“Why should men and women be so eager to grant to each other the power of wasting life?” Agnes Ebbsmith asks in The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith. “That is what marriage gives – the right to destroy years and years of life.” Agnes was married, and the union brought her, like all other married couples she knows, nothing but unhappiness. She arrives in Venice with Lucas Cleeve, an up-and-coming Parliamentary figure who has abandoned his wife in London. Together, refusing to marry themselves, the couple intends to take on the institution of marriage. But when Lucas’ family arrive from London to bring him home, Agnes and Lucas’ ‘compact’ is threatened. Will Agnes let her lover go, or abandon her ideals to keep him? This progressive nineteenth century play by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero takes on social conventions, social radicalism, and marriage through the eyes of a woman torn between her head and her heart.
The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith guide sections