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Lady's Not for Burning, The

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Knole Kent to Mary Lavin Biography

a play by Christopher Fry, first performed in 1948. Set in a small English town in 1400 ‘either more or less or exactly’, this involves Thomas Mendip, a profoundly disillusioned soldier who unsettles the local authorities by demanding to be hanged, and Jennet Jourdemayne, a scientifically minded young woman sentenced to die as a witch. Thanks to the feelings of love she excites in him, her growing awareness of the complexity and mystery of God's world, and the reappearance of the rag-and-bone merchant he claims to have murdered and she is accused of bewitching, both end up saved: he from despair, she from both the pyre and her exorbitant rationalism. The principal conflicts are between death or the death-wish and the life-force, and between the emotionally exceptional and the dull and mundane, represented by a bureaucratic mayor, his domestically minded sister, and her son, a town councillor ‘respectable on the surface and lustful below’; and both are resolved positively, in verse whose metaphoric verve itself reflects the play's optimistic tenor.

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