a synopsis of the play by Thomas Heywood

This document was originally published in Minute History of the Drama. Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 55.

MISTRESS ANNE FRANKFORD is a paragon of grace, beauty and all wifely virtues, while her husband, Master John, is kindness itself and deeply in love with his new wife. All this augers well for a long and happy married life. But Master Frankford foolishly takes into his household Master Wendoll, an impoverished gentleman to whom he has taken a liking. Master Wendoll is unable to resist the charms of his friend's wife and persuades her to accept him as a lover.

Meanwhile, Mistress Frankford's brother, Sir Francis Acton, quarrels with Sir Charles Mountford over a wager. In the heat of anger, Sir Charles kills two of Sir Francis' men and is thrown into prison. It takes his entire patrimony, excepting only the family estate to pay damages and win release. Even then the murder charge still hangs over him.

One, Cramwell, pretending friendship, offers Sir Charles a sum of money to rehabilitate his fortunes. This gift turns out to be merely a ruse to force Sir Charles to sell the estate. When he refuses, yet cannot return Cromwell's money, he is again put in irons.

Meanwhile, Sir Francis has fallen in love with Sir Charles' sister, Susan. She, however, scorns both his addresses and his proffers of help. Although he cannot forward his suit with the lady, Sir Francis magnanimously pays all Sir Charles' debts and drops the charge of murder. When investigation shows Sir Charles to whom he owes his release, he persuades his sister to pay his obligations by offering Sir Francis her honor, never dreaming Sir Francis would accept a dowerless bride. When Sir Francis refuses to take Susan except as his wife, she is feign to relent and love him for his generous spirit. Thus the two families are reconciled.

Meanwhile, of course, Master Frankford discovers his wife's infidelity and banishes her from his sight to one of his manors several miles away. Here she has all the material comforts but starves herself to death in remorse. Just before she dies, her brother and his bride, with other mutual friends, persuade Master Frankford to see his wife once more. Convinced of the sincerity of her repentance, he acknowledges her again as his wife, and all agree that it was his extreme kindness that showed her the enormity of her offense and made her resolve to kill herself. As a final token of esteem her husband promises a tribute of his forgiveness on her gravestone.

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