The Forc’d Marriage, or the Jealous Bridegroom was first performed in 1670, at the Duke’s Theatre in London’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It belongs in the category of Restoration drama, which refers to drama written between 1660, when the monarchy was restored, and 1688. The play, a tragicomedy, was Aphra Behn’s first and one of the first plays by a woman to be presented on the English stage. Behn went on to write many more plays and was the first woman to make her living as a writer.
In The Forc’d Marriage, the heroine, Erminia, is forced by her father and the king to marry Alcippus, a young warrior whom she does not love. The man she loves, and who loves her, is Prince Philander, the king’s son, while the king’s daughter, Galatea, is in love with Alcippus. In time-honored comic fashion, the tangle eventually gets sorted out and true love wins in the end.
The text of The Forc’d Marriage used in this chapter is taken from the edition by Montague Summers published in 1915. It was reprinted by Phaeton Press in 1967 but, as of 2006, was out of print. A more recent edition can be found in The Works of Aphra Behn: The Plays 1671–1677, edited by Janet Todd and published by Ohio State University Press in 1996. As of 2006, a less expensive edition was available from Kessinger Publishing, but unfortunately this edition omits both the prologue and the epilogue of the play.
The Forc’d Marriage begins with a prologue spoken by an actor and then an actress directly to the audience. It identifies the playwright as a woman and appeals to the audience to give the play a good reception.
Act 1, Scene 1
The warrior Alcippus has just returned from a battle in which he distinguished himself in the command of twenty thousand men. The king has to decide whether to honor Alcippus or his own son, Philander, who has also shown valor. He decides to promote Alcippus to the rank of general, pointing out that the former general, Orgulius, had asked to be relieved of his post, since he is getting old. The grateful but surprised Alcippus requests the hand of Orgulius’s daughter Erminia in marriage. With Orgulius’s approval, the king grants him his wish, to the consternation of Philander, who is also in love with Erminia.
Everyone exits, except for Alcander, Pisaro, and Falatius. Alcander is annoyed to see Alcippus promoted above him. He thinks that he himself fought in the battle with equal valor. He is also unhappy that his friend Philander, the prince, has lost his chance to wed Erminia. Pisaro, a friend of Alcippus, tries to mollify Alcander by saying that Alcippus did not know Philander was in love with Erminia. Pisaro also reveals that Erminia does not return Alcippus’s love. Talk then turns to Aminta, Pisaro’s sister, who is being courted, without, he believes, much success, by Alcander. After Alcander and Pisaro exit, Falatius reveals that he is also romantically interested in Aminta. He sends Labree to tell Aminta about the wounds he received in battle. In truth, he received none, but he plans to wear patches on his face so the ladies will think he has been wounded.
Act 1, Scene 2
Galatea, the king’s daughter, talks with Olinda, her maid, and Aminta. She learns that Erminia is horrified at the thought of marrying Alcippus. Aminta confesses that she herself has been in love many times and is currently in love with Alcander. Erminia enters and speaks of her sorrow, since she is in love with Philander. Her grief is matched by that of Galatea, who is in love with Alcippus. Erminia vows not to let Alcippus into her bed. The two women attempt to console each other.
Act 1, Scene 3
A weeping Erminia protests to her father, saying that she loves Alcippus as a brother but no more. She confesses that she is in love with Philander, who returns her affections. Orgulius rebukes her, saying that the king would never agree to her marrying the prince and that she should accept Alcippus instead. He wants to bring forward the time of the wedding to that...
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