideredthe first pure comedy of manners in English, was produced at Lincoln'sInn Fields. His masterpiece The Man of Mode, featuring thecharacter Sir Fopling Flutter, the Prince of Fops, was performedwith great success in 1676 at the Dorset Garden Theatre. The wittycharacter of Dorimant was said to be based on the Earl of Rochesterand that of Bellair on Etherege himself.

    In 1668 Etherege was sent to turkey as secretary to the ambassador,returning three years later to take up the life of a man-about-townin London. In 1676 he was involved in a riot in which one person waskilled. He married a wealthy widow, Mary Arnold, and was knightedin 1680. From 1685 until 1689 he was an envoy of James II in Regensburgbut apparently took a nonchalant attitude to his duties. He was equallycasual about his marriage; he had affairs with a number of actressesand is said to have had a daughter (who died young) by Elizabeth Barry.He eventually followed James II to Paris and died there a Jacobiteexile.

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