The Circle (play)

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The Circle: a Comedy in Three Acts is a play by W. Somerset Maugham that premiered at Haymarket, London on 3 March 1921, with a cast including Fay Compton, Allan Aynesworth and Ernest Thesiger.[1] It is a comedy of manners that has been described as "a rewrite of Lady Windermere's Fan a quarter of a century later in a post World War I atmosphere."[2]

1921 Broadway cast, L-R: Robert Rendel, John Drew, Estelle Winwood, Mrs. Leslie Carter, Maxine MacDonald, and John Halliday

Premise[edit]

The action of the play takes place over a single day at Aston-Adey, a stately home in Dorset. The protagonists are:

  • Arnold Champion-Cheney, M.P., a man of about thirty-five
  • Elizabeth, his wife
  • Clive Champion-Cheney, Arnold's father
  • Lady Catherine Champion-Cheney, Arnold's mother
  • Lord Porteous, current husband of Lady Catherine Champion-Cheney
  • Edward Luton, a planter in the Federated Malay States

At the beginning of the play, the house-proud Arnold Champion-Cheney is dreading the first visit of his mother and her new husband, who left England for Italy under the shadow of a scandal after divorcing his father many years before. Arnold's wife, Elizabeth, is looking forward to meeting Lady Catherine, who she sees as a romantic figure for having sacrificed her social position in England for love.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth is tempted to repeat history by eloping with Teddy Luton, a friend of her husband, aware that in doing so she would be sacrificing a comfortable life in England for the probable hardships of life as a planter's wife in Malaya.

Reception[edit]

The Circle was "the first of Maugham's plays to be booed".[3] However, it received glowing reviews from the critics and was wildly successful commercially, bringing in $20,000 a week during its run in New York.[4] Louis Kronenberger hailed it as "one of the very few creditable high comedies written in English in the 20th century".

Adaptations[edit]

The play was adapted for the cinema as The Circle (1925 film).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Morgan, Ted (1980). Somerset Maugham. London: Jonathan Cape. p. 254. ISBN 0224018132.
  2. ^ Heilman, Robert Bechtold (1978). The Ways of the World: Comedy and Society. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 115. ISBN 0-295-95587-2. Retrieved 2 October 2017 – via Questia. (Subscription required (help)).
  3. ^ Morgan, Ted (1980). Somerset Maugham. London: Jonathan Cape. p. 254. ISBN 0224018132.
  4. ^ Hastings, Selina (2010). The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham. London: John Murray. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-7195-6555-7.

External links[edit]