The Recruiting Officer

Gender in The Recruiting Officer 11th Grade

George Farquhar’s 1706 play The Recruiting Officer delves into the careers and personal antics of a male ensemble cast in Restoration era Shropshire. Among these men are the two competing officers Plume and Brazen, the tough Sergeant Kite, and the gentleman Worthy--all of whom, though very different in temperament, have one thing in common: corrupt motives. These men spend the better part of five acts plotting their way around the law and around general moral conduct, and they do so at the expense of others, most notably their female counterparts. The play is a comedy, and while his primary purpose may not have been to provoke social change, Farquhar certainly employed a conspicuous focus on gender as a basis of conflict and humor. And, as the corruption of the men contrasts so sharply with the exploitation of the women, the roles of female characters in The Recruiting Officer draw what most readers today would consider negative attention to men and to the conventional construct of male superiority.

The sexual objectification of females was unprecedented in neither life nor literature in 1706, but few playwrights broached the subject as forwardly and shamelessly as Farquhar. His male characters, particularly the promiscuous...

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