Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

“Men at some time are masters of their fate,” Cassius tells his co-conspirator in Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR (II, ii), “the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings.” Beginning with this quote as a premise, James Barrie tests Cassius’ notion in his play DEAR BRUTUS by taking an oddly assorted group of characters and giving them that “second chance.” But if the play’s idea comes from JULIUS CAESAR, its shape and mood are closer to that of another Shakespearean play, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM: the time of the second chance is Midsummer’s Eve, the locale is an enchanted wood, and the manipulator of the action is Lob, a modernized Puck, a child-man of ancient, but indefinite age.

Matey, the butler, caught in the act of stealing the ladies’ jewelry, sets up the action when he states “. . . it all depends on your taking the right or the wrong turn. . . . I would give the world to be able to begin over again.” He gets his wish and proves himself to be, once again, a thief—albeit a rich one. His aristocratic antagonist Lady Caroline Laney, however, becomes his wife and thereby demonstrates that, beneath her haughty surface, she is actually servile. Jack Purdie sees himself as an exceptionally sensitive soul, trapped with an unresponsive wife, who wants only a woman who can “plumb the well of my emotions.” After exchanging women and fantasies in the enchanted...

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