(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Mistress Bonavent’s husband, a merchant, has been missing for seven years, and she for some time has been considering a second marriage to Lacy, her persistent suitor. Mistress Carol, her cousin and companion, urges her not to give away so lightly the independence she has won. Mistress Carol herself swears never to marry, even though she carries on flirtations with Rider, Venture, and Fairfield. Rider and Venture, vying with each other for the lady’s favor, have each given her a gift which she in turn presents to his rival. Comparing notes, they conclude that Fairfield must be the favored suitor.

Lacy, summoned by Mistress Bonavent’s servant, feels certain that his suit is successful. Into this confused arena of love arrives Lord Bonvile, a sportsman who admires both horses and women, and Bonavent, disguised in order to find out what has happened during his absence.

Fairfield’s overtures to Mistress Carol are rejected, but Lacy’s to Mistress Bonavent are accepted, and the wedding is set for that very morning. Mistress Carol tells her cousin that she is acting rashly, no man being worth the candle. Bonavent soon learns that the sound of merriment in his own house augurs no good for that returned merchant who, held captive by a Turkish pirate, has only recently been ransomed. Lacy, perhaps too merry with wine and anticipation, bids the stranger welcome and asks, then demands, that he dance with and, finally, for them. Bonavent’s dancing is ridiculed, especially by sharp-tongued Mistress Carol. Lacy tries to make amends by inviting him to join additional revels in Hyde Park that very day.

In the meantime Fairfield, despairing because of his love for Mistress Carol, says farewell to his sister Julietta and wishes her well in her coming marriage to Jack Trier. It soon becomes apparent to the young woman that her suitor is not in earnest in his avowals of love, for he introduces her to his friend Lord Bonvile and then leaves them. Before his departure Trier whispers in the lord’s ear that he is in a sporting house and the lady is a person of easy virtue. As a woman of good breeding, and aware only that her fiancé has shown poor manners, Julietta invites Lord Bonvile to accompany her to the park, an invitation that provides her betrothed with an opportunity to try her chastity.

When the two aggrieved lovers, Rider and Venture, appeal to Mistress Carol not to make sport of them by passing their gifts on to their rivals, she declares that she has no interest in...

(The entire section is 1028 words.)