A Good Woman
Bennett, Arnold (aka Enoch Arnold Bennett, English playwright, editor, critic, publisher’s reader, novelist, May 27, 1867-March 27, 1931), “A Good Woman,”
a __-minute farce in English, set in an London drawing-room, 9:00 a.m., Monday, July fifth, a wedding day late in the nineteenth century,
© 1900 by Arnold Bennett;
• in Arnold Bennett's Polite Farces for the Drawing Room (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1912), 97 pp. LCCN 29004506, containing "The Stepmother," "A Good Woman," "A Question of Sex," afterwards published separately in a series called Repertory Plays;
• in Fifty Contemporary One-Act Plays, selected and edited by Frank Shay (1888-19__) and Pierre Loving (1893-19__) (Cincinnati, Stewart & Kidd company, 1920), LCCN 21-611);
• also in Fifty Contemporary One-Act Plays, selected and edited by Frank Shay (1888-19__) and Pierre Loving (1893-19__) (New York: London, D. Appleton-Century Company, Incorporated, 1935), LCCN 35-35392; • also in Fifty Contemporary One-Act Plays, selected and edited by Frank Shay (1888-19__) and Pierre Loving (1893-19__) (Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Company, 1946), LCCN 47-4856, containing Joaquín and Serafín Alvarez Quintero’s “A Sunny Morning” [“Mañana de sol”], a comedy, 2m2f; Lewis Beach’s “Brothers,” a comedy, 3m; Anton Chekhov’s “The Boor,” a farce, 2m1f + extras; Sada Cowan’s “In the Morgue,” a drama, 3m; Bosworth Crocker’s “The Baby Carriage,” a drama, 2m2f + 3 boy extras; Frederic L. Day’s “The Slump,” a drama, 2m1f; Ernest Dowson’s “The Pierrot of the Minute,” a fantasy, 1m1f; Mrs. Havelock Ellis’ “The Subjection of Kezia,” a comedy, 2m1f; Hildegarde Flanner’s “Mansions,” a drama, 1m2f; Guiseppe Giacosa’s “The Rights of the Soul,” a drama, 2m2f; Isabella Augusta Gregory’s “The Workhouse Ward,” a farce, 2m1f; St. John Hankin’s “The Constant Lover,” a comedy, 1m1f; Theresa Helburn’s “Enter the Hero,” a comedy, 1m3f; Federico More’s “Interlude,” a comedy, 1m1f; Dhan Gopal Mukerji’s “The Judgment of Indra,” a drama, 4m + 2m extras; David Pinski’s “Forgotten Souls,” a comedy, 1m2f; Arthur Schnitzler’s “Literature,” a comedy, 2m1f; J. H. Speenhoff’s “Louise,” a drama, 2m2f; August Strindberg’s “The Creditor,” a drama, 2m1f + 1m waiter, 2f extras; Frank G. Tompkins’ “Sham,” a satire, 2m1f; Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s “Madonna Dianora,” a drama, 1m2f; Stuart Walker’s “The Medicine Show,” a comedy, 3m + f voice; Rita Wellman’s “For All Time,” a drama, 1m3f; and Percival Wilde’s “The Finger of God,” a drama, 2m1f);
• also in Arnold Bennett’s Polite Farces for the Drawing-Room, The Collected Works of Arnold Bennett series (New York: George H. Doran Company , LCCN 29-4506, and reprinted (Plainview, N.Y., Books for Libraries Press, 1975), ISBN 0518191478, containing and can pair with “A Question of Sex,” a play, 2m1f; or “The Stepmother,” a farce, 2m1f.
James (m), __, a War Office clerk, groom-to-be; Gerald (m), __, former suitor, suddenly returned; Rosamund (f), __, bride-to-be.
Three hours before her registry-office wedding to James, Rosamund, ready in her apartment with a neat travelling-dress and plain straw hat, dreads the immediate future. James, a War Office clerk, startles her by arriving against convention that bride and groom should spend the first part of the wedding day apart. She vacillates between being petulant and loving. His trained eye spots an incriminating postcard, which reads, “Shall come to-morrow night. Thine, Gerald.” Rosamund relates how she befriended an Irish lad four years her junior four years ago. He mistook friendship for love. She stalled responding to his proposal for four years. Anyway, he had to leave immediately for a four-year construction job in Cyprus. She had sort of forgotten until he surprised her with this postcard. There and then, Gerald arrives, completely unaware that this is her wedding day. Rosamund has James hide behind a screen (but visible to the audience). Gerald bubbles with news: he has done well, he has arranged a lunch at the Savoy, he has “something awfully important to ask.” She asks him to put onto the table the revolver he has been wearing in Cyprus. She demands he reveal the question and hears him glorify two girls. He wants her to tell him which to love. When she barely mentions his four-year-old pronounced love for her, he suddenly drops concern over the girls and professes again his love for her. James, unable to contain himself, burst forth sure that he has lost Rosamund. He demands Gerald shoot him. Instead, Gerald demands to be shot by James, who declines but does notice an unopened letter. Gerald retires behind the screen to write a note. At James’ insistence, Rosamund opens her letter and learns that a wedding witness, Lottie, has broken an ankle, which leaves the wedding a witness short. Rosamund sees this an a bad omen and declines to marry James. Further, although she loves James, she feels she must fulfill her implicit pledge to Gerald, make the sacrifice, and marry him. Gerald and James receive a directive lecture from Rosamund delivering these points. Gerald reveals that he has been writing a note to the one of the two aforementioned girls. As Gerald has determined to sacrifice himself to Miss Madge, he can now be the required second witness to the wedding of Rosamund and James. Then, he says, the three of them can use his lunch reservation at the Savoy before the honeymoon train departs at 1:30 from Dover en route to Paris. Rosamund toasts Madge. James toasts his own good woman, Rosamund, who has set everything aright.
Arnold Bennett, famous for his novels, had limited success a playwright, and this play from his youth is little known. “A Good Woman” faintly echoes the romantic triangle in Shaw’s “How He Lied to Her Husband” and the repartee of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Here is a farcical, witty piece that could still succeed with the right attention to style. It has numerous funny moments and comic character reversals. Rosamund pales next to the strong women of Ibsen, but she does clearly, albeit unselfconsciously, fit the tradition of female emancipation. Rights probably in public domain.
epistolography, friendship, gun, ritual, wedding.