The Provoked Wife


Writers: John Vanbrugh


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Comedy, Satire
Period, Multiple Settings
Time & Place
England, Seventeenth Century
Cast Size
Ideal for
College/University, Large Cast, Professional Theatre, Regional Theatre, Star Vehicle Female
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes adult, mature adult, young adult, late teen characters


Lady Brute is trapped in a loveless marriage to her drunkard husband, Sir John Brute. They married for wealth and lust respectively and they are both now desperate for a way out of their union. Despite her strict moral conscience, Lady Brute has fallen for the dashing Constant, who loves her passionately. With the assistance of her playful niece, Belinda, she decides to break the rules and allow Constant to court her behind Sir John’s back. Meanwhile, Belinda decides to have a bit of fun of her own and charms Constant’s friend, the renowned “woman-hater” Heartfree. Unaware that he is being cuckolded, Sir John embarks on a drunken rampage around town with his drinking buddies, Lord Rake and Colonel Bully. He is arrested whilst wearing a woman’s dress, but manages to talk his way out of further prosecution by pretending to be his wife!

Back at home, Lady Brute’s secret assignations are about to be revealed by the jealous Lady Fancyfull, who wants Heartfree all for herself. Disguising herself as Heartfree’s “wife”, she successfully drives a wedge between Belinda and Heartfree. All the lovers are revealed when Sir John arrives home earlier than usual and finds Constant and Heartfree concealed in the closet. Sir John, realizing that he is being cuckolded, confronts Constant, who proposes a duel. Sir John immediately backs off and appears to resign himself to having Constant in his life. Finally, Lady Fancyfull’s disguise is exposed, inducing Heartfree to give up his bachelor lifestyle and marry Belinda.

Lead Characters

The Provoked Wife guide sections