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Barretts of Wimpole Street


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A: Rudolph Besier Pf: 1930, London Pb: 1930 G: Drama in 5 acts S: Elizabeth Barrett's bed-sittingroom, Wimpole Street, London, 1845 C: 12m, 4f, 1 dogElizabeth Barrett is an invalid, her only regular companion her little dog Flush. Her youngest sister Henrietta warns her that their father is in a bad mood because of the impending visit of a female cousin who is getting married – something Barrett would not allow his daughters to do. Barrett forces Elizabeth to drink the foul-tasting porter that the doctor has prescribed. When the cousin arrives, Elizabeth confesses that she too has been asked for her hand by the handsome young poet Robert Browning. After his renewed declaration of love, she gets up and walks for the first time in years. Some months later, Elizabeth is so much better that she is planning a trip to Italy. However, her father cannot bear to let her go. When Browning begs her to marry him and leave for Italy together, Elizabeth pleads for time to spare her father unhappiness. When Barrett discovers that Henrietta has an admirer, he is so furious that he assaults her and makes her swear never to see him again. Elizabeth, recognizing that she must act decisively, secretly marries Browning and elopes with him. Barrett, who had tried to protect his children from the ‘degradation and remorse’ of love, is devastated. He orders Elizabeth's dog to be destroyed, but she has taken Flush with her.

A: Rudolph Besier Pf: 1930, London Pb: 1930 G: Drama in 5 acts S: Elizabeth Barrett's bed-sittingroom, Wimpole Street, London, 1845 C: 12m, 4f, 1 dog

The colossal popularity of Besier's one successful play, including an extensive tour to Allied troops in the Second World War, went far beyond the inherent merits of the piece. Based in part on the correspondence between Browning and Elizabeth, the play depicts a love story which succeeds against the will of her father. While this is normally the stuff of comedy, here the complex psychology of Barrett, tyrannical and possessive almost to the point of incest, creates a disturbing focus of interest.

Subjects: Theatre — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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