Jane Austen and Representations of Regency England

By Roger Sales | Go to book overview
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Appendix:

The plot of Lovers’ Vows

The full text of the play is reprinted at the end of Chapman’s edition of Mansfield Park. I offer this summary of it for the benefit of those students who may still have problems gaining access to it.

The play is set in rural Germany. It opens with Agatha Friburg being thrown out of the inn by the Landlord because she can no longer afford to pay her bills. He takes pleasure in telling her that she will now have to beg for her food. Two potential alms-givers take no notice of her. She begs heaven to take care of her son and his father, believing that she is close to death. A country girl takes pity on her, offering to bring back money after produce has been sold at market.

At this point Frederick enters ‘dressed in a German soldier’s uniform’ with ‘a knapsack on his shoulders’ (LV, 1.1). He notices Agatha lying in the road in front of the inn and gives her what little money he has. She recognises him as the son who went off to war five years before. He orders some wine for her, which is sold to him at an inflated price by the knavish Landlord. Mother and son start to tell each other what has happened since they were last together. Frederick declares his intention of leaving the army, claiming that he is only hindered from doing so because he is unable to produce his birth certificate. He has returned home to collect it. Agatha has to tell him that he is a ‘natural son’ (LV, 1.1). After moments of uncertainty, she begins to recount the circumstances of his birth, detailing how she had been ‘intoxicated by the fervent caresses of a young, inexperienced, capricious man, and did not recover from the delirium till it was too late’ (LV, 1.1). Frederick becomes very agitated during the telling of this story and, in tears, urges his mother to finish it as quickly as possible. She concludes by indicating how she was eventually befriended by the local clergyman and how she was able subsequently to earn her living as a teacher. She reveals that her seducer, whom she

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