Article Title

Vanbrugh and Cibber: Language, Place, and Social Order in The Relapse


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

In an earlier article, I argued that the moral certitudes and simplicities of Love's Last Shift (1696) are reflected in Cibber's use of two linked and traditional topoi: Loveless' recovery of moral identity is a recovery of linguistic rectitude ( and of his name) and is also, both literally and figuratively, a homecoming, initiating the recurrent appearance in Cibber's plays of the home as a symbol of moral order.1 In each case, the rectification of the objective, external systems of speech and place suggests that moral error is a deviation from an unambiguously defined and entirely attainable order of life. Vanbrugh, of course, was not fond of unambiguously ordered endings, and his characters often remain in a moral maze, denied the homecoming which Cibber so repeatedly celebrates. As I have argued, imagery of the home is as common and central in Vanbrugh as in Cibber, but the imagery is usually self-negating, and the homes he portrays are centers of incurable familial and moral disorder. Naturally, Vanbrugh's differences from Cibber are most clearly defined in The Relapse (1696), where pessimism about the moral value of homecoming acquires particular explicitness and intricacy and is combined with considerable scepticism about the moral force of language.

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