Susanna Centlivre’s The Wonder: A Woman Keeps a Secret
(1714) presents a model of female relations invested in queer futurity and queer temporality, disrupting the patriarchal geometry of courtship in order to provide the play’s heroines access to an alternate future grounded in their relationship with one another. Though the play ends with both women married, their relationship is central and is cemented by Violante’s marriage to Isabella’s brother, which transforms the friends into sisters. Their dedication opens up the possibility that a relationship between women might be more important than the marriages they strive for, illustrating an important intervention into the construction of plot in comedy from the early eighteenth century. The Wonder
’s queer potential is developed in the language that both women use to describe their devotion and the actions that embody it. Violante and Isabella are able to expand the triangle of homosocial exchange into a more equitable square that not only allows for happy marriages but visible, loving relationships between the play’s heroines. As such, they manage to create a queer future where their relationship can remain at the forefront of their lives and rewrite the marriage plot as a means to an end.
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