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A Bill of Divorcement


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A: Clemence Dane Pf: 1921, London Pb: 1921 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Margaret's home in the country, Christmas Day 1933 C: 5m, 4fMargaret Fairfield married her husband Hilary during the First World War. Apparently as a result of shell shock, he was invalided and declared incurably insane. She now lives with her daughter Sydney and a pious maiden aunt Hester. She has at last divorced Hilary so that she is free to marry Gray Meredith, despite Hester's disapproval. Sydney is hoping to marry Kit, the son of the local clergyman. However, when his father learns that Margaret's husband is still alive, he not only refuses to marry her and Gray in his church but also withholds his consent to Kit's engagement to Sydney. Suddenly Hilary, escaped from his asylum, arrives and expects to be taken back. The family doctor is called and persuades Hilary that he must grant Margaret her freedom. However, he is so broken that Margaret relents, prepared to sacrifice her own happiness. When Sydney learns that insanity runs in the family, she resolves that she can never marry and have children and turns Kit away. She convinces her mother to leave with Gray, promising to devote her life to caring for her father.

A: Clemence Dane Pf: 1921, London Pb: 1921 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Margaret's home in the country, Christmas Day 1933 C: 5m, 4f

This play represents Dane's contribution to the debate about changes to the law of divorce, which would allow divorce from criminals, alcoholics, and the incurably insane. Set in the future after the new laws are in force, the play goes far beyond a mere thesis play to explore emotional dilemmas surrounding this theme. Mother and daughter are especially well drawn by this leading woman playwright, and the ending is both convincing and inspiring.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Clemence Dane (1888—1965)


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