George Farquhar Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

George Farquhar wrote a few short poems, one long occasional poem entitled Barcellona (1710), numerous prologues and epilogues for plays, a short novel called The Adventures of Covent Garden (1698), and one miscellany entitled Love and Business (1702), besides contributing letters to two other miscellanies.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

George Farquhar was one of the most popular dramatists at the end of the Restoration period. His success is illustrated by the number of prologues and epilogues he was asked to write for other plays and by his contributions to popular miscellanies such as Familiar and Courtly Letters (1700) and Letters of Wit, Politicks, and Morality (1701). The popularity of his plays with actors, particularly The Beaux’ Stratagem and The Recruiting Officer, accounted in no small measure for their survival during the eighteenth century and has played a large part in their continued visibility in modern times.

Farquhar’s skill in modifying typical Restoration themes and characters accounted for much of the success of his work. He reintroduced a significant degree of realism into drama and used topical issues for comic effect. Although classed among the Restoration playwrights, he stands somewhat apart from them in his craftsmanship and his philosophy of drama, showing greater variety of plot and depth of feeling. In his later work, he sought to reconcile the liberal sexual attitudes of early comedy of manners with the more severe, increasingly moralistic tone of the early eighteenth century. He thus produced a type of comedy that stands between the traditional Restoration comedy of wit and the later sentimental comedy.

The influence of Farquhar’s approach to comedy is most apparent not in the work of succeeding dramatists (although Oliver Goldsmith reveals an indebtedness to Farquhar, particularly in She Stoops to Conquer, pr., pb. 1773), but in the novels of Henry Fielding, in both terms of sense of humor and breadth of social milieu. Oddly enough, Farquhar was to exert a considerable influence on the development of eighteenth century German drama, mainly as a result of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s great enthusiasm for him. His continued influence on the history of German theater is displayed in the work of a major twentieth century dramatist, Bertolt Brecht.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Bull, John. Vanburgh and Farquhar. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998. Provides history, criticism, and interpretation of the life and works of Sir John Vanburgh and Farquhar.

Farquhar, George. Recruiting Officer, and Other Plays. Edited by William Meyers. London: Oxford University Press, 1995. Provides the text of Farquhar’s plays using modernized spelling and punctuation. Scholarly introduction and thorough annotations.

Fifer, Charles N., ed. The Beaux’ Stratagem. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1977. Fifer’s introduction examines the textual and performance history of The Beaux’ Stratagem and carefully considers plot and character elements of the play.

James, Eugene Nelson. The Development of George Farquhar as a Comic Dramatist. The Hague, the Netherlands: Mouton, 1972. After a brief introduction, “The Traditions in Farquhar Criticism,” James marches through the plays a chapter at a time. The Recruiting Officer is judged “climactic” for its form, and The Beaux’ Stratagem is the “fulfillment of a promise.” Rich source notes.

Kimball, Sur L. “‘Ceres in her Harvest’: The Exploded Myths of Womanhood in George Farquhar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem.” Restoration and 18th Century Theater Research 3 (1988). Provides a feminist reading of Farquhar’s most noted play.

Milhous, Judith, and Robert D. Hume. Producible Interpretation: Eight English Plays, 1675-1707. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985. The Beaux’ Stratagem is “an effective stage vehicle,” and the authors devote twenty-seven pages to discussing possibilities of stage interpretation. An insightful essay.

Palmer, John. The Comedy of Manners. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1913. Reprint. New York: Russell and Russell, 1962. Palmer treats Farquhar along with Sir George Etherege, William Wycherley, William Congreve, and Sir John Vanbrugh. Palmer answers the old condemnation of these writers as immoral by defending the artist in general: “Responding to a genuine inspiration he will leave the moral result of his endeavours to look after itself.”

Ross, John, ed. The Recruiting Officer. 2d ed. London: A. & C. Black, 1991. Ross’s lengthy introduction addresses the author’s biography, his sources, the formal elements of the play, and its stage history.

Rothstein, Eric. George Farquhar. New York: Twayne, 1967. This volume in the Twayne series is an excellent introduction to Farquhar’s life and his work. Rothstein’s vigorous prose makes his account wonderfully readable

Stafford-Clark, Max. Letters to George: The Account of a Rehearsal. 1990. Reprint. London: N. Hern Books, 1997. These letters look at Farquhar’s Recruiting Officer and the production of Farquhar’s dramas. Includes bibliography.