"A Matter of Husbands" [One Act Play] by Ference Molnar is a twisted story of a suspicious wife. The summary of the play describes the tale of an Earnest Woman who is married to a lawyer who is closely associated with a Famous Actress. The Earnest Young Woman seeks out the Famous Actress because she suspects her husband is having an affair with her.
About the Author
Widely regarded as Hungary’s most celebrated and controversial playwright, Ferenc Molnár’s (1878–1952) primary aim was to entertain people by transforming his personal experiences into literary works of art. Out of his many plays, The Devil (1907), Lilion (1909), The Guardsman (1910), The Swan (1920), and The Play’s the Thing (1926) endure as classics. He immigrated to the United States to escape the persecution of Hungarian Jews during World War II and later adopted American citizenship. Molnár’s plays continue to be relevant and are performed all over the world. Published in 1923, A Matter of Husband sheds light on the basic function of actors: to make the audience believe in the illusion.
Detail Summary of 'A Matter of Husbands'
A Matter of Husbands is a one-act play written by Ferenc Molnar. He is a widely celebrated and controversial playwright. There are three main characters in the play. They are Earnest Young Woman (Alfred’s wife), Sara (a Famous Actress) and Alfred (Lawyer, husband of Earnest Young Woman). It is a very twisted one-act play that depicts the story of Earnest Young Woman. She is married to a lawyer who knows Famous Woman.
A matter of husbands focuses on the roles of actors on the stage and in real life and how much they are capable of keeping us in an illusion. At the beginning of the play, the Earnest Young Woman is shown on the stage impatiently waiting for the famous actress. The Famous Actress is called 'Sara'. As Sara enters the stage through the curtain, Earnest Young Woman rushes to her and angrily asks her to return her husband. The Famous Actress boldly denies that she has stolen her husband. She says she knows him because once the contract for a case has been given to him. She asks Earnest Young Woman what makes her believe that Alfred is in love with her.
Earnest Young Woman tells her that her husband sends her flowers and writes a love letter. After hearing this, the actress blushes and continues to deny receiving any flowers or notes from him. In order to make Earnest Young Woman believe that she and her husband have a misunderstanding, she now claims that something strange happened. Famous Woman convinces Earnest Young Woman that her husband is playing with her in an attempt to make her jealous and gain her attention and love back. Then, the innocent young lady realizes her mistake and apologizes. Famous Actress calls Alfred from her personal bedroom after the eager young lady exits the stage. In this way, the play ends.
Exercise of A Matter of Husbands
Answer the following questions:
a. What favour does Earnest Young Woman ask from The Famous Actress?
➨Earnest Young Woman asks a favour of returning her husband from The Famous Actress because she loves her husband very much but she comes to know The Famous Actress has stolen her husband from her.
b. What, according to The Earnest Young Woman, are the indications that her husband has fallen in love with a Famous Actress?
➨According to The Earnest Young Woman, the indications that her husband has fallen in love with a Famous Actress and her husband sends flowers and love letters to The Famous Actress. She comes to know about it from a florist. One day, her husband forgets the love letter on the table, which says her husband is unable to call the Famous Actress and beg an apology offering her thousands of kisses.
c. Is Earnest Young Woman convinced by the argument of Famous Actress? How?
➨Yes, Earnest Young Woman is convinced by the argument of a Famous Actress. The Earnest Young Woman kisses the Famous Actress as a sign that she has accepted the Famous Actress' argument as absolute truth. She believes she has reclaimed her husband.
d. Where is the Earnest Young Woman's husband hiding as they are talking to him?
➨ The Earnest Young Woman's husband is hiding in the bedroom of the famous Actress. He comes towards the play's ending when the Famous Actress calls him from her bedroom.
e. When do you feel that a Famous Actress is really good at acting?
➨ I think she's incredibly skilled at acting. Famous Actress tells Earnest Young Woman that her husband plays a game on her to pique her interest so she'll transform herself and do whatever it takes to please him. When Alfred is called out by her, I was stunned.
f. How do we come to know that a Famous Actress and the husband of Earnest Young Woman are in love?
➨ We come to know that a Famous Actress and the husband of Earnest Young Woman are in love when The Famous Actress calls Earnest Young Woman’s husband to come out of the room.
g. Write down the plot of the play in a paragraph.
