(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

THE FUNERAL, OR, GRIEF A LA MODE was Sir Richard Steele’s first and best-constructed play, but it is far less serious than his later work. Nevertheless, the drama has moral overtones and some highly sincere social criticism. Through the characterization of the hypocritical widow who gives the play its subtitle, Steele ridiculed manners of the time, as he was to do so often in his later plays and in his familiar essays. Notable in the play are the two young army officers, Lord Hardy and Ensign Campley, who are more reputable and honest than most of their dramatic predecessors, a circumstance probably due to Steele’s own career in the military service. Steele boasted, quite rightly, in his preface to the play that his drama was more innocent than the prevalent style of comedy. In many ways his characters and actions show an innocent freshness quite unlike the atmosphere of intrigue found in Restoration drama and the comedies of the early eighteenth century.