Portal:Biography/Selected article/June 26

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Portrait of John Vanbrugh by Godfrey Kneller.

Sir John Vanbrugh was an English architect and dramatist, best known as the designer of Blenheim Palace. He wrote two argumentative and outspoken Restoration comedies, The Relapse (1696) and The Provoked Wife (1697), which have become enduring stage favourites but originally occasioned much controversy. Vanbrugh was in many senses a radical throughout his life. As a young man and a committed Whig, he was part of the scheme to overthrow James II, put William III on the throne and protect English parliamentary democracy, dangerous undertakings which landed him in the dreaded Bastille of Paris as a political prisoner. In his career as a playwright, he offended many sections of Restoration and 18th-century society, not only by the sexual explicitness of his plays, but by their messages in defence of women's rights in marriage. His architectural work was as bold and daring as his early political activism and his marriage-themed plays, and jarred conservative opinions on the subject. (Read more...)