Context: Buckingham's play The Rehearsal was written to ridicule the extravagances of the heroic drama being written and staged during the reign of Charles II. In these plays, quite popular with the London audiences of the time, one finds characters dominated by love and honor to the point of absurdity. The dialogue is bombastic and unreal; the action is noisy and confused. The scenery is fanciful; and songs and dances are introduced at ridiculous points in the plays. The specific butt of the satire in The Rehearsal is John Dryden, as the playwright named Bayes, who was highly successful at penning heroic dramas and whose extravagant The Conquest of Granada had been produced in 1670. In The Rehearsal Bayes the playwright is commenting about his new play to Smith and Johnson, two men who have come to observe the rehearsal of Bayes' drama. The play-within-the-play has a ludicrously involved plot about the usurpation of two thrones. The hero of it is Prince Pretty-Man, who was taken from his cradle by a fisherman and brought up as the commoner's son. The foster father is suspected of a murder and arrested:
JOHNSONBut, Mr. Bayes, is not this some disparagement to a prince to pass for a fisherman's son? Have a care of that, I pray.BAYESNo, no, not at all; for 'tis but for a while: I shall fetch him off again presently, you shall see.[Enter PRETTY-MAN AND THIMBLE]PRETTY-MANBy all the gods, I'll set the world on fireRather than let 'em ravish hence my sire.THIMBLEBrave Pretty-Man, it is at length reveal'dThat he is not thy sire who thee conceal'd.BAYESLo, you now; there he's off again.JOHNSONAdmirably don, i' faith.BAYESAye, now the plot thickens very much upon us.