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A: W. S. Gilbert Pf: 1877, London Pb: 1877 G: Farce in 3 acts S: Cottage garden near Gretna on the Scots–English border and Symperson's house in London, mid-19th c. C: 5m, 5fMaggie, a simple Scots lass, loves the roguish Angus, who boosts his income by derailing trains and exploiting delayed passengers. Two passengers arrive, Belvawney and his fiancée Belinda Treherne, who is on the run to escape marrying Major McGillicuddy. Belvawney has an income of £1,000 a year, so long as his close friend Cheviot Hill, who proposes to every woman he meets, never marries. If Cheviot marries or dies, his uncle Symperson will get the money. Cheviot and Symperson now come from the train. Symperson is keen that Cheviot should marry his daughter Minnie, but Cheviot proposes to Maggie and then to Belinda. McGillicuddy bursts in to claim his bride, and Cheviot, to protect Belinda, pretends to be her husband. Unbeknown to Cheviot, under Scots law this declaration constitutes a wedding ceremony. Three months later Cheviot is planning to marry Minnie, but Belvawney, fearful of losing his income, declares that he will be committing bigamy because of his Scottish ‘wedding’. Symperson, horrified that he will not get his money, encourages Cheviot to commit suicide. Cheviot is saved by the news that Maggie's cottage was on the English side of the border. Learning that Minnie is interested only in his money, Cheviot turns again to Belinda. When it is discovered that the garden itself where the marriage declaration was made, lay in Scotland, Belinda happily accepts him as her husband, and Belvawney must console himself with Minnie.

A: W. S. Gilbert Pf: 1877, London Pb: 1877 G: Farce in 3 acts S: Cottage garden near Gretna on the Scots–English border and Symperson's house in London, mid-19th c. C: 5m, 5f

Although far better known as Arthur Sullivan's librettist, Gilbert wrote a number of ‘straight’ plays, of which Engaged is the finest. Its immaculate plotting and its satire of both rural melodrama and middle-class romance suggest a combination of Boucicault and Wilde.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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