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by Susanna Centlivre

Download The Busie Body epub
ISBN: 1406918830
ISBN13: 978-1406918830
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Classics
Author: Susanna Centlivre
Language: English
Publisher: Hard Press (November 3, 2006)
Pages: 86 pages
ePUB size: 1618 kb
FB2 size: 1757 kb
Rating: 4.8
Votes: 217
Other Formats: azw doc lit lrf

Bottom line 1st
The Busy Bodie is an interesting period piece. It is somewhat unusual for being the work of a female. It is a light play; fairly easy reading but just not very funny. My review is of the Kindle edition; itself an electronic version of a publication of the Augustan Reprint Society.
To propose a theory of English Theater of the 18th Century; the use of large numbers of conventions may relate back to the same ideas in Punch and Judy. That is stock characters in stock situations help to orient the audience reduce the time needed to get the plot going and depend entirely on creative plot twists and clever dialogue. Susanna Centlivre's The Busy Body is according to the introduction drawn largely from three earlier plays. Centlivre starts with these plot devices and gives us mostly stock characters. Two young attractive resourceful women determined to get married. One pursued by her young lover and her elderly guardian. The other desirous of marriage with her young suitor but hanging under the threat of marriage on first sighting to an otherwise offstage Spaniard who will immediately lock her away from the world.

So old man to be made fools of and twisting roads on the way to the altar; winding up with a delayed and overly contrived happy ending.

Acting the fool to every other character is Marplot. He is the busybody of our title and will act as a witless disruptor any time secret plots appear to be progressing too smoothly. Of course there are inheritances, greedy money hoarding and an assumption that the way to protect a woman's virtue is to lock her away from the world.

I was often reminded of the line in Star Wars spoken by the Princess "the more you tighten your fist the more will slip through your fingers". And indeed that is what this play will demonstrate.

On top of the usual bits; hiding in cupboards; wearing disguises, love letters and faked attempts to draw away susceptible, suspicious old men; we have an interesting plot twist involving two of the lovers. As the play opens Sir George Airy is in love with one woman he has never seen but has spoken with and another woman he has spoken with but never seen. This is the same woman: Miranda and while she seems very practical she never charges him with attempting to juggle two women. Somewhere this plot device is shuffled away never mined for its comic possibilities.

There is some humorous patter. The closest I came to laughing was in the prologue where in the author addresses the audience and closes her poems saying "Let your indulgence all her fears allay, and none but woman haters dam this play." Amusing and a sample of some of the better wit in the text. The female point of view makes itself known largely in subtle ways. For example one of the future brides is will advised that her husband to be has all the qualities for which she may wish and all that is required is that both of them behave in a reasonable manner towards each other. It is the concept that husband and wife must behave the one rarely sees in other period comedies. That this comment is prefaced by noting that the state of matrimony is unfashionable is typical of these comedies.

In the introduction it is noted that in adapting The Busy Bodie from earlier works some of the indelicacies have been toned down. There are casual references to cuckolding, women who work the streets and the habits of men who attend the brothel. One has to wonder how the old-time writers got their reputation for avoiding sexual references. Toned down indeed.
This play debuted in 1707, and was popular throughout the 18th and early 19th Centuries. It is an adaptation of Moliere's L'Etourdi, or at least of Dryden's English version, Sir Martin Mar-all or The Feigned Innocence (1667), with some of the 'Restoration' indelicacies toned down.

It is a funny play with a distinctly feminine sesnsibilty about two young heiresses and the eligible young men who woo them. Miranda must connive to get out of the clutches of her miserly guardian, Sir Francis Gripe, and Isabella is virtually held prisoner by her father:

Miran. Unhappy Isabinda! Was ever any thing so unaccountable as the Humour of Sir Jealousie Traffick.
Patch. Oh, Madam, it's his living so long in Spain, he vows he'll spend half his Estate, but he'll be a Parliament-Man, on purpose to bring in a Bill for Women to wear Veils, and the other odious Spanish Customs— He swears it is the height of Impudence to have a Woman seen Bare-fac'd even at Church, and scarce believes there's a true begotten Child in the City.

Marplot is the busy body of the title, so curious to know people's secrets that he often gives them away. Here he is discussing Miranda with Charles and Sir George:

Sir Geo. Ah, Charles, I am so humbled in my Pretensions to Plots upon Women, that I believe I shall never have Courage enough to attempt a Chamber-maid agen—I'll tell thee.
Char. Ha, ha; I'll spare you the Relation by telling you— Impatient to know your Business with my Father, when I saw you Enter, I slipt back into the next Room, where I overheard every Syllable.
Sir Geo. That I said— But I'll be hang'd if you heard her Answer—. But prithee tell me, Charles, is she a Fool?
Char. I ne'er suspected her for one; but Marplot can inform you better, if you'll allow him a Judge.
Marpl. A Fool! I'll justifie she has more Wit than all the rest of her Sex put together; why she'll Rally me, till I han't one word to say for my self.
Char. A mighty Proof of her Wit truly—