Venice Preserved

Thomas Otway

In republican Venice, conspiracy is brewing and the corrupt Senate faces insurrection. But even as the rebel Pierre plans his revolt he faces exposure by Jaffeir, his closest friend: married to Belvidera, a Senator’s daughter. Will Jaffeir betray his comrade for the sake of his wife? If you’re fi ghting a deceitful government, who comes fi rst – friend or lover?

Written in the aftermath of the Popish Plot of 1679, when scores of Catholics were executed on trumpedup charges of treason through the machinations of the ambitious Earl of Shaftesbury, Thomas Otway’s neglected Restoration masterpiece pits legislator against revolutionary, wife against husband, father against daughter and – above all – friend against friend.
Thomas OtwayOtway’s life, which lasted only thirty-three years, was passed in poverty and desperate circumstances. His fame did not bring him affluence – with his two main plays netting him only one hundred pounds apiece, he was forced to rely on patronage from wealthy aristocrats such as the Duchess of Portsmouth, Charles II’s flamboyant French mistress.

Trained as a scholar, Otway initially tried his fortunes as an actor. He was unsuccessful. Crippled by stage-fright during a production of Aphra Behn’s ‘The Jealous Bridegroom’, he turned instead to writing plays. Achieving success in 1680 with “The Orphan”, he was to find widespread fame with his masterpiece of 1682, ‘Venice Preserved’. Although‘Venice Preserved’ was to become the most popular play of the 18th century, its popularity came too late for Otway. He died in destitution in 1685.