Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Mr. Dangle, a well-to-do gentleman of London, sits one morning with his wife at breakfast. While Dangle reads the newspapers, Mrs. Dangle complains that her husband’s hobby, the theater, is making her house unlivable, with disappointed authors, would-be actors, musicians, and critics making it their meeting place. Dangle protests vigorously, but as he does so a stream of callers arrives to prove her point.
The first caller is Mr. Sneer. He and Mrs. Dangle get into a discussion on the morality of the stage and the proper material for comedies. Then Sir Fretful Plagiary, a dramatist, is announced. Before he enters, Dangle reports that Plagiary is a close friend but that he cannot accept criticism of his work. Sir Fretful tells how his new play was sent to the Covent Garden theater, rather than to Drury Lane, because of the envy he uncovered there.
Sneer, Dangle, and Sir Fretful Plagiary begin to discuss the last’s new play. In the discussion all criticism of his drama is brushed aside in one way or another by the author, who ends up with a diatribe against all who will say anything against his work, including the newspapers. At the end of their talk, a group of musicians enters looking for Dangle’s assistance in securing work with the theaters. They are led by an Italian who knows no English and a Frenchman who knows little English but is to act as interpreter.
The Frenchman and the Italian try to make Dangle understand what...
(The entire section is 980 words.)
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Act I, Scene i
The play begins with Mr. Dangle, the critic, at breakfast with his wife. Dangle finds the morning newspapers too full of irritating news about politics; he therefore turns to the Morning Chronicle to find news of the theatrical world that interests him as a man with great passions for the stage. After Dangle remarks that his friend Puff’s tragedy, The Spanish Armada, is being rehearsed at Drury Lane, Dangle’s wife scolds him for taking no interest in affairs of state; Dangle counters her argument by pointing out that his various powers as ‘‘the head of a band of critics’’ make him an important man. Mrs. Dangle remains unimpressed.
Sneer, a fellow critic and friend of Dangle, arrives with two plays and asks Dangle to persuade one of the theatre managers to accept them for performance. The three discuss the faults of the modern theatre, specifically that it has lost its capacity to morally instruct the public and that the comedies have become too sanitized.
A servant enters and announces the arrival of Sir Fretful Plagiary, a talentless playwright who, as described by Dangle and Sneer, asks for honest criticism yet rejects any unflattering observations. As the two men discuss Sir Fretful’s most recent ‘‘execrable’’ work, the playwright enters. Sir Fretful explains that he has sent his recent play to the manager of the Covent Garden Theatre, rather than Drury Lane, since Richard...
(The entire section is 1839 words.)