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The Belle's Stratagem Essay

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Martinelli is a Seattle-based freelance writer and editor. In this essay, Martinelli examines how physical and mental masquerades change the rules of courtship, successively freeing and damning eighteenth-century women.

In The Belle's Stratagem, Hannah Cowley constructs, at face value, a lighthearted comedy about manners, courtship, and marriage in fashionable society in late-eighteenth-century London. The play pays homage to a play by one of Cowley's favorite playwrights, George Farquhar, titled The Beaux's Stratagem. However, as in many of Cowley's works, her protagonist is a heroine and, although the play is a comedy, Cowley has much to say about male-dominated, eighteenth-century society. As if to foreshadow the underlying message of her play, The Belle's Stratagem wears a mask resembling Farquhar's play, bending not only the play's title but its content. In her play, Cowley shrouds Letitia Hardy behind three masks—indifference, vulgarity, and costume—to upend eighteenth-century courtship, exposing the...

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This section contains 1,498 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The Belle's Stratagem Study Guide
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The Belle's Stratagem from Drama for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.