John Fletcher

THE WILD–GOOSE CHASE

1621?

full synopsis available, click here
Go to "Notes of Interest"
Go to "Plays to be Compared"

BELLEUR

Friend of Mirabel, in love with Rosalura. Shares Mirabel's love of women and freedom, but quickly finds himself in love with Rosalura, whom he initially mistakes for a meek and timid, albeit potentially fruitful, maid. He discovers, however, in a private conversation that, like her sister, her real personality differs greatly from her public face: rather than a meek and timid young woman, she is actually strong willed and shrewish. Belleur falls more deeply in love, however, and vows to woo her. Later, after her shrewish nature causes him to be publicly humiliated, he threatens her, insisting she become more submissive. After being further abused by her, he ultimately agrees to marry her once she has seen the error of her ways and agrees to be a good, submissive wife.

DE GARD

De Gard is the brother of Oriana. Upon returning from a three year trip to Italy, he discovers that his sister is pursuing Mirabel, a notorious gentleman who prides himself in seduction and the avoidance of marriage and in whose home she has been living, under the protection of La Castre. Despite De Gard's protestations, Oriana remains steadfast in her pursuit of Mirabel. In an attempt to guard his sister's reputation, he challenges Mirabel to a duel, but later decides to hatch a plan with Lugier which will trick Mirabel into loving his sister. His disguise as a wealthy lord pent on wooing Oriana is revealed by a servant who tells Mirabel of his real identity, and Lugier's plan is destroyed.

LA CASTRE

Mirabel's father. In De Gard's three year absence, has protected and given a home to Oriana. He desires that Mirabel marry, and strongly argues that Mirabel choose from among Nantolet's two daughters, Rosalura and Lillia-Bianca.

LILLIA–BIANCA

Daughter of Nantolet. Lillia-Bianca falls in love with Pinac, but later, after quarrelling with him, acts as if she is giving up on Pinac and wishes him a happy life with Mariana; however, as part of a plot devised by Lugier, she reveals to him that Mariana is, in fact, a prostitute who has had relations with Mirabel. In the conclusion of the play, she accepts Pinac's marriage proposal.

LUGIER

Tutor to Rosalura, Lillia-Bianca and Oriana. Along with his students and De Gard, he hatches a plan which will allow all the women to marry the men of their choice. He disguises himself as a servant to a wealthy lord in love with Oriana. The plan causes Mirabel to reassess Oriana and vow to marry her, at least until the identity of De Gard is revealed. Lugier has another plan, however, which again involves all three ladies. As part of this plan, Oriana pretends she is dying due to her love for Mirabel; Mirabel, however, sees through the act and again vows to never marry her, adding that he will do so only if she can trick him once more. Taking the challenge, Lugier devises the final trick, disguising Oriana as a rich heiress whose brother's life was once saved by Mirabel and who has now inherited her brother's fortune and wishes to marry Mirabel. He falls for the trick and therefore must marry Oriana in the end. In the concluding moments of the play, Lugier admits to his role in the action.

MARIANA

An English Courtesan. A beautiful woman with whom Mirabel, Pinac and Belleur are immediately taken, much to the jealousy of Lillia-Bianca and Rosalura. In reality she is a prostitute, and when this is revealed, Pinac immediately loses his interest in her.

TWO MERCHANTS

Involved in Lugier's final plot to trick Mirabel.

MIRABEL

The Wild-Goose. Taking pride in his ability to seduce maids and avoid marriage, he resists his father's attempts at matching him with his choice of Nantolet's daughters. If he must marry, he insists it be with an experienced woman such as a widow. He makes it very clear, however, that he does not love Oriana, at least until he discovers, in a plot hatched by Lugier and his young students, Rosalura, Lillia-Bianca and Oriana, that a young (and rich) nobleman has taken a fancy to her, at which point he becomes infatuated and declares his intention to marry her, only to discover the plot created by Lugier. In another plot hatched by Lugier, in which Oriana pretends to be dying out of love for him, he again sees through the fašade and ironically declares that if she can trick him a third time, he will marry her. She succeeds, with the help of Lugier, in tricking him a third time, by pretending again to be a rich heiress, and he agrees to marry her, claiming he knew it was a trick all along.

NANTOLET

Rosalura and Lillia-Bianca's father.

