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Restoration drama is often misunderstood when modern productions are mounted. While the age was (compared to the interregnum) quite permissive and unfettered by moralistic stage restrictions, the best stage pieces (and Congreve’s Love for Love is considered by all scholars to be one of the best) advocated stable marriages and moral behavior, both directly and by satirizing immoral behavior. If your script does not include Mrs. Bracegirdle’s epilogue, find it elsewhere and read it. (One line stands out as a tip for the actor playing Angelica: “And some here know I have a begging face.”) Valentine, in the exposition, assumes that Angelica is gullible, but, from her entrance, we the audience, should see an intelligent, strong, socially shrewd woman morally untainted by her wealth, but capable of the verbal back-and-forth of her social milieu (to Jeremy) “If you speak truth, your endeavouring at wit is very unseasonable.” Her speech in the final scene of the play is a strong clue to how she should be played: “Still you must pardon me if I think my own inclinations have a better right to dispose of my person than yours.” One prominent scholar, Virginia Ogden Birdsall, in Wild Civility , Indiana University Press, 1970, says “No longer clear satire, this play presents real problems, with real danger of unhappy resolution.” And Mrs. Bracegirdle, in its opening, played the character of Angelica as the character who prevents the unhappy resolution. So look at your lines with an eye toward playing her that way.
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