Article Title

Play and Passion in The Man of Mode


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Discussions of The Man of Mode repeatedly, and properly, dwell on two of its most clearly important elements. One is the portrayal of life as a game. Unable to decide "what, if anything, Etherege wants us to take seriously," Norman N. Holland concludes that "Virtually every action of every character becomes a gambit in a great and meaningless social game." But for other critics the game is far from meaningless. Virginia Ogden Birdsall sees Restoration comedy as a celebration of play and argues that Dorimant and Harriet are rewarded for their mastery in "the love game" and "the game of life." Countering moralistic readings of the play, Harriet Hawkins also argues that the hero and heroine are to be admired for their supremacy in :the game of love." Finally, in an excellent discussion of the play, Roberta F. S. Borkat again studies "the game of love," and shows that metaphors of game-playing provide one of Etherege's most important and prominent patterns of imagery. The other widely analyzed thematic pattern is that of the religious imagery. Hawkins sees this as essentially palyful, and Borkat sees it as expressing the passion that, in a fully actualized human existence, must inform the rituals of play. But this imagery has also been used to support more earnestly moral readings. In particular, J. Douglas Canfield has recently maintained that Etherege's diabolic and Christian imagery provides a sustained and serious ethical commentary on his characters' conduct.1

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