ORIANA

In love with Mirabel. After failing to win his love, despite three years of trying, agrees to a series of tricks devised by Lugier, the second of which involves her acting as if she is dying of love for Mirabel. When this fails, she participates in Lugier's third and final trick, disguising herself as a rich heiress desirous of Mirabel's love. This final trick wins him over, namely because he has vowed to marry her if she can trick him a third time, and they marry in the conclusion of the play.

PETELLA

Waiting woman to Lillia-Bianca and Rosalura.

PINAC

Friend of Mirabel who is in love with Lillia-Bianca. Like Mirabel and Belleur, loves women and freedom, but finds himself quickly in love with Lillia-Bianca, who he mistakes for an angry and lustful young maid. He soon discovers that instead she is a merry and happy young woman; this discovery only makes him love her more deeply. He temporarily loses her when he shows an interest in Mariana, but later realizes who Mariana is and returns his affections to Lillia-Bianca, whom he marries at play's end.

PRIEST

Mute character

ROSALURA

Daughter of Nantolet. In love with Belleur, but after he discovers her true shrewish nature, he abandons her. Out of love for him, along with Lugier, she devises a scheme to win him back, mainly by abusing him to the point where he learns to respect women. Along with a group of four other women, she threatens him at knife point, forcing him to pledge not to disrespect women. The plan backfires and he again abandons her, only to accept her at the end of play when she vows to be an obedient wife.

FOUR WOMEN

Along with Lilia-Bianca, torment Belleur at knife point, forcing him to run away.

YOUNG MAN

Disguised as a merchant. Helps convince Mirabel of the existence of the rich heiress, actually Oriana, in the final plot devised by Lugier.

Synopsis:

I.i: De Gard, brother of Oriana, returns from a long journey with his footboy. He sends his boy to set a table for Mirabel, who is soon to return. He meets Mirabel's father, La Castre, and tells him that his son and son's companions are soon to be home from their wanderings in Italy. La Castre hopes Mirabel has learned temperance in his travels.

De Gard meets his sister Oriana, whom he left in La Castre's care at her request. She wanted to be with La Castre because she secretly loves Mirabel. She is resolute and virtuous in her admiration of Mirabel and means to marry him.

I.ii: Mirabel and his two companions, Pinac and the fat Belleur, enter and talk bawdily about women, whom they compare to good food and drink or to livestock. Mirabel knows La Castre will try to get him married, but he is determined not to marry and give up his freedom. He is a traveler and intends to remain so.

I.iii: La Castre has planned with his neighbor Nantolet to try to interest Mirabel in one of Nantolet's two daughters-Rosalura or Lillia Bianca. Again women are treated as livestock to be traded. Lugier, the girls' tutor, is very proud of the learning he has given his charges (he's a bit of a fool, though he has wit).

Mirabel enters arguing with Oriana that he will not love her. La Castre tries to interest Mirabel in some woman; he is fearful of not having a grandson and future heir. Rosalura appears too saucy and libidinous. Lillia Bianca appears too demure and spiritual. Mirabel abjures both. Bellura, however, is much taken with the bawdy-talking Rosalura. Pinac, also, falls for the virtuous and scholarly Lillia Bianca. Oriana does not give up hope of catching Mirabel.

II.i: Mirabel gives up his interest in Rosalura and Lillia Bianca to Belleur and Pinac, going so far as to promise to help them win their women. Both gentlemen are bashful about the prospect. Oriana again confronts Mirabel, and he again rejects her. He shows her a book of his "conquests." She leaves weeping. When De Gard enters to ask what Mirabel has done to upset his sister, Mirabel says that she cries because he will not put her in his book of conquests. De Gard bristles at the suggestion and warns Mirabel against dishonoring her.

II.ii: Pinac comes to Nantolet's house to try to woo Lillia Bianca. He fears he will not be smart or sober enough for her. She enters, though, completely changed in demeanor. She has him dance with her vigorously; she gossips with him about people he does not know, mistakes him for a serving man (hurting his feelings), and finally grows tired of him and leaves him humiliated. Mirabel, having watched, is glad to have escaped her.

II.iii: Rosalura tries to comfort Oriana in her grief over Mirabel. Mirabel enters with Belleur, telling him that Pinac has succeeded with Lillia Bianca. Belleur approaches Rosalura and, taking a cue from the last time he saw her, talks bawdily to her. She, like her sister, has changed. She flouts him scornfully for insulting her. Mirabel sees that she, too, is a dissembling hypocrite. After she leaves, Belleur, mad with his shame, threatens to beat any man he sees laughing just in case they might be laughing at his humiliation. Mirabel takes him away, promising to help him to win Rosalura yet.

