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A: Somerset Maugham Pf: 1921, London Pb: 1921 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Champion-Cheneys' house, Dorset, 1920 C: 6m, 3fArnold Champion-Cheney MP, pleasant but a bit of a bore, still resents his mother for leaving his father and him 30 years previously. His wife Elizabeth persuades him to become reconciled with his mother Lady Catherine (Kitty) by inviting her and her lover Lord Hughie Porteous to a small party. Elizabeth has also invited Edward Luton, a businessman on leave from Malaya, and promptly falls in love with him. Unexpectedly, Arnold's father Lord Clive Champion-Cheney also arrives in time to greet the principal guests: Kitty, who turns out to be vain and empty-headed, plastered with make-up to disguise her advancing years, and Porteous, an irritable and unattractive individual. The older Champion-Cheney, aware that Elizabeth is attracted to Luton, suggests that she learn from the unhappy fate of Kitty. Indeed, Kitty asks to come back to her husband, but he enjoys his bachelor life too much. When Arnold learns that Elizabeth intends to run away with Luton, his father urges him to give her her freedom, because she will surely realize that she prefers the security of her marriage. Kitty and Porteous also warn the young lovers of the transience of love. While they all congratulate themselves on the skill with which they have prevented a scandal, Elizabeth and Luton leave happily together.

A: Somerset Maugham Pf: 1921, London Pb: 1921 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Champion-Cheneys' house, Dorset, 1920 C: 6m, 3f

While better known as a novelist, Maugham wrote plays that continue to be successfully revived, thanks to their wit, interesting characters, and insights into human frailty. Elizabeth, despite all the warnings, may or may not be caught in ‘the circle’ of repeating Kitty's mistake. Although early audiences booed the immoral conclusion of the play, Elizabeth, not being as trivial as her mother-in-law, just may have found happiness.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

Reference entries

W. Somerset Maugham (1874—1965) writer and playwright

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