The Man of Mode

Spectacles and Pitfalls of Performance in The Man of Mode College

George Etherege’s The Man of Mode criticizes the rakish society in which it is set, yet is more critical of the foolishness and desperation that women display in pursuit of romantic love, as by-products of the rakish ideals. In particular, Bellinda and Mrs. Loveit employ performance and deception in romantic pursuits and become disempowered spectacles as a result. Although various characters exhibit theatrical behaviors in the play, these women fall victim to their own theatricality, as their deliberate performances within the narrative make them into central spectacles of the criticisms embodied by the play.

Bellinda and Dorimant set the play off with corresponding acts of deceptive performance culminating in eventual unequal degrees of censure for their actions. When Bellinda deceives Mrs. Loveit first through pretending to think Mrs. Loveit was the vizard entertaining Dorimant at the theatre the previous night, she stages the interaction with fluid conversation, directing it in such a way that Mrs. Loveit is unnecessarily distraught. This cruelty is heightened by the fact that Bellinda stresses Dorimant’s treatment of the “mask” was “with more respect than the gallants do a common vizard” and that both Bellinda and Dorimant...

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