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The City Bride (1696) Or The Merry Cuckold   By: (1650?-1715?)

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The Augustan Reprint Society


The City Bride


With an Introduction by Vinton A. Dearing

Publication Number 36

Los Angeles William Andrews Clark Memorial Library University of California 1952


H. RICHARD ARCHER, Clark Memorial Library RICHARD C. BOYS, University of Michigan ROBERT S. KINSMAN, University of California, Los Angeles JOHN LOFTIS, University of California, Los Angeles


W. EARL BRITTON, University of Michigan


EMMETT L. AVERY, State College of Washington BENJAMIN BOYCE, Duke University LOUIS BREDVOLD, University of Michigan JAMES L. CLIFFORD, Columbia University ARTHUR FRIEDMAN, University of Chicago EDWARD NILES HOOKER, University of California, Los Angeles LOUIS A. LANDA, Princeton University SAMUEL H. MONK, University of Minnesota ERNEST MOSSNER, University of Texas JAMES SUTHERLAND, University College, London H. T. SWEDENBERG, JR., University of California, Los Angeles


EDNA C. DAVIS, Clark Memorial Library


The City Bride , by Joseph Harris, is of special interest as the only adaptation from the canon of John Webster to have come upon the stage in the Restoration. Nahum Tate's Injur'd Love: or, The Cruel Husband is an adaptation of The White Devil , but it was never acted and was not printed until 1707. The City Bride is taken from A Cure for a Cuckold , in which William Rowley and perhaps Thomas Heywood collaborated with Webster. F. L. Lucas, Webster's most recent and most scholarly editor, remarks that A Cure for a Cuckold is one of the better specimens of Post Elizabethan romantic comedy. In particular, the character of the bride, Annabel (Arabella in Harris's adaptation), has a universal appeal. The City Bride , a very close copy of its original, retains its virtues, and has some additional virtues of its own.

Not much is known of its author, Joseph Harris. Genest first notices him as playing Bourcher, the companion of a French pirate, in A Common Wealth of Women . Thomas Durfey's alteration of The Sea Voyage from the Beaumont and Fletcher folio, which was produced about September 1685. His subsequent roles were of a similar calibre, but if he never rose to be a star he seems to have become a valued supporting player, for in 1692 he was chosen to join the royal "comedians in ordinary." He did not at first side with Thomas Betterton in his quarrel with the patentees of the theatre in 1694 5, but he withdrew with him to Lincoln's Inn Fields. Genest notices him for the last time as playing Sir Richard Vernon in Betterton's adaptation of 1 Henry IV , which was produced about April 1700.

During his career on the stage Harris found time to compose a tragi comedy, The Mistakes, or, The False Report (1691), produced in December 1690; The City Bride , produced in 1696; and a comedy and a masque, Love's a Lottery, and a Woman the Prize. With a New Masque, call'd Love and Riches Reconcil'd (1699), produced about March 1698/9. The Mistakes is clearly apprentice work, for Harris acknowledges in a preface the considerable help of William Mountfort, who took the part of the villain, Ricardo. Mountfort, who had already written three plays himself, cut one of the scenes intended for the fifth act and inserted one of his own composition (probably the last) which not only clarified the plot but also elevated the character of the part he was to play. The company seems to have done its best by the budding dramatist, for Dryden wrote the prologue, a rather unusual one in prose and verse, and Tate supplied the epilogue. Harris professed himself satisfied with the play's reception, but owned that it was Mountfort's acting which really carried it off.

The City Bride , on the other hand, shows its author completely self assured, and rightly so. No doubt some of his ease comes from the fact that he had nothing to invent, but in large part it must derive from his ten years' experience on the stage... Continue reading book >>

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