The Circle (play)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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


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.


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".


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


  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]