Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lovers' Vows

Warning: it's not as interesting as the title might suggest. And that's true on several levels.

In the only Jane Austen novel that I actually dislike (and I'm not the only one who feels this way about it), Mansfield Park, one of the plot drivers is a performance to be staged by some of the characters. The characters go through contorted farcical relationships that mirror or ironically contrast with the contorted farcical relationships in the play they choose to stage. That play?
Lovers' Vows by one Elizabeth Inchbald, published 1798.

I've thought, for some time that I ought to read it. The characters make such a fuss about the play and so much is made about how risque it is to stage it for the neighbors that I thought it surely must be juicy.


It wants to be Gilbert and Sullivan and Pope John Paul, but has all of the Gilbert and Sullivan implausibility with none of the Gilbert and Sullivan wit and all of the good morals of John Paul but none of his charisma. You get the idea: preachy, implausible and failing to be funny with great effort.

The story revolves around Frederick, the illegitimate son of Agatha Friburg, who was seduced in her youth by Baron Wildenhaim, who abandoned her and went off and married an unnamed Baroness, and produced a lovely daughter, who fell in love with her poor but virtuous tutor. Through an implausible series of events, Frederick meets the Baron, attempts to kill him, reveals himself to the Baron, is instantly accepted as his son, and refuses to be accepted as said son unless the Baron also agrees to marry Agatha. Which the Baron does, on the advice of the virtuous tutor. And as a bonus, throws in permission for said tutor to marry his daughter. Because she loves him.

Lots of internal conflict, yes?

Other literature that I've read because it was referenced by Jane Austen I've enjoyed a lot: Cecilia, The Mysteries of Udolpho. You safely can skip this one. At this point I'm no longer sure what she was trying to convey when she chose it to base her plot on, except possibly forcing the device. She had some characters express moral concern over the content of the play, but it was so preachy I can't see what there was to object to, unless it was considered too titillating to mention illegitimacy at all.

As I warned you, neither the play nor this post is as exciting as its title.

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