Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer and The Beaux Stratagem

Part of the English Dramatists book series (ENGDRAMA)


The Twin Rivals was published by Bernard Lintott in December 1702. Its publication did little financially to rescue Farquhar from the disappointing reception accorded to the play in performance, and it was to be more than three years before he returned to the stage. In 1703 Farquhar married Margaret Penell, a widow with two children. He did so, apparently, expecting that the lady would come with a fortune; but if this was the case then the playwright found himself as sadly disappointed as the protagonist of many a post-Restoration comedy.1 His remedy for the continuing, and now exacerbated, financial hardship was an equally familiar one. In the spring of 1704 Farquhar enlisted in the army, acquiring a lieutenant’s commission. Before embarking with his regiment to Ireland, he was sent as a recruiting officer to Shrewsbury, where, according to the Duke of Orrery, he was extremely successful in ‘raising and recruiting the said Regiment’.2 And it was from this experience that the idea of the first of his two great last plays, The Recruiting Officer, evolved. For, if quasi-biographical elements abound in his earlier plays, then here the playwright can be seen to draw directly from his own observations in constructing the overall social milieu of the play. The central male protagonist, Captain Plume, is always a theatrical character, but it is a character that is drawn, perhaps somewhat romantically, from Farquhar’s perception of himself in the parallel role.


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  1. 4.
    cf. John Ross (ed.), The Recruiting Officer (London: Ernest Benn, 1977), pp. xxix–xxxGoogle Scholar
  2. 8.
    This act, which became known as the ‘Pressing Act’, had been preceded by the Mutiny Act of 1702, which allowed for the commuting of criminal sentences in return for an agreement to enlist — a further form of ‘pressing’. cf. Peter Dixon (ed.), The Recruiting Officer (Manchester: Machester University Press, 1986), pp. 14–19Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Norman Jeffares (ed.), ‘Critical Introduction’, in The Recruiting Officer (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1973), p. 5.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    William Gaskill in interview, ‘Finding a Style for Farquhar’, Theatre Quarterly, vol. 1(i) (1971), p. 15.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    cf. Martin Larson, ‘The Influence of Milton’s Divorce Tracts on Farquhar’s Beaux Stratagem’, Publications of the Modern Language Association, vol. 39 (1924), pp. 174–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Christopher Hill, Milton and the English Revolution (London: Faber, 1977), pp. 117–36.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Jacqueline Pearson, The Prostituted Muse: Images of Women and Women Dramatists 1642–1737 (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1988), p. 79.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Bull 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ReadingUK

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