About the play
- Written by George Farquhar 1706
- The play is set in Shrewsbury 1704
- It is a restoration comedy
- It was well recieved by the public, and performed and printed all around the world, as the satire Farquar presents suggests that men and women are, if not wholy decent and honest, at least forgivable
- However, it was critizied for being a disturbing glamoraziation of wartime
- Captain Plume and his sidekick Sargeant Kite return to Shrewsbury to recruit from the war. When they return they hear news of Plume's child by "Molly at the cassle", however Plume is actually in love with Silvia.
- Plume's friend, Worthy is in love with Silvia's cousin, Milinda. Both men have been pursuing their women, but now Melinda and Silvia have inherited large sums of money, and no longer need to be the men's paid mistresses.
- Melinda pretends to be involved in the fop of the play- Brazen- in order to make Worthy jealous, as deep down she is in love with him
- Silvia is forbidden to pursue Plume by her father, as he is no longer a worthy husband, as her estate is too large. Silvia is sent to the country to get away from Plume, but actually disguises herself as Jack Willful, in order to be recruited into Plume's power
- Kite disguises as Dr Copernicus in order to tell men their "fortunes" in the army (as a way or recruitment ) Melinda goes to see the fortune teller, asking about her relationship with Worthy, and she is told to pursue it. Brazen also visits the fortune teller, asking about his relationship with Melinda, of which he is presented with two love letters from Melinda. However, these letters are actually from Lucy (Melinda's maid), as she is looking to recruit a husband as well.
- Jack Willful offers to inlist with Plume, and Plume is unusually charmed by Willful, and he explains that he is not "the rake the world thinks I am", and that he flirts with country maids in order to recruit their brothers. Wilful asks Plume if he can have Rose for himself, of which Plume agrees. Wilful leaves to spend the night with Rose, ensuring that Plume doesn't.
- Wilful is then arrested for recruiting though means of sex and it braught to trial in front of her father, and without him realising is legally recuired to serve under Plume's command
- Worthy hears Melinda is about to elope with Brazen, and goes to confront her about the rumour, but instead realises Lucy's disguise and is free to marry Melinda
- Silvia, still dressed as Jack Wilful, returns to the house of Balance where he finially realises it is Silvia in disguise and realises what he's done. He then consents to their marriage,
Although The Recruiting Officer has the main aspects of a restoration comedy, it is fundimentally different in that it's humane and actually about love.
It contains all the essential features of Restoration Comedy:
- A rake hero - Plume
- His servent - Kite
- A boring sidekick - Worthy
- A woman who dresses as a man - Silvia
- A shrewd maid who knows everyone's secrets - Lucy
- A foppish character - Brazen
One reason that TRO may not have the same 'atmosphere' as a true restoration comedy is that it was written 45 years after the monarchy was restored, and is not set in the era of Charles II.
- TRO was first staged in 1706, against a backdrop of England’s engagement in the War of Spanish Succession.
- The play is set in Shrewbury in September 1704, directly after the Battle of Blenheim, which had been fought in Bavaria the previous month.
- The battle has gone down in history as one of the turning points of the War of Spanish Succession.
- The massive Allied victory over the Franco-Bavarian army was led by the Duke of Marlborough and was a source of great celebration and pride, delivering the reigning monarch, Queen Anne, the first significant English triumph on European soil since Henry V’s success at Agincourt, three centuries earlier.
- Although the English army won the battle, it is crucial to appreciate that the country was still at war with the Spanish-Franco alliance, and there was a constant drive to recruit in order to keep up their army.
- For the battles taking place against the massive armies of France, Spain and Bavaria, England could not rely on army volunteers; there simply weren’t enough of them.
- To keep their regiments reinforced, colonels abroad sent back home a deputation of officers, sergeants and drummers each winter to get recruits.
Restoration comedy refers to English comedies written and performed in the Restoration period from 1660 to 1710. After public stage performances had been banned for 18 years by the Puritan regime, the re-opening of the theatres in 1660 signalled a renaissance of English drama. Restoration comedy is notorious for its sexual explicitness, a quality encouraged by Charles II (1660–1685) personally and by the rakish aristocratic ethos of his court. The socially diverse audiences included both aristocrats, their servants and hangers-on, and a substantial middle-class segment. These playgoers were attracted to the comedies by up-to-the-minute topical writing, by crowded and bustling plots, by the introduction of the first professional actresses, and by the rise of the first celebrity actors.