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st. patrick's day

9 november 2023

St. Patrick's Day is a short farce, written (Wikipedia tells me) by Richard Brinsley Sheridan for the actor Laurence Clinch, who had scored a hit as Sir Lucius O'Trigger in The Rivals. If it's a throwaway piece, it has a couple of amusing character ideas, and a promising if silly main plot idea.

That plot idea recalls one from The Rivals, where it involved Jack Absolute, not Sir Lucius. The hero disguises himself as someone lower in class to gain access to his lover. Jack Absolute pretended to be an officer; in St. Patrick's Day the "scheming lieutenant" O'Conner pretends to be a servant named Humphrey Hum.

The best characters are a doctor named Rosy, who keeps bewailing the loss of his late wife, and Lauretta, O'Conner's lover, who is headstrong and impertinent.

The main action is well set up, but doesn't really deliver. Once "Humphrey Hum" is installed in the household of Justice Credulous (Lauretta's overprotective father), he doesn't do much except kiss Lauretta and get unmasked. Balked of the direct approach, O'Conner (on Dr. Rosy's advice) pretends to poison Credulous – who, true to his name, collapses in a fit of hypochondria. Then O'Conner comes back in, re-disguised as a miracle-working physician, and "saves" Credulous from the "poison." Boy gets girl and all live happily ever after.

The best thing in the play is probably a character name interjected by one of O'Conner's soldiers: "General Deluge." Sheridan didn't have quite enough material to make this a really good farce, but he had something going.

Sheridan, Richard Brinsley. St. Patrick's Day, or, The scheming lieutenant. 1775. In The Plays of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. London: Oxford University Press, 1964. 105-135.