Susanna Centlivre’s play The Wonder (1714) was one of the most popular works on the eighteenth-century English stage. Set in Lisbon, the plot interweaves two romantic intrigues around one “secret”: the heroine Violante is hiding her best friend, Isabella (who is the sister of her own lover, Don Felix) from Isabella’s father who wishes to marry her off to a rich but decrepit old merchant. Because she is sworn to secrecy, Violante cannot reveal Isabella’s whereabouts, nor can she explain to Felix why Isabella’s new lover, a dashing British soldier, happens to be about the house, prompting Felix’s intense jealousy. Centlivre’s critique on the tyrannical patriarchs in the world of the play is at the same time a veiled critique of similar conditions in Augustan-era Britain.
This Broadview edition includes contemporary responses (by Richard Steele and Arthur Bedford), biographical accounts, selections of Centlivre’s poetry, and early nineteenth-century criticism (by Elizabeth Inchbald and William Hazlitt).
“John O’Brien’s excellent edition of The Wonder makes accessible one of the most performed plays of the eighteenth century and reminds us why Susanna Centlivre was one of the most successful playwrights of her age—male or female.” — Lisa A. Freeman, University of Illinois at Chicago