All For Love

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

All for Love, or The World Well Lost is John Dryden's epic adaptation of the tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra into a neo-classical quintet with supporting voices. The play, which the 1678 quarto titlepage claims is ‘Written in Imitation of Shakespeare’s Stile’, draws heavily on Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra; it does away, however, with the salaciousness of Shakespeare’s text, and reduces his temporal and geographical range to that of one time and place as per Aristotelian dramatic unities. The play was arguably intended to be seen in direct relation to the contemporary Antony and Cleopatra: A Tragedy (1677), written by politician and playwright Charles Sedley. Dryden’s application of neo-classical conventions and contemporary dramatic practice gives the classic love story a structural beauty and an austere power.

After Cleopatra’s desertion of Antony at the battle of Actium, not only his wife Octavia but also his general Ventidius and his friend Dolabella strive to win him over to their side. Antony, torn between the claims of duty, friendship, dignity and love, despairs when he hears the rumour of Cleopatra's death, which is not, as in Shakespeare’s version, spread by the queen herself but by her deceitful eunuch.

The first recorded performance was at the Theatre Royal, London by the King’s Company in 1677. The play’s political implications have perhaps been lost over time: absolute monarchy and the illicit love of a ruler were highly topical concerns in a post-Restoration Britain, when King Charles II’s extra-marital amours, most famously with the celebrated actress Nell Gwyn, were the subject of much anxiety.


Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Bajazet is Racine’s most violent drama; it ends, like Phèdre, with a female character’s on-stage suicide, here the culmination of a vividly described sequence of off-stage murders. The setting, in a claustrophobic space within the harem at Constantinople, menaced from both without and within, seems to license a violence of emotion as well as of deed. Violent too are the repeated reversals of fortune, and the terrifying acceleration of the play towards its inexorable catastrophe.

Alan Hollinghurst’s translation of Bajazet premiered at the Almeida Theatre, London, in November 1990.


Faber and Faber
Type: Text

The critical event in Berenice, the death of Titus’ father, the Emperor Vespasian, happens a week before the play opens. Thereafter Titus knows that his separation from Berenice is inevitable. The breaking off of a great love affair involves too the hopes of Antiochus, himself long in love with Berenice. The play pushes all three of its principles to the brink, not of revenge but of self-murder, before in her sublime last speech Berenice redeems and directs them all in an act of collective abnegation. Many tears are shed, but not a drop of blood. The effect is unconventional, and profound: the pained acceptance of the irreconcilable in human affairs, and the surrender, by each of the main characters, of the person they most love.

Alan Hollinghurst’s translation of Berenice premiered at the Donmar Warehouse, London, in October 2012

audio The Bungler

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

In 17th Century Sicily, a clever valet named Mascarille tries to help his boss Lélie win the girl of his dreams -- only to find that Lélie is a monumental dunce who ruins every one of his intricate schemes. Undaunted, Mascarille invents progressively wilder plots, only to see his best-laid plans go very awry in Molière's The Bungler. Translated by Richard Wilbur.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Richard Easton as Mascarille Adam Godley as Lelie Alan Mandell as Trufaldin Dakin Matthews as Ergaste Christopher Neame as Pandolphe Paula Jane Newman as Celie Darren Richardson as Andres John Sloan as Léandre Norman Snow as Anselme Kate Steele as Hippolyte. This recording contains an interview with Mechele Leon, Associate Professor of Classical and Contemporary French Theatre at the University of Kansas. Directed by Dakin Matthews. Recorded at The Invisible Studios, West Hollywood.

Featuring: Richard Easton, Adam Godley, Alan Mandell, Dakin Matthews, Christopher Neame, Paula Jane Newman, Darren Richardson, John Sloan, Norman Snow, Kate Steele

The Country Wife

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A satirical comedy focused on the vices and hypocrisies of Restoration London, The Country Wife has been admired as a farce, condemned as immoral or frivolous, and praised as a sharp and sophisticated drama.

Wycherley satirises female hypocrisy, true and false masculinity and human folly through three neatly linked plots. In the first, the rakish Horner pretends to be sexually impotent in order to trick his way into the intimate company of married ladies; he is confident that their fear of scandal is the only thing keeping them from debauchery.

In the second plot, Mr and Mrs Pinchwife come to London from the country; Mrs Pinchwife wants to enjoy all the pleasures of the town, including being loved by Horner, and her husband’s covetousness plays right into her hands. In the third plot, Horner’s friend Harcourt successfully woos Pinchwife’s sister, Alithea, away from her proposed husband Sparkish.

Wycherley’s racy prose dialogue creates an energetic and complex comedy of sex that combines cynicism, satire and farce. The Country Wife was first performed in 1675 by the King’s Company at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

Don Juan

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Molière’s classic play retells the myth of Don Juan, the infamous womaniser with few morals and a scorn for religion.

