From his first play, Love and a Bottle (1698), to the masterpiece that crowned his career, The BeauxStratagem (1707), George Farquhar's oeuvre is traversed by legal motifs and legal scenarios, from satirical attacks upon the judiciary, to serious engagements with the law of contract, in contexts as varied as military impressment and spousal neglect. The period that followed the accession of William and Mary, in 1688, and the Bill of Rights to which they assented in 1689, is commonly regarded as being governed by contractual relationships between rational individuals, entering into reciprocal obligations, pursuing their interests, while recognizing their natural rights. But Farquhar's comedies exhibit a conspicuous distrust of the legal profession, and of contract as a means of ensuring ethical solutions either to domestic or political conflicts. Farquhar's engagements with the law, in general, and the law of contracts, in particular, reorient drama away from the rights of the liberal subject, autonomously imagined, toward renewed conceptions of the social good, and the ethics of the community, replacing regulatory frameworks with emancipatory dispensations, in the benevolent comic spirit that characterizes his works.

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