The Relapse

by Sir John Vanbrugh

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

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.

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