III.i: Lugier plots with De Gard and the ladies how to trap their gentlemen. The two daughters of Nantolet rebuke Lugier for misdirecting them how to make men love them. He tells them that he has a trick to catch them. They agree to be ruled by him. Oriana also fits into his scheme. Rosalura and Lillia Bianca both confess they like the men that have come wooing them.

Mirabel enters and speaks bawdily, obscenely, to Rosalura. He reproaches Lillia Bianca for flouting his friend. He tells the ladies that Pinac has fallen in love with a foreign lady of great wealth. Pinac enters with the disguised Mariana. Lillia Bianca grows jealous but restrains herself and pretends indifference. Belleur enters railing at two gentlemen whom he found laughing. He makes them swear never to laugh again and chases them away. He turns his fury on Rosalura, who melts at his onslaught, and finally runs away for fear with Lillia Bianca. Mirabel laughs with Belleur that the ruse has worked and the women are theirs.

Lugier enters disguised as a gentleman and tells Mirabel that a great but rowdy lord has taken Oriana with a view toward marrying her. When Oriana enters with De Gard disguised as the lord, Mirabel grows jealous and sees new worth in Oriana. A servant, though, who was lately beaten by Lugier, exposes the trick to Mirabel, who takes no time in unmasking the impostor. Oriana decides to try another trick.

IV.i: Lugier leads Lillia Bianca to Pinac's door. There she waits in an abject mood for him to return. When he does, she swears penitence and wishes to serve him in his wedding to the fair foreign woman. She swears she loves him and would marry him in an instant if she could. Pinac says he will prefer her to the foreigner. Lillia laughs at having unmasked his ruse, tells him she knows the foreign woman is Mariana, the whore in disguise, and leaves him humiliated. She tells him to be manlier next time he comes wooing her. Mirabel assures Pinac that he has another trick to catch her.

IV.ii: Lugier sets up Rosalura to unmask Belleur. When Belleur meets her in the street, he roars at her. She reacts by demurely acquiescing to all of his demands. Finally, when she can no longer keep from laughing, she calls for her women. Lillia and three maids enter brandishing knives, make a fool of Belleur, and send him off in humiliation. Rosalura tells Belleur to be manlier when next he comes wooing her. Belleur in contrition decides that everyone should laugh at him. He meets the hapless two gentlemen again and orders them to laugh at him, which they reluctantly do. He also has them kick him.

IV.iii: Mirabel is sent for to come to Nantolet's house. There he meets De Gard and the two daughters. Oriana it seems has run mad for love of Mirabel. Belleur warns him not to trust the tricks of women. When Mirabel sees her distracted he pities her. Oriana gestures for all but Mirabel to leave the room. She then tells Mirabel that she is only pretending to be mad in order to be with him. He shouts down her dissembling. The others re-enter glad to see she is not distracted indeed, but the ruse has failed to win Mirabel. Mirabel commends Belleur for being savvy to the tricks of women. Lugier promises that his next trick will catch the men surely.

V.i: De Gard and Lugier plan the trap.

V.ii: Mirabel, Pinac, and Belleur have decided that they have had enough foolishness in France and will go traveling again. La Castre tries to persuade Mirabel to reconsider, but he will not. Mirabel does agree to bid the ladies farewell.

A boy disguised as a factor enters to tell Mirabel that an Italian merchant whose life Mirabel once saved has left him a fortune. The merchant's beautiful sister, who is also bequeathed to Mirabel in the will, brings the fortune. Mirabel is interested.

V.iii: Lugier draws the daughters into the plot. Both Rosalura and Lillia Bianca are weary of playing cat and mouse with the men they love for fear they have already lost them, but they agree to abide by the trick.

V.iv: Mirabel sees Oriana disguised as the merchant's wealthy sister. She is on a balcony. He falls in love with her at once. Rosalura and Lillia are taken to wait upon the fine lady. They are surprised when they learn she is Oriana, her disguise is so perfect.

V.v: Mirabel returns to the fine lady's house with Pinac and Belleur-the latter gentlemen are there to bid their good-byes to the two daughters of Nantolet.

