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The Author's Farce
Transcript of The Author's Farce
Lived from 1707-1754
Playwright, novelist and barrister.
Criticized corruption through satire.
During the Jacobite rebellion in 1745, his propaganda was used by the government. This led to a magistrate appointment in 1748.
Throughout his life, he published regular newspapers on political issues.
(Information from Allen's "Henry Fielding")
Fielding authored about 25 plays
Many of Fielding's plays criticize political corruption, but some, like "The Author's Farce", criticize other areas of authority and control. "The Author's Farce" criticizes publishers, writers, and the theatre audiences.
Licensing Act of 1737
Fielding's "Historical Register, For the Year 1736" is one of the plays thought to have prompted this Act. The play heavily and openly criticized Robert Walpole and his politics.
The Licensing Act forced writers to have their works approved by the government before performance.
Luckless, a broke writer, is approached by his landlady, Mrs. Moneywood, about his unpaid bill.
Luckless tries to sell his play, but cannot. Offers to pay Moneywood with his play - she refuses
Luckless is in love with Harriot, Moneywood's daughter, but Moneywood is in love with Luckless.
Luckless is unable to sell his play because he "has no interest" (II.ii.59).
Several scenes show Bookweight's monopoly on publishing and how he hires writers to write on popular topics.
Luckless stages a performance of a different play - a "puppet show" with human actors (II.vii.28). It is accepted by the theatre.
This act begins with the puppet show set in the Underworld - a play within a play.
The Goddess of Nonsense must find a partner from a group of potential suitors. She chooses Signor Opera.
Mrs. Novel tells the Goddess that she and and Opera are married and that she died in childbirth.
Witmore enters with Harriot, Moneywood and a Bantomite, who reveal to Luckless that he is actually the long-lost King of Bantam.
Moneywood discovers that she is actually the Queen of Old Brentford. Therefore, Harriot is now royalty as well.
Writers & Popular Taste
"If you must write, write nonsense, write operas, write entertainments, write Hurlothrumbos, set up an Oratory and preach nonsense, and you may meet with encouragement enough." (I.iv.35-39)
Fielding is critical of entertainment forms such as Italian Opera, as well as the culture that consumes such entertainment.
Signor Opera and Mrs. Novel
When Mrs. Novel claims to have had a child by Opera, Fielding mocks the public's adoration of these castratos. Opera could not have physically impregnated Novel.
Fielding questions the public's acceptance and adoration of these singers.
Fielding also criticizes writers who cater to the theatre-going audience. When Murdertext and the Constable go to arrest Luckless, they accuse him of nonsense. The irony of this is that Fielding is using Luckless to criticize other writers for writing nonsense in pursuit of profit, not art or skill.
"Thou art too satirical on mankind. It is possible to thrive in the world by justifiable means" (from Fielding's later revisions to the play).
Major Characters in the Puppet Show
Goddess of Nonsense
Sir Farcical Comic
Originally performed at Hay-Market.
Revived later at Drury-Lane
When Henry Fielding revised the original play, he made substantial revisions in order to support the managers of Drury Lane during the Actor's Rebellion of 1733 (Hume 169).
Mrs. Elizabeth Mullart
Played Mrs. Moneywood in The Author's Farce. Married to William Mullart, the actor who played Luckless.
Played roles such as Mrs. Sullen in The Beaux's Stratagem, Mrs. Peachum in The Beggar's Opera, Lady Wishfort in The Way of the World, and Lady Fidget in The Country Wife.
Popular: at Covent Garden, she made £86 during the 1735-36 season.
Died in 1745
(Information from Highfill's Dictionary.)
The Author's Farce:
- is a satire that criticizes writers, theatres, and public tastes.
- prompted the Licensing Act of 1737, along with other works.
- drew on Gay's ballad opera, is also extremely experimental.
- criticizes how writers cater to audience taste for economic purposes.
Why is it important?
Use of Farce
"Light, dramatic composition that uses highly improbable situations, stereotyped characters, violent horseplay, and broad humour. Farce is generally regarded as intellectually and aesthetically inferior to comedy in its crude characterizations and implausible plots, but it has remained popular throughout the West from ancient times to the present" (Merriam-Webster).
Fielding criticizes this genre by creating a farce of his own. The play within the play is a farce. Throughout the third act, Luckless verbally mocks it. Fielding satirizes farce by using farce.
Allen, Walter E. "Henry Fielding (English Author)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, Web. 05 Nov. 2013. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/206345/Henry-Fielding>.
"Farce." Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Web. 05 Nov. 2013. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/farce>.
Fielding, Henry. The Author's Farce: With a Puppet-show, Call'd The Pleasures of the Town. As Acted at the Theatre Royal in Drury-Lane. London: J Watts, 1750. Google Books. Google Inc. Web. 5 Nov. 2013. <http://books.google.com/books?id=vB0OAAAAQAAJ>.
Fielding, Henry. Miscellanies, Volume 2 (from Works, Volume 12). Ed. George Saintsbury. Vol. 2. London: 1893. Project Gutenburg. 28 Jan. 2003. Web. 5 Nov. 2013. <http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/6828/pg6828.html>.
Highfill, Philip H, et al "Mullart, Mrs. William, Elizabeth." Biographical Dictionary of Actors: Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800. Vol. 10: SIU, 1984. 376-78. Print.
Hogarth, William. Henry Fielding. After 1762. Line engraving. National Portrait Gallery, London. National Portrait Gallery. Web. 5 Nov. 2013. <http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw58240/Henry-Fielding?LinkID=mp60021&role=sit&rNo=1#artist>.
Hume, Robert D. Henry Fielding and the London Theatre, 1728-1737. Oxford [Oxfordshire: Clarendon, 1988. Print.