Like most (?) 12-year-old schoolboys, I read George Farquhar’s 1707 comedy, ‘The Beaux’ Stratagem’, because I couldn’t pronounce the title (and I wasn’t too sure about the playwright’s name either).
It’s taken 50 years for me to actually see the play performed (right now – at The National Theatre) – and it was worth the wait. It’s funny, cynical and sharp as nails, particularly about the subject (extraordinary for an 18th century play) of equality in marriage.
The men may think they’re driving the plot, but the real ‘stratagem’ belongs to the women, who run rings around their male suiters, while holding onto their independence (and money!). As the heroine says: “If you ever marry, beware of a sullen, silent sot. If a woman has to wear chains, I would have the pleasure of hearing ’em rattle a little”.