Published on December 6th, 2012 | by Key Reads0
The Witlings: An Underrated, Satiric Play on False Wits
The Witlings Never Get The Joke
The Witlings by Frances (Fanny) Burney. Oh, you haven’t heard of this play? Nor even the author? Of course you haven’t heard of The Witlings it was never published or performed until 1994 and it was written more than 230 years ago in 1779. But it’s good. Very good. It’s a funny comedy, no don’t laugh, it’s true, some comedies just, well, aren’t funny. But if you like Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde you’ll enjoy this play.
The Witlings is about people who think they are well-read and intelligent, but who really can’t form their own opinions. They also can’t ever seem to ascribe the correct author to the quotations they use. It’s extremely funny to someone who actually pays attention to that kind of thing (I’m getting my MA in English Literature, I kind of have to follow the authors).
The Witlings, I’ll have to be honest here, reminds me a lot of college students who I have met. They seem to always have something to say, but never know where their ideas come from. All of the characters’ personalities reflect their names’ meanings; Mr. Dabler (one not deeply engaged in or concerned with something; he dabbles in poetry), Mr. Codger (An elderly man, one who is old-fashioned or eccentric), and Mr. Censor (a person who supervises conduct and morals: he won’t let foolish people run the town). The Witlings is a world where social forms rule the world instead of sensibility.