The Provoked Wife by John Vanbrugh

The Provoked Wife by John Vanbrugh

The role of Sir John Brute in Vanbrugh's Restoration comedy The Provok'd Wife was one of David Garrick's best comic roles. The coarse humour of Restoration drama was no longer considered acceptable in Garrick's day (he first played the part in 1744) so the play and its characters had been adapted somewhat. In the original version, first staged in 1697, Brute is, as his name suggests a violent lout. Garrick's predecessor James Quin had played the part as an 'ill natured, surly swine of a fellow'. Garrick made him a mischievous but charming villain, 'a joyous, agreeable, wicked dog'. There were two much loved comic scenes involving Brute. In one, he returns home rolling drunk, which Garrick played to perfection, his wig lopsided, barely able to speak or stay awake. The second had Brute in drag, pretending to be his wife. A spectator wrote that Garrick was 'perfectly versed in the exercise of the fan, the lips ... and even the minutest conduct of the finger'.