V.vi: Mirabel is given a casket of fine jewels, ostensibly from the Italian merchant. Rosalura decides to go with Belleur on his travels, and Lillia decides also to accompany Pinac. The gentlemen despair of ever ridding themselves of their tormentors. Belleur again admonishes Mirabel to beware the tricks of women. But Mirabel is so smitten by the fine lady that he proposes marriage on the spot. Oriana unmasks and accepts him. Mirabel hints that he knew it was she all along and is happy to go through with the marriage. The gentlemen decide to marry the daughters as well. All leave for church. Belleur thinks it is better to forsake a trip to Italy for a tour of the "Low Countries." And thus the play ends.

Characterization:

Mirabel is the rebellious son who will not let his freedom go in order to marry, even at his father's request.

Oriana is the Fletcherian girl insofar as she is virtuous, sentimental, and resolute of purpose in her romantic exploits. She does not scruple to win her man by deceit, fraud, and trickery.

Rosalura is a bit bawdy. She can feign indignation at scurrility when it suits her purposes, but she is really a rather free-liver.

Lillia Bianca is the more studious girl, though she can be caustic and sharp-witted when she needs to be. Both sisters are after a husband.

Lugier is something of a fool though not an idiot. He is officious and pushy. He believes he is correct in his way to catch a husband for his pupils, and his ruse finally does work, though many fail first.

De Gard is a noble young man with a sense of family honor. He is willing to dissemble in order to assist his sister Oriana to win Mirabel.

Pinac is a little shy about meeting the woman he thinks is his ideal, but once put down he does not scruple to fight fire with fire by pretending to love the great foreign lady Mariana.

Belleur is positively bashful about meeting his ideal woman, the upshot being that when he is humiliated he reacts violently. He is described as "fat".

Go Back to Top

Notes of Interest:

This is a COMEDY OF INTRIGUE.

Disguises and pretense play an important role here. A brief summary of disguises is as follows:

  • De Gard: The rowdy lord lover of Oriana.
  • Lugier: The rowdy lord's servant.
  • Young Man: a factor.
  • Mariana: The fine foreign woman lover of Pinac.
  • Oriana: The fine woman-sister to the Italian merchant as well as the distracted Oriana.
  • Rosalura and Lillia Bianca: Rakes, coquettes, and sober scholarly girls. Contrite lovers of Pinac and Belleur. Waiting women to the fine Italian lady.
  • Pinac: Lover to the fine foreign woman.
  • Belleur: A roaring gentleman.
  • Two Gentlemen: Disguised as merchants for Oriana's last ruse as the fine Italian lady.
Love and courtship in this play are viewed as a game, a business arrangement, and sexual exploits. Women are merchandise for exchange: food and wine, livestock to be appreciated and/or used as necessity dictates. In the end, however, true love wins out-that is, Oriana's type of romantic love.

The view of Italy here is quite different from those views found in the blood tragedies and in some of the comedies of Marston. Here Italy is seen as the perfect place, where the ideal woman dwells-that is, the woman who is lusty and who does not play foolish games to catch a man in marriage. But this view is that of the lusty young gallants who are, to be sure, not to be trusted as disinterested parties. Their view of Italy and Italian women are very likely warped by their own libidinous natures.

This play, designed for a coterie audience at the second Blackfriars, is bawdier and more sophisticated than the popular stage plays of the same time. It hints at the Restoration Comedies of Manners with its examination of male/female relationships in a closed, upper-class society of wealth and privilege.

The types of tricks played are not overly varied:

  • Mirabel tries to make Lillia jealous of Pinac with Mariana just as Lugier tries to make Mirabel jealous of Oriana with the rowdy Italian lord.
  • Belleur's pretended bravura and mental instability at Rosalura's rejection is not unlike Oriana's pretended distraction at Mirabel's rejection.
The difference is the women see through the disguises, calling the bluffs of both Pinac and Belleur while the men, denser creatures that they are, must be told of the deception. Mirabel is disillusioned first by a disgruntled servant and second by Oriana herself. Another interesting note is that all of the tricks work up to a point. That is, they each achieve some significant degree of success at first.

Plays to be compared:

Shirley's The Lady of Pleasure (for a line echo at I.i in WGC referring to Lucrece killing herself because she couldn't have more of Tarquin, rather than for any virtuous shame she felt at the rape);

Marston's The Fawn (for a echo of the Zuccone sub-plot there with III.i here);

Middleton and Rowley's A Fair Quarrel (for the bequeathing of one's sister at one's death for a friend to marry).

Go Back to Top