George Farquhar

Darling of Restoration comedy

George Farquhar is one of Derry’s most famous sons of the theatre. He was born in the city, educated at the Free Grammar School and is thought to have been present during the Siege of 1689.

Whilst at Trinity College, Dublin, Farquhar decided upon an actor’s life - a radical departure from the long line of clergymen from which he came. These aspirations came to an abrupt end when, in a somewhat over-enthusiastic performance, he ran a sword into a fellow actor in Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre. He left for London at this point and rarely visited Ireland again.

Encouraged to write by an actor friend named Wilkes, Farquhar published Love and a Bottle in 1698. The Constant Couple or A Trip to the Jubilee, a satire on the pilgrimages to Rome in Jubilee Year, followed in 1699. It was from this play that Harry Wildair, the most popular character of the Restoration stage, emerged.

The playwright went on to write Sir Harry Wildair (1701), Business and Love, containing 'The Discourse on Comedy '(1702) in which he defended the English stage against classical charges of neglecting the Aristotelian three unities, The Inconstant (1702), after Fletcher’s Wilde Goose Chase, The Twin Rivals (1702), The Stage Coach (1704), a one-act farce and The Recruiting Officer (1706). Farquhar married Margaret Pennell in 1703 but later left her and her three children from a previous marriage. The playwright’s friend, Wilkes, helped finance his last play; The Beaux’ Stratagem (1707), completed just before his death in 1707, possibly of TB.

Farquhar is considered one of the best playwrights of Restoration Comedy. The Recruiting Officer and The Beaux’ Stratagem are considered masterpieces of the period. His influence is enduring – some 200 years after it was written Brecht was to use The Recruiting Officer as the basis for his play Pauken und Trompeten.