London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, 1694. 4to. [viii], 79,  pp. FIRST EDITION. Full calf in an antique, Oxford-style binding; some foxing on endpapers and title page. Overall a very handsome copy. Item #17458
First edition of Southerne’s highly popular play, The Fatal Marriage. Anticipating eighteenth-century domestic tragedy while weaving comedic turns throughout the sentimental drama, the main character, Isabella, remarries after believing her husband to be dead. Mislead and betrayed by her former in-laws, her husband, Biron, is indeed alive. Driven mad, Isabella commits suicide and Biron is murdered by his brother. As noted in the dedication, the play was loosely based off the 1689 book The History of the Nun, or The Fair Vow-Breaker by Aphra Behn. Southerne’s other most well-known work, Oroonoko, was also based on a Behn novel. A second edition was printed later the same year, distinguished by the word “death” included on line 6 of page 25 of the first printing (as here), and removed in the later printing.
Southerne (1660–1746) was an Irish-born dramatist who specialized in tragedies. The Fatal Marriage was his first theatrical success, and defied typical genre boundaries. His style remained extremely influential well into the eighteenth century. Isabella was first played by Elizabeth Barry (as listed in this edition) and later became a major success of Sarah Siddons.