George Farquhar (1678-1707) English playwright: Biography and famous works

George Farquhar (1678-1707) was a famous English playwright of the Restoration Age. The son of an Irish clergyman, handsome, gallant, and cross-starred, dying in his prime, he will always remain a big name in the history of comedy. He was born in Londonderry, educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He had become an actor by 1696 but gave up the stage after accidentally wounding a fellow player while acting in John Dryden’s play The Indian Emperor. Then he resorted to writing dramas.

In 1698, his first play Love and a Bottle was staged successfully in the Theatre Royal in London. It is sprightly with the humor of the military life. The Constant Couple (1700) is a better play and it became so popular that he brought out a second part Sir Harry Wildair (1701). The name was after the actor Harry playing the role of the hero in The Constant Couple admirable. It was not successful. His other plays are:

  1.  The Twin Rivals (1702),
  2. The Recruiting Officer (1706),
  3.  The Beaux’s Stratagem (1707), his last play.

The Recruiting Officer is a fine comedy. Captain Plume recruits men to the Army by courting the women with whom they are in love, and his sergeant Kite plays an astrologer luring men into service. Sylvia, the daughter of Justice Balance, loves Plume but does not want to marry him without her father consenting to it. In the guise of a man, she plans to get herself arrested for indecent deportment. She appears before her father, who hands her over to Plume as a recruit and at last, they get married. The play draws upon his own experience as a recruiting officer. The play is bathed in the spirit of the Restoration Age and its realism makes it a play of later time.

The Beaux’s Stratagem is his last play. It is his most successful and popular play. Aimwell and Archer, two poor men, turn up at Lichfield disguised as master and servant. They are on the lookout for a rich wife for Aimwell, intending to split the proceeds. Aimwell courts Dorinda, the daughter of a rich man and Archer carries on a flirtation with the landlord’s daughter Cherry and simultaneously pursues the unhappily married Mrs Sullen Aimwell. While about to win Dorinda, Aimwell discloses to her about his deception. He gives all his money to Archer, who however does not find a wife and remains single. The action ends in favor of Aimwell, as he inherits some estate. A present of 20 guineas from the actor-manager Robert Wilks (c.1655–1732) enabled the impoverished Farquhar to complete this last play, staged just before he died. The play is vigorous and funny, though the ending is a bit unconventional. Though written in 1707, its atmosphere derives largely from Restoration comedy.

He also wrote a novella, The Adventures of Covent Garden(1698) and Love and Business(1702), consisting of letters and poems, including a self-portrait.

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