The Man of Mode

Definition

Theater

  • The last comedy by Sir George Etherege (1634 - 91),usually considered his best work. It was first performed at courtin 1676 with the subtitle Sir Fopling Flutter. Much influencedby Molière, the play set a new standard for the Englishcomedy of manners. The lively characters include Sir FoplingFlutter, the 'prince of fops', the witty Dorimant, a character basedin part on the Earl of Rochester, and the scheming lover Bellair,a self-portrait of Etherege.

    Some 35 years later both play and author were attacked inThe Spectator by Richard Steele, who wrote "I allow itto be Nature, but it is Nature in its utmost Corruption and Degeneracy."The critic John Dennis aggressively defended the work, saying Etherege'sportrayal of Rochester "so burnished his vices that they appearedas virtues."

    The play skilfully weaves together two plots. The rakish Dorimantgets rid of one mistress with the help of another only to proposeto a third woman, the heiress Harriet Woodvil, following her intothe countryside to receive her answer (never revealed). Harriet hasanother suitor in the reluctant Bellair, whose father is set on thematch. For his part Bellair loves Emilia, a young woman who has alsoentranced his father. Bellair's aunt, Lady Towneley, helps him tooutwit his father, who eventually comes to his senses and blesseshis son's marriage to Emilia.

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