Epicene, or The Silent Woman

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Ben Jonson (1572—1637) poet and playwright


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A comedy by Jonson, acted 1609, printed 1616.

Morose, an egotistic old bachelor with a pathological aversion to noise, proposes to disinherit his nephew Sir Dauphine Eugenie, by marrying and producing children, provided he can find a silent woman. Cutbeard, his barber, has found such a one in Epicene. Immediately after the wedding Epicene proceeds to torment her husband by turning into a loquacious shrew, and his agony is increased when Dauphine and his friends Truewit and Clerimont arrive with a rowdy party of guests and musicians to celebrate the marriage. Among the guests are a henpecked bearward, Captain Otter, and his Amazonian wife, the Collegiate Ladies, and two boastful knights, Amorous La Foole and John Daw. Morose accepts Dauphine's offer to rid him of Epicene for £500 a year and the reversion of his property. Whereupon Dauphine pulls off Epicene's wig and reveals that, unknown to everyone else, including the audience, she is a boy whom he has trained for the part.

Subjects: Literature.

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