The Wonder
A Woman Keeps a Secret
  • Publication Date: December 19, 2003
  • ISBN: 9781551114545 / 1551114542
  • 147 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Wonder

A Woman Keeps a Secret

  • Publication Date: December 19, 2003
  • ISBN: 9781551114545 / 1551114542
  • 147 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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

Susanna Centlivre: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Wonder

Textual Notes

Appendix A: Contemporary Responses to Centlivre and The Wonder

  1. Richard Steele, The Tatler
  2. Richard Steele, The Lover
  3. Arthur Bedford, A Serious Remonstrance in Behalf of the Christian Religion

Appendix B: Eighteenth-Century Biographical Accounts

  1. Giles Jacob, The Poetical Register
  2. Abel Boyer, The Political State of Great Britain
  3. John Mottley [?], “A Complete List of all the English Dramatic Poets”
  4. William Chetwood, The British Theatre

Appendix C: Selections from Centlivre’s Poetry

  1. “A Poem, Humbly Presented to His most Sacred Majesty George, King Of Great Britain, France, and Ireland. Upon his Accession to the Throne”
  2. “A Woman’s Case”

Appendix D: Early Nineteenth-Century Criticism

  1. Elizabeth Inchbald, “Remarks” on The Wonder, The British Theatre
  2. William Hazlitt, The Examiner
  3. William Hazlitt, “On the Comic Writers of the Last Century”

Works Cited and Recommended Reading

John O’Brien is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.