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The Second Mrs. Tanqueray Is a Well-Made Play

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The Second Mrs. Tanqueray is Well Made

Sir Arthur W. Pinero's play The Second Mrs. Tanqueray was written in 1893 and was constructed around the conventions of the well-made play. The well-made play originated in France as the piиce bien faite, and is characterized by a detailed, practical intended organization of plotting. The logical precise construction of the well-made play is characterized by a number of conventions: the audience is quickly introduced to the characters and their relevant histories, there is a complication usually a withheld secret, known to the audience but unknown to the characters, which, when revealed at the climax, is an unreal coincidence and it reverses the fortunes of the play's hero. The hero's fortune fluctuates during this conflict with the antagonist until finally, at the climax, the plot unravels, quickly, the secret is revealed in the final dйnouement, or resolution. The Second Mrs. Tanqueray is an effective well-made play because of its structure and the way it impacts the audience in the end. As the elements of the well-made play entail, we are introduced to all of the characters and have an understanding of their history and the troubles that their history can cause. More precisely this is a story of a very non-conventional woman of this audience's time and by going through the play I will identify its key representations of the well-made play.

Aubery Tanqueray, a self-made man, is a Widower at the age of Forty two with a beautiful teenage daughter, Ellean whom he seems very protective over. His deceased wife, the first Mrs. Tanqueray was "an iceberg," stiff, and assertive, alive as well as dead (13). She had ironically died of a fever "the only warmth, I believe, that ever came to that woman's body" (14). Now alone because his daughter is away at a nunnery he's found someone that can add a little life to his elite, high class existence; a little someone, we learn, that has a past that doesn't quite fit in with the rest of his friends.

The problems begin in Act One, the exposition, on the night before Aubery's wedding to an unknown individual. Aubery has drinks and dinner with his three closest friends, Cayley Drummel a bachelor, Doctor Gordon Jayne, and Frank Misquith, Q.C., M.P. His conversation seems to be that of a farewell, "We'll end a pleasant chapter here tonight, and after tonight start afresh. When my wife and I settle down at Willowmere, it's possible that we shall all come together. But if this isn't to be, for Heaven's sake let us recognize that it is simply because it can't be" (9). His bride's identity is kept a secret from his friends and society, except Mr. Drummel stays later then the others, and to him Aubery confesses that he is marrying a woman with a "past" that goes my the name of Mrs. Paula Jarmon, and yet we learn that she has never been married. Cayley Drummel plays an important role to this play in accordance to the well-made play structure; he is the "raisonneur." He represents the character that is usually single, has an admirable occupation, is reasonable, and knows the characters secrets; this way the audience maintains informed of the secrets that drive the play. He also serves as a confidant to both male and female characters.

Shortly after Cayley's departure there is an unannounced arrival of this new woman, Paula Ray, she is alone, and it's late in the evening but her arrival is important because she has brought her soon to be husband a letter addressed to him containing a confession of the her past in detail. To identify another problem, Aubery doesn't want to read the letter and throws it into the fire with his reasoning, "I can't bear to hear you always talking about...what's done with. I tell you I'll never remember it; Paula can't you dismiss it? Try. Darling, if we promise each other to forget, we're bound to be happy" and then sends Paula home with concern that the servants had seen her because of her unladylike behavior having shown up so late and comfortably doing so (21). Before Paula's departure Aubery opens another letter, this one he has received from his daughter announcing that she doesn't want to be at the convent anymore, as her deceased mother had requested, and she'd like to come home to live with her Father. His daughter Ellean is our "ingйnue" character, the young and endearingly innocent woman, who deserves nothing but kind things in her life.

Act Two, also known as the complication, begins several months later. The couple, who should happily be enjoying their marriage, sits bored and unengaged. The situation is very tense and Paula isn't exactly happy with the marriage: "Oh! I have no patience with you! You'll kill me with this life! What is my existence, Sunday to Saturday?" (26). Aubery hasn't had much contact with his friends and Ellean is living at home again and isn't quite comfortable with something in regards to Paula. Paula is jealously anxious admittedly to win Ellean's confidence and friendship; "You could cure me of my jealousy very easily. Why don't me?" (29). In Paula's desperation to find friendship she invites, to Aubery's dismay, Lord George Orreyed and his chorus girl wife to be their guests. Lady Orreyed serves as a bit of a foil to Paula, she is a woman that is younger then her husband, she's good looking, "Her affections, emotions, impulses, her very existence...a burlesque!" and has a bit of a past as well but it has not effected her current life, unlike what will eventually transpire with Paula (11). In the midst of this, Mrs. Cortelyon, a neighbor, asks if she can take Ellean to Paris and London for the season and Aubery agrees, admitting that they themselves can't give Ellean the social background to which she is entitled being cooped up in the country. Drummel puts it best before Aubery agrees to send Ellean off with Mrs. Cortelyon: "You must either restrict her to a paradise which is, like every earthly paradise, necessarily somewhat imperfect, or treat her as an ordinary flesh-and-blood young woman, and give her the advantages of that society to which she properly belongs" (32).

Act three begins, also known as the climax, and Paula finds herself just as bored as before



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