➨A Matter of Husbands is a one-act written by the most celebrated and controversial playwright Ferenc Molnar. This play sheds light on the role of actors on the stage and in real life and how much they are capable of keeping us in an illusion. In the beginning, the Earnest Young Woman rushes to the Famous Actress angrily, asking her to return her husband. The famous Actress boldly denies that she has stolen her husband. She says she knows him because once the contract for a case was given to him. Earnest Young Woman tells her that her husband sends her flowers and writes love letters. She reads her husband’s love letter for the actress. Upon the circumstance, the actress smiles and still begin to deny that she has received any flowers or any letters from him. Now she fools Earnest Young Woman by saying that a misunderstanding may have arrived between her and her husband. She makes Earnest Young Woman believe that her husband has been playing with her to make her jealous and gain her love back. Then, the Earnest Young woman innocently realizes her misdeed and begs for sorry for her. Earnest Young Woman leaves the stage and the famous Actress calls Alfred to come out of her boudoir.
Reference to the Context
a. Sketch the character of a Famous Actress.
➨The Famous Actress is a young, renowned, and beautiful actress who is envied by the ordinary woman in the play. On the outside, she looks innocent and harmless but in reality, she is mean and wicked. She is cunning and deceitful as seen in the way she concocts a story to sway the woman from believing that her husband was having an affair with her. She also lives an immoral life as seen in the conclusion of the story where it was revealed that Alfred, the ordinary woman’s husband was actually in her house.
b. Shed light on the difference between an ordinary woman and an actress.
➨ In the story, A Matter of Husbands, the ordinary woman is portrayed as a simple-minded and timid person who was easily deceived by the false story told by the actress. As a straightforward and frightened woman who was easily manipulated by the actress's fabricated story. She comes tearful at the actress's home in the belief that she had discovered her husband was cheating on her with the actress but returns happy after hearing her justifications. She had come to the actress in tears completely sure that her husband was having an affair with the actress.
However, the actress told a story to her about how her husband was trying to regain the love he had for her by doing things to get her jealous. Without asking questions, the ordinary woman believed her and was brought her into the story. In the end, it was revealed that her husband was actually in the actress’s room. This shows that the actress was cunning while the ordinary woman was timid.
c. According to Famous Actress, men associated with theatre use the theatre actresses to make their estranged wives jealous so as to woo them back. Do you agree with her argument? Why? Why not?
➨ Yes, I agree with her argument. A man associated with theatre mostly has an ordinary, simple-minded and timid wife who can be easily deceived by the false story. In the act too, Alfred was hiding in the actress’s room so as to regain the love he had for her by doing things to get her jealous. Thus, men take advantage of the cunning actress to make their estranged wives jealous so as to woo them back.
d. How does a Famous Actress make a fool of Earnest Young Woman?
➨ An Earnest Young Wife gets fooled by the Famous Actress, who claims that she and her husband may be in a miscommunication. She convinces Earnest Young Woman that her husband has been toying with her in order to make her jealous and reclaim her love. As a result, Earnest Young sees her error and apologizes to the offended party.
e. The conversation between the two women takes place on the stage of the theatre. What role does the theatre house as a part of the setting of the play in A Matter for Husband?
➨ The theatre house provided a suitable environment for the women to express their thoughts freely. If it had been opened, it would have been unreasonable to share such issues. But, the context of private rooms has played as the catalyst for their open conversation.
f. What do you think about the ending of the play?
➨ I think the ending of this play ‘A Matter of Husbands’ is totally perfect and the Ironic and heart-touching scene justifies the ending of the play. The writer finishes all the nonplus of the character of the play. All the characters are satisfied with one another. The film actress and advocate are very satisfied at the end of the play. They clear the hurdle between them. They assure her that they have no affair, it is only drama for her. At the end of the play, the young woman is very happy with her husband. The film actress and the husband of a young woman live together without any obstacles. The ending of the play is too good but full of irony. The film actress narrates to a young woman that her husband really loves her but in reality, he has no love for his wife. He only cheats on his wife.
So, at the end of the play ‘A Matter of Husbands, we can assume that “All is well, the end is well.” Innocent people always suffer from shrewd people because they are often sincere in their hearts but cunning people always take advantage of their innocence.
Reference Beyond the Text
a. Write a paragraph describing your favourite actor/actress.
My Favorite Actor Robert John Downey
Robert John Downey, Jr. (born April 4, 1965) is an American actor who made his screen debut at the age of five, appearing in his father Robert Downey, Sr.'s film Pound. He has appeared in roles associated with the Brat Pack, such as Less Than Zero and Weird Science. Other films he has starred in include Air America, Soapdish, and Natural Born Killers. He starred as Charlie Chaplin, the title character in the 1992 film Chaplin, earning him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. After being released from the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in 2000 for drug charges, Downey joined the cast of the TV series Ally McBeal playing Calista Flockhart's love interest. His performance was praised and he received a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries, or Television Film.