The Beaux' Stratagem

Definition

Theater

  • A comedy by George Farquhar, first performed in 1707in London. Lacking funds, he sketched out the plot in one eveningat the urging of his friend, the actor Robert Wilks. It was on thestage within six weeks, but Farquhar died after its third night.

    The plot concerns two young gentlemen, Francis Archer andThomas Aimwell, who seek their fortunes in the country having spenttheir inheritances in the city. They arrive at Lichfield and learnfrom the evil innkeeper Will Boniface of the wealthy widow Lady Bountifuland her lovely daughter Dorinda. In order to infiltrate the householdAimwell passes himself off as his elder brother, Lord Aimwell, andArcher pretends to be his servant. Soon they are adored by Dorindaand her sister-in-law, Mrs Sullen, who is married to a drunken boor. Whena gang led by the innkeeper tries to rob the house, Archer and Aimwellthwart their efforts and are acclaimed as heroes. Aimwell, now engagedto Dorinda, reveals his true identity just as news arrives that hisbrother has died and the title is genuinely his. Dorinda forgiveshim and the couple grant a fortune to Archer, leaving him free to pursueMrs Sullen, now that her disreputable husband has agreed to end their marriage.

    The Beaux' Stratagem has been regularly revived inthe 20th century. When John Clements and his wife Kay Hammond starredin a 1949 production at the Phoenix Theatre it ran for 532 performances,a record for a classic revival.

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