University of Chicago Press
In January 1696, Colley Cibber’s first comedy, Love’s Last Shift; or, The Fool in Fashion, debuted to great success at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. The play was a hit and immediately entered the repertory, where it remained for decades. It inspired a sequel, John Vanbrugh’s The Relapse (1697), which debuted the following season and also became a stock play. Despite early audiences’ appreciation for Love’s Last Shift, however, modern critics have shown less enthusiasm. For scholars of British drama, the play is frequently a symbol of the shift from the rakish, witty, aristocratic comedies of the Restoration period to the moralistic, middle-class, domestic comedies of the eighteenth century; in short, it is often seen as marking the transition to the sentimental.Throughout most of the twentieth century, literary scholars—influenced, no doubt, by Alexander Pope’s portrait of Cibber as the Prince of Dulness in The Dunciad in Four Books (1743)—lambasted the play for its generic unevenness, accusing Cibber of demonstrating insincerity and opportunism in the attempt to suture a reform plot onto a sex comedy that would satisfy both aristocratic and middle-class audiences.
Burkert, Mattie, "“Virtue is as much debased as our Money”: Generic and Economic Instability in Love’s Last Shift" (2016). English Faculty Publications. Paper 788.