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John Vanbrugh, author of The Relapse

The Relapse is a Restoration comedy from 1696 by John Vanbrugh, a sequel to Colley Cibber's notorious tear-jerker Love's Last Shift, or, Virtue Rewarded. In Cibber's Love's Last Shift, a free-living Restoration rake is brought to repentance and reform by the ruses of his wife, while in The Relapse, the rake succumbs again to temptation and has a new love affair. His virtuous wife is also subjected to a determined seduction attempt, and resists with difficulty. Vanbrugh planned The Relapse around particular actors at Drury Lane, writing their stage habits, public reputations, and personal relationships into the text. One such actor was Colley Cibber himself, who played the luxuriant fop Lord Foppington in both Love's Last Shift and The Relapse. However, Vanbrugh's artistic plans were threatened by a cut-throat struggle between London's two theatre companies, each of which was "seducing" actors from the other. The Relapse came close to not being produced at all, but the successful performance that was eventually achieved in November 1696 vindicated Vanbrugh's intentions, as well as saving the company from bankruptcy. (more...)

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