(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Young Valentine Legend, having squandered all of his money in riotous living, is destitute and deeply in debt. With no property left but his books, he declares his intention of becoming a playwright, for his love for Angelica has indeed compelled him to take desperate measures. On hearing of Valentine’s intention, Jeremy, his knavish manservant, shows alarm and says that Valentine’s family will surely disown him.

Among Valentine’s creditors is Trapland, a lecherous old scrivener who persists in dunning him. When Valentine, who has been joined by his friend Scandal, subtly threatened Trapland with blackmail concerning a wealthy city widow, the old man suddenly forgets the money that Valentine owes him.

Sir Sampson Legend’s steward tells Valentine that he will be released from all debts if he will sign over his rights as Sir Sampson’s heir to Ben, his younger brother. If he signs, he will receive four thousand pounds in cash. In the meantime, Foresight, an old fool given to the science of prognostication, recalls Prue, his bumpkin daughter, from the country. Foresight plans to marry her to Ben Legend.

Angelica, wealthy, young, and clever, reproves her uncle for his belief in astrology. Irate, Foresight threatens to end her friendship with Valentine. Angelica, piqued, insinuates that Mrs. Foresight, the old man’s young second wife, is not true to him.

Sir Sampson Legend, a great teller of tall tales of world travel, arranges with Foresight for the marriage of Ben and Prue. When Sir Sampson playfully hints to Foresight that Mrs. Foresight might not be a faithful wife, Foresight threatens to break the marriage agreement. Sir Sampson quickly makes amends.

Valentine, seeking Angelica, encounters his father at Foresight’s house. He is indignant when his father disowns him as a son, and he begs his father to change his mind about the conditions under which he could be freed of debt.

When Mrs. Foresight rebukes her sister for her indiscretion in frequenting the haunts of gamesters and gallants, Mistress Frail reveals her knowledge of Mrs. Foresight’s own indiscretions. Mistress Frail then declares her intention of marrying Ben and enlists her sister’s aid in the project. Prue, meanwhile, finds herself charmed by Tattle, a voluble young dandy. When Mrs. Foresight and Mistress Frail encourage Tattle to court Prue, he is mystified, because he knows of the marriage arranged...

(The entire section is 1001 words.)