Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/5010
A Provoked Restoration Lady. A Study of Vanbrugh's Lady Brute in The Provoked Wife
The Provoked Wife, a Restoration comedy by Sir John Vanbrugh was first staged in 1697. It opposes marriage to adultery; virtue to vice and desire; and happiness to misery. Lady Brute is at the center of the action. She is an English aristocratic Restoration lady in an unhappy marriage, struggling with her desire to abandon virtue. Her character is complex and paradoxical. Through her relationships on three different levels, she reveals that complexity as the essay moves from unhappiness in marriage, through desire and indecision as a nascent adultress to the intimate friendship with her niece.
The essay is divided into three main chapters where each chapter is devoted to one relationship. The first chapter studies Lady Brute's marriage with Sir John; the second chapter is devoted to her liaison with her hopeful lover, Constant; and in the third chapter her friendship with her niece, Bellinda, comes under scrutiny. This study reveals three different facets of Lady Brute, a complex English Restoration lady.
Each chapter starts with a study of the characteristics of Lady Brute in the relationship which is being studied in that chapter, followed with an analysis of the nature of the relationship in question. Then the use of wit in the characters' dialogues is studied specifically, where the main interest is in the use of the repartee for “verbal fencing”. At last, a close reading is done of selected sections of the play in order to expose any contradictions or hidden meanings in the text. Lady Brute's words are dissected, but some expressions of the other characters are also the subject of the study, where appropriate. Use is made of poststructuralist ideas, notably Derrida’s deconstructive methods in order to look for binary oppositions in the text; to analyse how Lady Brute and the other characters express their ideas; and to bring to the surface any possible paradoxes and concealed meanings. Lady Brute claims to be a virtuous lady. This essay shows that she is also a complex character and has a darker side.