Divorcing the Sullen Squire
The Beaux Stratagem is considered to be the best play written by George Farquhar. Jonne C. Thornton exclaimed, “The Beaux Stratagem is the epitome of Restoration comedy” (4). Unlike its contemporaries, Farquhar uses more theatrical devices, sub-plots, characters, and surprises in the play (Thornton 4). Farquhar has a unique sense of play structure causing a combination of carefree comedy with serious underlying social problems. A social problem that is the main theme in the play is the acceptance of divorce. He is able to write a comical play while also addressing a serious social issue. Farquhar uses his relatable main characters to express his opinions and themes. George Farquhar attempts to reform society in his play, The Beaux Stratagem, through the character Mrs. Sullen.
In the play Mrs. Sullen is married to Sullen. Coincidently, sullen means to be hostile, which can also describe Sullen’s personality. Sullen is a simple country squire. He is constantly drunk. He upsets his wife Mrs. Sullen with his actions and words. They have a miserable marriage. They each married each other for different reasons. Sullen married his wife in order to have a successor (5.4.460). The play always points out Mrs. Sullen’s misery. Her marriage to Sullen is proven to be a disaster. Mrs. Sullen constantly wishes she could separate herself from her husband.
When Mrs. Sullen agrees to marry Sullen she expected a different life for herself. When she is asked for her reasoning of marrying Sullen, she replies “To support the weakness of my sex by the strength of his, and to enjoy the pleasures of an agreeable society” (5.4.460). She wants someone to support her. Mrs. Sullen does not want to have a country life, she wants to live in a city and have a busy social life. Her anticipations are not answered. Their marriage is defined by misery. Their reasons and answers convince the other characters to follow through with Sullen and Mrs. Sullen’s divorce.
By the end of the play Sullen and Mrs. Sullen agree to separate. The one thing they both can fully agree on is to get a divorce. Sullen claims he will not give Mrs. Sullen her fortune. He plans on keeping her money when they separate. Sullen is tricked because Archer has a hold on Sullen’s important documents including his marriage and estate documents. Sullen is left without Mrs. Sullen’s fortune. Sullen proves he never loved Mrs. Sullen by his adamant efforts of keeping her fortune.
Mrs. Sullen gives her husband a chance to prove his love for her. She has trouble to believe his rejection of their marriage. Mrs. Sullen tricked Sullen by flirting with Count Bellair while Sullen was listening. She attempts to make her husband jealous. If Sullen truly has feelings for his wife, then he would have surely put an end to Mrs. Sullen’s exchange with Count Bellair. Instead he admits to Mrs. Sullen, “Look’ee madam, don’t think that my anger proceeds from any concern I have for your honor, but...