First performed by The King's Company in London in 1673, Marriage à la Mode is usually regarded as John Dryden’s most successful and famous comedy. The play engages two distinct storylines to create a tragicomedy in which the comic plot about two friends pursuing the other’s lover underscores the more dramatic thread involving a usurper to the throne’s discovery of his daughter in love with a forbidden suitor. Both narrative reaches the same thematic end with the rightful heir restored just as all the rightful lovers go back to their original partners.
The play’s esteem derives not from any originality in plot or character, but rather because it is with this play that Dryden reaches the height of his talents for witty repartee and the seamless integration of his talent for creating masques. The play is very much of a product of its time as and serves as comprehensive example of what Restoration comedy was like. Since Restoration comedy is in many ways antithetical to all aspects of contemporary theater, Marriage à la Mode is far more likely to be studied in a classroom than performed on stage.
The twin narratives converge thematically by the end, but only after diverging significantly in the attitude they present toward love. The more dramatic plot is laced with idealism while the comic plot gains much of its humor from counterpointing this outmoded way of thinking with character espousing cynical opinions toward the concept of grand romantic love such as that experienced by the daughter of the usurper and the son of his predecessor.