Casanova Don Juan exasperates his sensible servant, Sganarelle, with his compromising behaviour. His recent escapade involves the beautiful Elvire, who he has abducted from a convent under the false pretence that they will be married. However, a new woman quickly turns his head and he sets sail in order to woo her with Sganarelle in tow. When their ship capsizes, a peasant rescues them and Don Juan quickly grabs the opportunity to seduce two peasant girls. It is here that Don Juan learns that Elvire’s brothers plans to kill him over his treatment of their sister. So he and Sganarelle decide to disguise themselves as they head back into the city. On the way our anti-hero unwittingly saves the life of one of Elvire’s brothers, Don Carlos, from a crew of bandits. When he and his servant come across the tomb of a Governor that Don Juan previously killed, a statue comes to life. Sganarelle believes that this is Heaven’s way of signalling its wrath with Don Juan, but he remains unconcerned and even feigns spirituality. But this is one step too far for Heaven, who promptly swallows Don Juan up into the pit of Hell leaving Sganarelle alone and penniless.

Riding high from the success of Tartuffe a year before, Molière wrote Don Juan in a matter of weeks in order to fill a gap in his schedule. The play premiered at the Palais-Royal in Paris in 1665 with Molière playing the part of Sganarelle.

The Hypochondriac

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

The Hypochondriac is a comédie-ballet, a genre of French drama mixing spoken scenes with interludes of music and dance. It would turn out to be Molière’s last play. Ironically, he collapsed onstage during his fourth performance in the lead role. He insisted on completing the play and died later that evening at home from tuberculosis.

Argan is an ‘imaginary invalid.’ A man so obsessed with his health that he fails to notice what is happening around him in his own family. After the loss of his first wife, he has been left to bring up two daughters. The elder, Angélique has fallen in love with Cléante but Argan has promised her hand to Thomas Diaforious, the son of a noted doctor. Meanwhile, Argan’s second wife Béline is scheming against her husband’s daughters for the lion’s share of his inheritance. In order to reveal to him the way things truly stand, Argan’s brother Beralde persuades him to feign death with the aid of the maid Toinette who breaks the news to Béline. Only now does he see Béline’s true colours and abandons her. He finally agrees to the union between his daughter and Cléante. The rousing finale features a ceremonial song-and-dance number that confers the status of doctor upon Argan.

The Hypochondriac was first performed at the Palais-Royal in Paris in 1673.

The Learned Ladies

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

The Learned Ladies is one of Molière’s most popular comedies. Written in five acts the play is a satire on academic pretention and female education.

Henriette and Clitandre are in love and planning to marry. Henriette’s beloved father, Chrysale, and his brother, Ariste are in favour of the marriage but it’s her female relatives that are proving harder to convince. Her bossy mother, Philaminte would prefer her to marry the scholar Trissotin, a lofty yet mediocre poet with pretentions to literary greatness. Philaminte, along with Henriette’s sister, Armanda and Chrysale’s sister, Bélise, are in thrall to Trissotin. They are the ‘learned ladies’ of the title and display a rampant snobbery towards anyone they deem uneducated. Flattered by the sycophantic Trissotin they fawn over him, but Ariste has a plan to show the whole family his true colours.

Written in rhyming couplets, The Learned Ladies was Molière’s penultimate play premiering at the Palais-Royal in Paris in 1672.

Love For Love

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Love for Love is an acute and comical examination of gender identity, dissecting humours and affectations with the wit, energy and complexity of a farce of manners.

Mrs Foresight, who is married to an impotent, superstitious, old hypochondriac, is consumed by unsatisfied needs; her aging sister, Mrs Frail, who has sown her wild oats, is looking for a wealthy husband. The men are only too eager to satisfy the women. Sailor Ben has returned from the sea, his heart set upon finding a partner; Tattle, a rake, pursues the rich and lovely Angelica, but is more than happy to seduce Miss Prue on the side; while Valentine, the preferred suitor of the play’s heroine Angelica, has financially ruined himself among women of the town and has a bastard child to support. The plot of this socially satiric Restoration comedy turns upon the devices used by Angelica to find, in a corrupt society, true love in marriage.

Love for Love was written by 1694 and first performed in 1695, in an indoor tennis court.

Marriage A-La Mode

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Half comic and half serious, Marriage A-la-Mode is a spirited study of the trials and passions of love and marriage, and generally considered John Dryden’s finest comedy.

The play is set in the Sicilian court, and consists of a comic plot written in prose, and a tragic plot written in verse. The comic plot wittily explores the fluttering courtly mode of romance. Two fashionable couples, lifted straight from London drawing rooms into the Sicilian court, play at switching partners in the ‘modern style’, flirting with the boundaries of marriage and betrothal. The tragic scenes belong to Leonidas and Palmyra, who have grown up in obscurity but find their love threatened when their true parentage is discovered. This serious plot, by contrast, offers a timeless understanding of love and marriage as deeply intertwined, and of love as springing from country innocence and honour, and not from the social intriguing of shallow courtiers. With a blend of satire and true romance, Dryden leads the play to the conclusion that the most stylish and modish kind of marriage is what is simple, honourable and true.

M arriage A-la-Mode was presented to King Charles II at Windsor in the summer of 1671; the king was, reputedly, a great fan of the comedy, a factor which contributed to its great success onstage at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. After the theatre was destroyed by fire in early 1672, the play moved temporarily to the Duke’s Company’s old theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.