Last Updated November 23, 2023.
Love for Love, a Restoration comedy by William Congreve, premiered in 1695 and is known for its clever plot and satirical exploration of late-seventeenth-century English social norms. Set in cosmopolitan London, the play reflects the changing political landscape of the Restoration Era through an absurd story of love, money, and intrigue.
The plot revolves around Young Valentine Legend, an aristocrat facing significant debt due to his carelessly extravagant lifestyle. His mischievous servant, Jeremy, helps Valentine avoid debt collectors and takes care of him, though he often—and rightfully—blames Valentine for his financial troubles.
In response to his servant’s chiding, Valentine claims his obscene spending habits are in service of his mission to woo Angelica, a rich, beautiful, and intelligent woman whom he believes to be his true love.
To ease Valentine’s many debts, his father, Sir Sampson Valentine, proposes a deal: Valentine must sign away his inheritance to his younger sailor brother, Benjamin, in exchange for £4,000. Upon learning about this deal, Mr. Foresight, Angelica's astrology-obsessed uncle, plans to marry his daughter Prue to Ben to secure a portion of the Legend family's wealth for his family.
Valentine and his friend Scandal tease their buddy Tattle, who thinks he is a cool and collected ladies' man. As they tease each other, Tattle confesses to having a fling with Mistress Frail, who then shows up to announce that Valentine's brother has arrived and that Miss Prue, her niece, is set to marry him.
Inside Mr. Foresight's house, Sir Sampson explains how he convinced Valentine to sign over his inheritance to his brother. However, when Valentine appears, he requests more than £4,000 to hold up his end of the deal, explaining that it is not enough to clear his debts, which angers his father. Valentine then blames his family's upbringing for his actions and asks his father to acknowledge his guilt in raising his son to be frivolous and poor with money.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Foresight and Mistress Frail hatch a plan to break up Prue and Ben, as Mistress Frail aims to marry Ben now that he has his older brother's inheritance. Mrs. Foresight agrees to assist her sister, and both women persuade Tattle to flirt with Miss Prue, who finds him charming.
Angelica, clever and cunning, comes up with a plan to stay indifferent to Valentine's romantic advances and test if his love for her is genuine. Scandal takes Valentine away, saying he might know how to fix the situation, just as Ben is about to enter. When Ben and Prue are left alone, it is revealed that neither of them is actually interested in each other.
Mrs. Foresight and Mistress Frail enter; the latter seizes the opportunity to take Ben to her room, leaving Mrs. Foresight to attend to Prue. Later, it is revealed that Ben and Mistress Frail have become engaged.
Scandal comes in and says that Valentine seems to have gone mad. He tells Angelica that she can help cure Valentine, but Angelica realizes they are just pretending to make Valentine look mad in front of his father.
Sir Sampson gets his lawyer, Buckram, to acknowledge the legitimacy of the inheritance document. Valentine, acting mad and proclaiming himself as the “truth,” argues that signing it would be telling a lie. Buckram contends that the document is invalid because of Valentine's supposed madness. Upset, Sir Sampson decides to marry and have a new heir.
Mistress Frail cancels her engagement to Ben after learning he will no longer inherit Sir Sampson’s wealth. Mrs. Foresight reveals a plan she made with Jeremy to disguise Mistress Frail as Angelica and marry her...
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to Valentine. Unbeknownst to them, Jeremy informs Valentine and Scandal about the plan.
They decide to disguise Tattle as Valentine and marry him to Mistress Frail, tricking him into believing she is Angelica. Consequently, Mistress Frail ends up marrying Tattle, thinking he is Valentine, while Tattle marries Mistress Frail, believing she is Angelica. Both parties feel victorious, unaware of the trickery at foot.
Sir Sampson tries to win Angelica's affection, and she pretends to be interested in marrying him, suggesting that they should get married to help Valentine recover his sanity. When Valentine hears about the couple’s plans to marry, he immediately confesses that he has been pretending to be insane.
Sir Sampson again insists Valentine sign away his inheritance to his brother. Valentine agrees, and Angelica admits her offer of marriage to Sir Sampson was simply a test of Valentine’s love. Now that she knows he truly loves her, she wants to marry him. She scolds Sir Sampson for his hypocrisy and confesses that she tricked him as well.
Prue decides to marry the butler, Robin. Ben stays happily single as he prefers. Sir Sampson and Mr. Foresight acknowledge their foolishness. The play ends with Angelica commenting on how men often treat women unfairly, selfishly, and with unnecessary drama.