Vanbrugh’s vivacious study of characters is an ironic sequel to Colley Cibber’s Love’s Last Shift and contains many of the same characters and themes.
While in Cibber’s play the hedonistic rake, Loveless, ultimately resolves to be faithful to his long-suffering wife Amanda, Vanbrugh’s play tells of Loveless’s relapse into marital infidelity when he falls for the beautiful Berinthia. Meanwhile, Worthy, an ex-lover of Berinthia’s, tries to seduce Amanda by alerting her to her husband’s unfaithfulness.
Vanbrugh’s play also features a prominent and hugely entertaining farcical subplot in which the newly ennobled Lord Foppington (Sir Novelty in Cibber’s play) vies unknowingly with his penniless younger brother for the hand in marriage of Sir Tunbelly Clumsey’s daughter, Hoyden.
First performed in 1696, Vanbrugh’s witty and cynically comic play addresses the double standards expected of men and women in society and the hypocrisy that encouraged marriage as a cover for adultery.