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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 307

The Conscious Lovers is a play by Irish playwright and author Richard Steele. The play is written in the style of a sentimental comedy, which was a genre that became popular during the 18th century. The sentimental comedy usually features middle-class or upper-class people overcoming temptations that are deemed immoral. Steele's play examines the dynamics of marriage, specifically in terms of the causes of marriage. In earlier times, marriage among the elite middle-class and upper-class in the United Kingdom were done out of political, social and economic reasons. The marriage was perceived as a type of contract between families.

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This is why arranged marriage was a common practice pre-18th century among wealthy families. In the play, Steele examines marriage for the sake of love and deep personal connection between the two partners. The play therefore examines the tensions between the social classes, where two young lovers from different social classes are challenged by societal norms. The play also explores the validity of a marriage that does not contain emotions or warmth. Many arrange marriages before the 18th century were statistically more likely to disintegrate because the two partners do not have an emotional bond. Young husbands and wives were essentially used as pawns by their parents in order for their family to climb the social and/or economic ranks.

The play's protagonists illustrate the the importance of honesty and genuine affection in a stable relationship. In the last scene of the play, Myrtle, the man who truly loves Lucinda, is permitted to marry her by Lucinda's father. This showed that the person who has good and honest intentions is better than the person with the most money or power. In essence, the play is a social commentary and direct criticism on the increasingly-anachronistic practice of arrange marriages for the sake of gaining wealth and social power.

Places Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 244

Bevil’s house

Bevil’s house. London home of Sir John Bevil. Contrasts in the play may be seen in the different lodgings of the characters since all the scenes but one take place indoors. Sir John Bevil’s house is the house of a wealthy merchant replete with a full staff of servants. It is a house designed for practical uses and plain taste. Much of the comedy in the play comes from the scenes with servants, especially Tom and Phillis.

Indiana’s house

Indiana’s house. Home of Indiana and Lucinda, a small, simple dwelling that fronts the street in Charing Cross. When Mr. Sealand enters the house searching for Indiana he has no difficulty finding her. Nevertheless, Indiana’s house, despite her state of relative poverty, is a genteel dwelling suitable for one of her class. It is not a dwelling of the lower classes such as would have been common in the historical London of the day.

*St. James Park

*St. James Park. Large London park. Only one scene is set out of doors. The setting of act 4, scene 2, is the fashionable Mall area of St. James Park. The Mall was a long tract in St. James that was formerly used for playing pall-mall. By the time of this play it was known as a fashionable park used for walking, for meeting lovers, and for displaying the latest fashions. It is often confused with Pall Mall, another park close by.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 285

Aitken, G. A. Introduction to

(The entire section contains 836 words.)

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Critical Essays