The Relapse, or, Virtue in Danger is a play that was first performed in 1696. It is a Restoration comedy that was written by John Vanbrugh. Vanbrugh wrote this work as a sequel to Colley Cibber’s Love’s Last Shift, or the Fool in Fashion. Cibber’s work was another Restoration work that is centered on a rake that has been brought back to morality by his wife. However, The Relapse tells of how that same rake falls to temptation again and has a love affair with another woman, and though the wife is also seduced, she is able to resist it.
The author, John Vanbrugh, was an English architect and playwright who designed Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard and wrote two Restoration comedy, one of which is The Relapse and the other is The Provoked Wife. Though both works are highly appreciated today, they were quite controversial during that tie. He was also a radical and a Whig, and he was outspoken in his support of women’s rights, and his plays were often sexually explicit. However, his architectural and dramatic accomplishments were quite significant, and Vanbrugh was knighted in 1714.
The Relapse was almost never performed, as, during that time, the two biggest theatre companies in London were fighting over actors, and Vanbrugh had written The Relapse for the actors at Drury Lane. The two companies were bribing actors to come to the other company, and Drury Lane almost collapsed. Thankfully, the first performance of The Relapse was immensely successful, Vanbrugh’s intentions for the play were fulfilled, and Drury Lane was saved from bankruptcy.