資料彙整   /   作家  /  John  Vanbrugh  約翰•凡布勒
John  Vanbrugh
約翰•凡布勒
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主要文類:Drama
資料提供者:Marguerite Connor/康慕婷
關鍵字詞:Restoration Dramatist;Seminar on Restroation Drama (Spring,1997)

John Vanbrugh

1664-1726

Provider: Marguerite Connor / 康 慕婷

 
John Vanbrugh (1664-1726) has a high reputation both as an architect and as a playwright. As the former, he designed a number of famous and illustrious buildings, including Blenheim Palace, Castle Howard and the first great London opera house in the Haymarket. As the latter, he completed two brilliant, original comedies, The Relapse: or Virtue in Danger (1696) and The Provok'd Wife (1697), as well as a host of translations and adaptations. As if these two professions were not enough, Vanbrugh managed to combine mastership of these with a respectable career as a soldier.

Such a multi-faceted career was less unusual at that time than nowadays. The educated elite were small in number and likely to be well-connected, so those with ability found it easier to gain recognition than they would do today. A multi-talented man thus had a reasonable chance of making a name for himself in several fields.

Vanbrugh was first inspired to write for the stage by the production of Colley Cibber's sentimental play, Love's Last Shift, to which The Relapse is a cynical sequel. It was so popular that Vanbrugh was commissioned to write The Provok'd Wife. This became the most popular of the Restoration comedies and was revived more often throughout the eighteenth century than even those by Congreve and Farquar.

The play was actually conceived several years before the date of its first performance, being the only London-produced play known to have been drafted in the Bastille. Vanbrugh's sojourn in that notorious prison--for spying, it is presumed--lasted from September 1688 until November 1692, but does not seem to have been too unpleasant an experience. The Bastille was then a comfortable place for the rich or well-connected, who lived in comparative luxury and were even assigned a personal servant each, who could run out to buy, for instance, pens, ink and paper.

At the request of the arts patron Charles Montague, Vanbrugh revised and completed the manuscript of The Provok'd Wife for the actor-manager Thomas Betterton, then in his sixies. The part of Sir John Brute fitted Betterson to perfection, and Elizabeth Barry matched him well as Lady Brute.

It was unfortunate for Vanbrugh that, by that time, the theatre was once again coming under attack for its alleged obscenity and profanity. Witty and elegant as Restoration comedy was, it was notable for its nonchalant, uninhibited bawdiness. Vanbrugh's humour was more good-natured than many, but that did not save him, in 1698, from assault by an outraged clergyman, Jeremy Collier, who singled out his works especially as too lewd to be staged. This led to the prosecution of Vanbrugh's publisher Jacob Tonson and of some of the leading actresses in his plays, including Mrs. Barry and Mrs. Bracegirdle, for using indecent expressions "in some plays particularly The Provok'd Wife."

The playwright made a few alterations to this work for a Haymarket revival in 1706, but his most crucial alteration was made for Colley Cibber's revival twenty years later, when Vanbrugh was prevailed upon "to clap his Lordship into the undress of a woman of quality," rather than "the borrowed habit of a clergyman." This, in Cibber's words, kept Sir John "clear of his former profaneness"--although it would be interesting to have known the reaction of the Reverend Collier, had he lived to see it. With these new scenes, The Provok'd Wife was revived a dozen times between 1726 and 1796, and it is this version that is used in our production.

 

   
Colley Cibber wrote:
  "Sir John Vanbrugh's pen is not a little to be admired for its spirits, ease and readiness...There is something so catching to the ear, so easy to the memory...that it has been observ'd by all the actors of my time that the style of no author whatsoever gave their memory less trouble..." (4)  (JGH 1997)
 
 
     
     
 

Author Introduction to Restoration Drama Social Background

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