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Mrs Dane's Defence


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A: Henry Arthur Jones Pf: 1900, London Pb: 1900 G: Drama in 4 acts S: Lady Eastney's and Sir Philip Carteret's houses, Sunningwater, near London, c.1900 C: 8m, 4fJames Risby tells his gossipy aunt Mrs Bulsom-Porter that he has recognized 28-year-old Mrs Dane, a newcomer to the area, as Miss Hindemarsh, who was at the centre of a scandal five years previously in Vienna. Hindemarsh was a governess who had an affair with her employer, driving his wife to suicide and him to madness. Although Risby now admits he made a mistake, Mrs Bulsom-Porter's slander isolates Mrs Dane from the community. Lionel (Lal) Carteret has fallen in love with Mrs Dane, so his adoptive father Sir Daniel, an experienced lawyer, mounts Mrs Dane's defence. He wishes to force Bulsom-Porter to retract her story and clear Mrs Dane's name, so that she is free to marry Lionel. However, his skilful questioning reveals that she is indeed Hindemarsh, mother of an illegitimate child, who has lied in order to be able to re-enter society. Her real defence is that, in the harsh world of Victorian morality, she had no other way of beginning a new life. Sir Daniel is sufficiently sympathetic towards her to hush up her story, but, knowing that Lionel will never again be able to trust her, he sends his son away to forget her.

A: Henry Arthur Jones Pf: 1900, London Pb: 1900 G: Drama in 4 acts S: Lady Eastney's and Sir Philip Carteret's houses, Sunningwater, near London, c.1900 C: 8m, 4f

Very much in the tradition of the well-made play, a genre whose main strength lies in its tight plotting, Mrs Dane's Defence is a well-constructed piece that keeps the audience in suspense about the outcome and possesses a strong third act, in which the truth is gradually winkled out of Mrs Dane. Despite the obvious social criticism regarding the difficult role of the ‘fallen woman’ in contemporary society, this is no proto-feminist piece. It is made quite clear that Mrs Dane/Judith Hindemarsh knew that she was doing wrong and that her past can now never allow her to be a respectable wife.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Henry Arthur Jones (1851—1929) playwright


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