Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Young Valentine Legend, having squandered all of his money in riotous living, is destitute and deeply in debt. With no property left but his books, he declares his intention of becoming a playwright, for his love for Angelica has indeed compelled him to take desperate measures. On hearing of Valentine’s intention, Jeremy, his knavish manservant, shows alarm and says that Valentine’s family will surely disown him.
Among Valentine’s creditors is Trapland, a lecherous old scrivener who persists in dunning him. When Valentine, who has been joined by his friend Scandal, subtly threatened Trapland with blackmail concerning a wealthy city widow, the old man suddenly forgets the money that Valentine owes him.
Sir Sampson Legend’s steward tells Valentine that he will be released from all debts if he will sign over his rights as Sir Sampson’s heir to Ben, his younger brother. If he signs, he will receive four thousand pounds in cash. In the meantime, Foresight, an old fool given to the science of prognostication, recalls Prue, his bumpkin daughter, from the country. Foresight plans to marry her to Ben Legend.
Angelica, wealthy, young, and clever, reproves her uncle for his belief in astrology. Irate, Foresight threatens to end her friendship with Valentine. Angelica, piqued, insinuates that Mrs. Foresight, the old man’s young second wife, is not true to him.
Sir Sampson Legend, a great teller of tall tales of world...
(The entire section is 1001 words.)
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The play opens in the chamber of Valentine, a young libertine who is lounging and attempting to avoid his creditors who besiege him with requests for the money he owes them. Valentine and Jeremy, Valentine’s servant, banter briefly about the value of reading philosophy, introducing by the vocabulary they use the theme of economics and exchange that will recur throughout the play. Jeremy complains that the life of the wit and idler has ruined Valentine, but Valentine suggests that he might use his verbal talents in order to write. Scandal, Valentine’s best friend, enters and tells him ironically that using his talents and wit would have him end up more penniless than he is already.
As the scene in Valentine’s chambers continues, Jeremy is called to the door by a series of knocks. When he returns, he informs Valentine that he has turned away creditors, including the nurse of one of Valentine’s illegitimate children. One of the creditors, however, enters. Trapland is a scrivener (a professional writer or scribe) to whom Valentine owes 1,500 pounds, and he is quite eager to be paid. Valentine attempts to distract him by drinking with him. When he insists on pursuing the debt, Scandal threatens him for insulting Valentine’s hospitality. When Trapland leaves, Valentine informs Scandal that he has a solution for his debts: his father has promised him money immediately if he will sign over all of his future inheritance to his brother,...
(The entire section is 1699 words.)