Hannah Cowley’s The Belle’s Stratagem

Written by:

Gyllian Raby

Cast Size:

Roles For:

  • Men: 10
  • Women: 6




120 min.

Year Written:



Hannah Cowley’s The Belle’s Stratagem drags 18th century London into Rob Ford’s Toronto, mocking romance, the city, and other first world problems. A new adaptation by Gyllian Raby and Nicholas Leno makes Cowley’s characters the super-rich kids of Yonge and Bloor, as well as rappers and spoken word artists.

Cowley’s hit comedy of 1783 demonstrated “how to get your man and keep him.” This production frames her outspoken, funny heroines within 21st century culture and grapples with the conundrum that they have quite a lot in common with contemporary women who obsess over romance. (From the Brock University Website)


Letitia Hardy / Doricourt / Mrs. Racket / Mr. Hardy / Lady Frances Touchwood / Sir George Touchwood / Courtall / Saville / Miss Ogle / Mr. Flutter / Dick / Kitty Willis / Silver / Michel / Councilman Squander / Dance Aficionados

First Produced:

Brock University, 2014


Click here to view the script: Hannah Cowley’s The Belle’s Stratagem by Gyllian Raby

To view other works by this playwright, click here.


By re-historicizing Hannah Cowley, [Gyllian Raby, the director] is able to liberate her message. Cowley’s hesitant feminism is sharpened in Raby’s adaption. And shifting the play’s locale from eighteenth-century London to twenty-first century Toronto, Raby adds biting commentary – much of it delivered through choruses of rap music – on the ravaging cultural and economic effects of unfettered financial capitalism, which goes well beyond Cowley’s predictable tut-tutting about the vulgar spending displays of England’s nabobs. . . . . Mixing rap music with formal eighteenth-century drama sounds depressingly like a sterile post-modern conceit. But it works wonderfully well in this instance, partly because Raby is the director of the play she adapted. She directs an exuberant student cast who seem just as much at home mincing through the formalities of a masqued ball as they do gyrating to the strains of Rick Ross, Lil’ Mama, and Salt ’n’ Pepa.
– from a review by Professor Emeritus John Sainsbury in the online British Journal of Eighteenth-Century Studies published by the The British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.”

(From the Brock University Website)