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The Relapse Summary

The Relapse or Virtue in Danger is a play that was written in 1696 by John Vanbrugh. This work is a comedy about a supposedly reformed libertarian and his ever-patient wife. Some speculate that the play was written as a response to the new puritanical ethos in England when William of Orange replaced the dethroned King James II in 1688.

The play concerns a man name Loveless and his wife Amanda, who have been living peacefully in the country. When they return to London, Loveless falls in love with Amanda's friend Berinthia and tries to seduce her. Meanwhile, Berinthia's former beau Worthy takes it upon himself woo Amanda by telling her what Worthy has been up to. Unfortunately for Berinthia, Amanda remains steadfastly loyal to Loveless, despite his infidelities.

We also meet a young man named Lord Foppington who has just "bought" a noble position for himself. Foppington—who is very handsome, but not terribly bright—is searching for rich lady to become his wife. Meanwhile, Foppington's younger brother, a man named Tom Fashion, is also without means and is also seeking a wealthy woman to marry. Fashion decides to masquerade as his older brother, and—in this guise—secretly marries Hoyden, the daughter of a man named Sir Tunbelly Clumsy. When the real Foppington appears and tries to seduce Hoyden, Sir Tunbelly and his men believe Foppington to be an imposter and abuse him terribly. Eventually the ruse is discovered, but, alas, it is too late, as Hoyden and Tom Fashion have already married.


(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

In the country Loveless and Amanda led a quiet life after a stormy period of marriage troubles. Because Loveless had to go to London rather frequently and because she had reason to doubt his fidelity, Amanda was apprehensive. But Loveless assured her he was temptation-proof; going to London provided a test of his reform.

Young Fashion and his servant Lory called on Sir Novelty Fashion, the new Lord Foppington, young Fashion’s elder brother. Lord Foppington had recently bought a title. Since he was the eldest son, he had plenty of money, although he spent too much as it was. Young Fashion, on the contrary, was destitute. He was minded to join the army as a last resort, but at Lory’s suggestion he resolved to humble himself to ask the new lord to pay his debts. But Lord Foppington was busy with the tailor and the shoemaker and hardly spared his brother a word. Although Lord Foppington was on the point of going out, he did invite his brother to stay and have a home dinner by himself.

Angered by his brother’s attitude, young Fashion determined on revenge. Coupler, a matchmaker who providentially came in, had a plan. Coupler had arranged a marriage between Lord Foppington and Miss Hoyden, wealthy daughter of Sir Tunbelly Clumsey. Lord Foppington was to pay the matchmaker two thousand pounds, but he was afraid the new lord would evade the money agreement. It was decided that young Fashion was to go to Sir Tunbelly’s house and, pretending to be his brother, marry Miss Hoyden. Coupler, in turn, was to receive a fee of five thousand pounds. Young Fashion agreed to the plan, after a hard time fighting off Coupler’s amorous advances.

Loveless and Amanda were installed in their London lodgings and Loveless had already been to the theater. In a confidential mood he told his wife of seeing a beautiful woman in the audience, a woman so handsome he had been unable to keep his eyes off her. Amanda was alarmed, but he told her he admired the woman only in an aesthetic way. Berinthia, Amanda’s widowed friend, came to call. To Loveless’ surprise, she was the woman he had admired in the theater. Because he pretended to be indifferent to Berinthia’s charms, Amanda invited her to stay with them while they were in London.

Lord Foppington also came to call and was quite smitten with Amanda’s beauty. Resolving to make a conquest at once, he drew her aside and declared his love. Amanda slapped his face. Loveless, seeing the fracas, wounded Lord Foppington...

(The entire section is 1,472 words.)