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A programme printed on silk for a performance of Rule a Wife and Have a Wife in Jersey on 20 December 1809

Rule a Wife and Have a Wife is a late Jacobean stage play, a comedy written by John Fletcher. It was first performed in 1624 and first published in 1640.

The play was licensed for performance by Sir Henry Herbert, the Master of the Revels, on Oct. 19, 1624. It was performed by the King's Men, who performed it at Court twice in that season. The 1640 quarto was printed at Oxford by Leonard Lichfield, the printer to the University of Oxford. It was later reprinted in the second Beaumont and Fletcher folio of 1679. It was revived in the Restoration era in an adaptation, like many of Fletcher's plays; the revised version was printed in 1697 and repeatedly thereafter, and proved to be among the dramatist's most popular works.[1]

External evidence, including Herbert's entry in his records and the 1640 quarto, assigns the play to Fletcher alone. The play's internal evicence of style and textual preferences confirms Fletcher's solo authorship: "Fletcher's sole responsibility for it has never been questioned."[2]


  • Michael Perez, the "Copper Captain"
  • Donna Margarita, the heiress
  • Estifania, Margarita's maid and Perez' wife
  • Leon, Altea's brother
  • Don Juan de Castro
  • Duke of Medina
  • Sanchio
  • Alonzo
  • Altea, gentlewoman to Margarita
  • Cacafogo
  • Lorenzo
  • Donna Clara
  • Old woman
  • Maid
  • Servant
  • Coachman

Act I

Scene I: Perez and Juan are discussing the state of the regiment looking for recruitment. There is mention of Don Leon as a soldier of little experience and good, happy disposition. There is also mention of Donna Margaretta, of how good a match she would make for any man, especially for Perez. Two women walk in. Both are veiled and one, Clara, takes Juan aside and asks him to send a letter to a fellow soldier at the front. Her companion, Estefania, stays to entertain Perez. Piquing his curiosity, he begs her to take off her veil. She does not comply. She leaves but tells Perez to let his servant follow her in order that Perez can visit her.

Scene II: Sancho and Alonzo, two soldiers, discuss about returning to the front. Alonzo is not very motivated to return, as he prefers the company of women. There is mention of Donna Margarita, of a house that she bought in Seville.

Scene III: The servant arrives at Estifania's house and marvels at the luxury of it.

Scene IV: Three old ladies wonder what they were sent for. They describe Donna Margarita as a wise young lady. Altea enters and tells them they are here for counsel as to her marriage.

Scene V: Juan and Leon meet. Juan evaluates him as a simple man, but some of his answers lead him to believe he is just playing dumb. Banter between Cacafogo, Alonzo and Leon as to assess the substance of Leon. Alonzo concludes that he is a coward and advises Juan to turn him away.

Scene VI: Perez and Estefania meet in her house for the first time. Perez sees her face and is very pleased. He comments on the luxury of the house. The question of maidenhood arises, with regards as to desires and criteria for a husband. A manipulation game is played between both of them as they are each looking to marry above their social class. They discuss what each could offer and thus conclude that a marriage would be advandageous. They exit on lascivious banter.


  1. ^ Alfred Claghorn Potter, A Bibliography of Beaumont and Fletcher, Cambridge, MA, Library of Harvard University, 1890; pp. 13-14.
  2. ^ E. H. C. Oliphant, The Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1927; p. 146.

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External links

2 Annotations

Bill  •  Link

This Comedy was the sole production of Fletcher, and one of the last written by him. According to Sir William Herbert's office-book, it was licenced for exhibition the 19th of October, 1624, about a year before the poet's death. The first edition was printed in quarto, in the year 1640, with the following title: "Rule a Wife and Have a Wife. A Comedy. Acted by his Majesties Servants. Written by John Fletcher, Gent. Oxford, Printed by Leonard Lichfield, Printer to the University. Anno 1640."
---The works of Beaumont and Fletcher. 1812.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


  • Apr


  • Feb