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Wild Oats


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John O'Keeffe (1747—1833) playwright

 

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AT: The Strolling Gentlemen A: John O'Keeffe Pf: 1791, London Pb: 1791 G: Com. in 5 acts; prose S: Hampshire, late 18th c. C: 19m, 3f, extrasSir George Thunder is a retired naval captain, who many years previously entered into a ‘sham marriage’ with Amelia Banks, in order to seduce her and then abandon her. In fact, unbeknown to him, the marriage was genuine, and Amelia gave birth to a son. By chance Sir George arrives at the country home of his niece Lady Amaranth Thunder. A member of Sir George's party is a strolling player Jack Rover, who falls in love with Amaranth. It turns out that the abandoned wife Amelia lives nearby. There is a tender reconciliation between her and her errant husband Sir George, and it is discovered that Jack Rover is in fact her long-lost son Charles. Jack/Charles, now Sir George's heir, is free to marry the lovely Amaranth.

AT: The Strolling Gentlemen A: John O'Keeffe Pf: 1791, London Pb: 1791 G: Com. in 5 acts; prose S: Hampshire, late 18th c. C: 19m, 3f, extras

Like Goldsmith and Sheridan, O'Keeffe was one of the long line of supposedly English playwrights who came from Ireland. Characteristically, as we see in fellow countrymen Wilde and Shaw, there is a great facility for dialogue. Here the lines of the play contain country dialect and Quaker forms of address and are peppered with quotations (mainly by the actor Rover) from plays, especially Shakespeare. This colourful speech, coupled with the intricate, if predictable, comic plot, makes Wild Oats a neglected masterpiece, which was successfully revived by the RSC in 1976.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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