"Vanbrugh and Congreve copied nature"
John Vanbrugh
Public DomainJohn Vanbrugh - Credit: Sir Godfrey Kneller

Sir John Vanbrugh (baptised 1664 - 1726) was an English architect and dramatist.  He designed Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard, and created what came to be known as English Baroque.  He wrote two controversial Restoration comedies, The Relapse (1696) and The Provoked Wife (1697), which were condemned for being sexually explicit, and for putting forward a strong defence for women’s rights in marriage. 

As a young Whig, he was part of the scheme to overthrow James II and put William III (William of Orange) on the throne to protect parliamentary democracy.  He spent 4,5 years in prison in France on charges of espionage, from 1688 to 1692. 

Both Vanbrugh and Congreve had their careers cut short by a change in public taste, which turned away from the intellectual and sexually explicit Restoration comedy style toward more serious, morally upstanding content.  Both playwrights came under fire from Jeremy Colliers, who’s A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage, condemned their work for failing to uphold ‘exemplary morality.’