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A Will and No Will or A Bone for the Lawyers. (174

INTRODUCTION

The manuscript copies of these two plays by Charles Macklin, A WILL AND NO WILL, OR A BONE FOR THE LAWYERS (1746) and THE NEW PLAY CRITICIZ'D, OR THE PLAGUE OF ENVY (1747), are in the Larpent Collection of the Huntington Library along with a third afterpiece _The Covent Garden Theatre, or Pasquin Turn'd Drawcansir_ (1752) already reproduced in facsimile as Number 116 of the Augustan Reprint Society.[1] Since the introduction to _Covent Garden Theatre_ (ARS 116) already gives general biographical information on this actor-playwright, Charles Macklin, as well as an indication of the revived interest in his plays, this introduction will be limited to the two afterpieces here reproduced.

A WILL AND NO WILL, OR A BONE FOR THE LAWYERS (Larpent 58) was first produced in 1746 and revived many times up to March 29, 1756, unlike _The Covent Garden Theatre_ which was given only one performance in 1752. The Larpent manuscript 58 copy of A WILL AND NO WILL bears the handwritten application of James Lacy to the Lord Chamberlain for permission to perform the farce for Mrs. Macklin's benefit. It was first performed at the Drury Lane Theatre April 23, 1746, following _Humours of the Army_.[2] Sometimes advertised with a different subtitle as A WILL AND NO WILL, OR A NEW CASE FOR THE LAWYERS,[3] it was revived March 22, 1748, for Macklin's own benefit and apparently was more popular in the revival since it was repeated five more times on March 29, 31 and April 11, 21, 22.[4] The last performance listed in _The London Stage_, Part 4, II, 535, was for Macklin's daughter's benefit on March 29, 1756.

Macklin's two-act farce, A WILL AND NO WILL, is based on Regnard's five-act comedy _le Legetaire Universel_ (1707), which is itself a composite of Italian comedy with echoes of Moliere, moving from scene to scene with little effort at logical consistency or structure but treating each scene autonomously for its own comic value.[5] Macklin condensed and tightened Regnard's five-act plot into a two-act afterpiece; the role of the apothecary is greatly reduced into the stock London-stage Frenchman, du Maigre, who can barely speak English; the servant Lucy is more the English maid than the French _bonne_ of the Regnard play who gave orders to her master; and the satire of Macklin's afterpiece is directed not only at lawyers and physicians, as in the Regnard play, but at Methodist itinerant preachers. Finally Macklin's plot was both complicated and tightened by having the lawyers summoned to draw up the marriage contract, also take down the will of the supposed Skinflint, thus making the marriage a condition of the will.

The rather long Prologue to A WILL AND NO WILL (11 pages of manuscript) makes fun of the convention of the eighteenth century prologues by the familiar dodge of having two actors chatting as though they were in the Pit waiting for the actors in the main play to dress for the afterpiece. The conversation of the Prologue is enlivened by the appearance of an Irish lawyer come to see the play about lawyers. His impossibly long name, Laughlinbulhuderry-Mackshoughlinbulldowny, contains hints of Macklin's own name, and this is also one of Macklin's wonderful Irishmen who never acted except in school where he spoke the Prologue, he says, of one of Terence's tragedies when the play was over. His mispronunciations and inaccuracies put him at the head of the list of stage Irishmen whom Macklin, an Irishman himself, could portray with delight and authority.


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