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Private Lives


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A: Noël Coward Pf: 1930, Edinburgh Pb: 1930 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Balcony of a hotel on the French Riviera and living room in a Paris apartment, c.1930 C: 2m, 3fElyot Chase is honeymooning with his new bride Sybil, a pretty but not very bright young blonde. He keeps reminiscing about his ex-wife Amanda, whom he divorced five years previously. When they withdraw into their hotel room, Amanda steps on to the adjoining balcony. By pure chance, she is honeymooning there with her new husband Victor Prynne, a tediously conventional individual, who complains that she keeps talking about her marriage to Elyot. When Elyot and Amanda discover that they are honeymooning in the same hotel, they unsuccessfully try to persuade their respective partners to leave for Paris. Left alone together, they reminisce about old times, embrace, and decide to go to Paris themselves. In Paris they discuss their private lives since they parted, which ends in a furious row. As they fight rolling around on the floor, Sybil and Victor enter. The following morning, Elyot refuses to fight with Victor, insisting that he has no interest in getting together with Amanda, ‘a vile tempered wicked woman’. When the two couples have breakfast together, a vicious row erupts between Sybil and Victor. Quietly, Elyot and Amanda pick up their suitcases and leave arm in arm.

A: Noël Coward Pf: 1930, Edinburgh Pb: 1930 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Balcony of a hotel on the French Riviera and living room in a Paris apartment, c.1930 C: 2m, 3f

Coward's most popular and sophisticated play, subtitled ‘An Intimate Comedy’, begins with a preposterous coincidence, but, once this is accepted, it offers an amusing and insightful commentary on romantic relationships. It acknowledges the disturbing fact that sexual attraction and marital harmony seldom go together. Elyot and Amanda's relationship is doomed (‘like two violent acids bubbling about in a nasty little matrimonial bottle’), but it seems preferable to the boredom of living with their new spouses.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Noël Coward (1899—1973) playwright and composer


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