The Temple Beau Essay - Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

Henry Fielding

Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

The subjects of Fielding’s burlesques and farces are quite often the contemporary political and literary scenes. His satire of the titled upper class is incidental to these themes. The same is true of his novels. But in THE TEMPLE BEAU, Fielding is concerned with the superficiality of the contemporary English upper class. He takes the conventional view of the Restoration comedy of manners, that, as Lady Lucy Pedant says, it is an age “when ’tis as immodest to love before marriage, as ’tis unfashionable to love after it. . . .” But he is also concerned with the vices exemplified by the name of Lady Pedant’s husband: Sir Avarice Pedant. The tragic themes of THE REVENGER’S TRAGEDY, gold and women, are here treated comically, along with a third theme, pedantry.

It has long been disputed among critics as to whether Fielding’s purpose as a writer of satire is primarily comic or moral. In THE TEMPLE BEAU, the upper class is the object of Fielding’s comic satire, but implicit in the comedy is the need for change. Fielding accepts the system of social stratification, where people are divided into low, middle, and upper classes with varying levels within each class; but he believes that the upper class has a responsibility to act as moral models. If he makes fun of them in THE TEMPLE BEAU and his other plays and his novels, he means to show that they are falling far short of what they should be. As the prologue to THE TEMPLE BEAU states, the author of the play wants to

Convince that town, which boasts its better breeding,That riches------are not all that you exceed in.

The rich not only fall short in virtue, they exceed in their vices.