What The Critics Have Said About Farquhar's Comedy Over The Years by Akiva Fox
BY AKIVA FOX
From "Asides" Magazine by the Shakespeare Theatre Company
“To an even greater degree than Farquhar's other comedies, his last play supplants the individual, self-serving ethos of Carolean comedy with a vision of human nature and human society in which community and a generous spirit take precedence. Farquhar's comic world is a moral universe in which the final test of any action is whether it reflects well on the actor and does well by the recipient.”
Frances M. Kavenik. British Drama, 1660–1779: A Critical History. 1995.
“It is only fairly recently that The Beaux' Stratagem has been examined as a work based on and expressing ideas related to the nature of man and his society and presenting moral conclusions resulting from an evaluation of those ideas. It has been seen as illustrating the conflict between rational and social laws and passion, or that between natural law and artificial social rules; it has been considered as an exploration of various ways of seeking pleasure, as a statement of the difficulty, if not impossibility, of maintaining satisfactory human relationships, particularly in marriage, and, at least in part, as a metaphorical analysis of human motives.”
Charles N. Fifer. Introduction to The Beaux' Stratagem. 1977.
“It must not be thought, however, that Farquhar was primarily a moralist; he was first and foremost a dramatist, relishing life in all its vigorous, active forms: there is much of the Elizabethan in him, in his swift movement, his exuberance of word and phrase, his obvious desire for enjoyment. He protested that comedy was no mere ‘agreeable vehicle for counsel and reproof,' and his work bears no resemblance to those ‘do-me-good, lack-a-daisical, whining, make-believe comedies'.… He is a friendly, companionable writer; we feel at home with him just because he does not ask too much of us.”
Bonamy Dobrée. Introduction to The Beaux' Stratagem. 1929.
“Charmed with the spirit of Archer and Aimwell, the reader may not, perhaps, immediately perceive that those two fine gentlemen are but imposters; and that the lively, though pitiable Mrs. Sullen is no other than a deliberate violator of her marriage vow. Highly delighted with every character, he will not, perhaps, at first observe that all the wise and witty persons of this comedy are knaves, and all the honest people fools.”
Elizabeth Inchbald. British Theatre. 1808.
“Mr. Farquhar had a genius for Comedy, of which one may say, that it was rather above rules than below them. His Conduct, tho' not artful, was surprising: his Characters, tho' not great, were just: his Humour, tho' low, diverting: his Dialogue, tho' loose and incorrect, gay and agreeable: and his Wit, tho' not superabundant, pleasant: in a word, his plays have a certain air of novelty and mirth, which pleased the audience every time they were represented; and such as love to laugh at the Theatre will probably miss him more than they now imagine.”
John Oldmixon. The Muses Mercury. 1707.
Copyright Akiva Fox
Copyright The Shakesepare Theatre Company