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Glass of Water


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AT: Causes and Effects A: Eugène Scribe Pf: 1840, Paris Pb: 1840 Tr: 1850 G: Hist. drama in 5 acts; French prose S: St James's Palace, London, 1710 C: 4m, 3fAlthough the Duke of Marlborough has won several impressive victories in the War of the Spanish Succession, Viscount Bolingbroke, a Tory, is attempting to end hostilities in Europe. He is bitterly opposed by the Duchess of Marlborough, the Whig Sarah Churchill, a childhood friend and now adviser of Queen Anne. The Duchess wants the war to continue so that her husband can reap yet more glory. All Bolingbroke's attempts to win the Queen to his point of view are successfully countered by the Duchess, until he discovers that both women have fallen in love with a young guardsman Samuel Masham. The Duchess secretly arranges for him to be given a commission, and Anne surreptitiously sees to it that Masham's fiancée Abigail is made a lady-in-waiting. In the midst of intrigue and jealousy, Bolingbroke cunningly plots the downfall of his rival the Duchess. At a court party Anne's request for a glass of water reveals to the astonished Duchess that her rival in love is the Queen herself. She is so shocked that she insults Anne, who rejects her as her confidante, replacing her with Abigail, who is married off to Masham to protect the Queen's reputation. Soon the French ambassadors are admitted to the Queen, and peace negotiations can begin. A trivial cause (the glass of water) can have an effect on international conflict.

AT: Causes and Effects A: Eugène Scribe Pf: 1840, Paris Pb: 1840 Tr: 1850 G: Hist. drama in 5 acts; French prose S: St James's Palace, London, 1710 C: 4m, 3f

Scribe is always associated with the term the ‘well-made play’, and this drama is one of his best. It does not offer historical accuracy or subtle characterization, but one cannot but be impressed by the skilful construction and manipulation of the complicated plot with its unassailable message that the smallest of incidents can have world-changing consequences.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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