Rule a Wife and Have a Wife Essay - Critical Essays

John Fletcher


(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

From a strictly moral point of view, RULE A WIFE AND HAVE A WIFE leaves a good deal to be desired; Leon wins the beautiful, rich, and wanton Margarita by deceit and transforms her into a dutiful and virtuous wife by bullying her unmercifully. But Fletcher is never much concerned with moral questions. Rather, he is interested in creating comic situations which will give rise to fast-moving action and which will permit the introduction of interesting and humorous characters. These effects he achieves masterfully in RULE A WIFE AND HAVE A WIFE, one of the most tightly knit of his comedies. The main plot, the taming of Margarita by Leon, is carefully balanced against the subplot, the gulling of Michael Perez by Estifania, and the two plots serve to reinforce each other admirably. As a supposedly weak husband asserts and wins superiority over his wife, so a seemingly wealthy and virtuous wife reveals to her husband that she is no better than she should be and makes him like it. The plots are united in their use of dramatic irony, and both are invigorated by a strong and direct language which is saved from vulgarity by its use in broadly comic, sometimes nearly farcical, situations.