Dover Book

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This one is definitely a laugh a minute! Though written in the eighteenth century and first performed in 1773, it is easily readable, devoid of that archaic and complicated language sometimes found in works of this age. At only 62 pages, one can breeze through it for an enjoyable evening's entertainment
    The plot is simple, though it is the ensuing confusion that provides the hilarity. But it is mostly the personality of the characters that supplies the icing on this comical cake.
    The well-off Hardcastles live in a country mansion. Mr. Hardcastle is a pleasant, cheery sort of guy, while his wife is a domineering, stubborn, and selfish old biddy. Their daughter Kate likes to be seen in fancy clothing around her friends during the day, but to please her father, in the evening she wears a plain "housewife's dress." Then there is Tony Lumpkin, Mrs. Hardcastle's son by her first husband, and he is the fly that gets in everyone's ointment.
    Mr. Hardcastle is expecting guests—the son of his good friend Sir Charles Marlow is to visit. Mr. Hardcastle has his eye on young Marlow for Kate's husband, and, though neither of them have actually met him (at least as an adult), Kate agrees he may be her perfect mate.
    While Tony is with his friends at the alehouse, Marlow's party, which includes his friend Hastings, and who are quite lost, stops to enquire about the Hardcastle residence. Tony, being nothing but trouble, gives them directions WAY off track, but points out that there is an inn close by where they can stay the night (which is really the Hardcastle home!). As they depart, with Tony assisting them on their way, the landlord expresses an accurate description of Tony:

"Ah, bless your heart, for a sweet, pleasant—damned mischievous son of a whore."

Let the confusion begin! The two young men enter the Hardcastle home with an attitude, thinking it is an inn and Mr. Hardcastle is the innkeeper! Though Marlow is really a good guy, he has a problem: he is unable to hold an intelligent conversation with women of his own rank. He meets Miss Hardcastle, still not understanding that he is in her home and not an inn. He is so timid, he can barely speak, and never looks up at her face.
    Meanwhile, Hastings cannot believe he sees Miss Neville, the reason for him making the trip with Marlow. Constance is the niece of Mrs. Hardcastle, and the jewels Mr. Neville left to his daughter at his death are also in Mrs. Hardcastle's possession, promised to Constance when she marries Tony. Yuk. Fortunately they mutually hate each other. Hastings, however, had the approval of Mr. Neville for his daughter's husband, before he passed away.
    Now, Hastings, seeing Constance, finally realizes they are NOT at an inn. They go off to make their plans of escaping Mrs. Hardcastle to elope, hopefully with the jewels in hand. However, Marlow is left in the dark, still thinking he is at an inn. Kate has her own plan to break the ice with Marlow: she pretends she's a barmaid. Since he never looked at her face when he thought she was the upper-class Miss Hardcastle, he doesn't recognize her as a barmaid. Let it suffice to say, he is now MUCH more "relaxed" in her presence!!
    Whew! Things get even more confusing as the misunderstandings continue, especially when Tony tries to "help" (hoping he can get Constance off to be married and his mother off his back.) And to make things worse, Marlow' father arrives. After lots of surprises, embarrassment, and laughter, things get all sorted out.

This one is a must-read for top-notch amusement. Better yet, see it live if you have a chance.


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