Although he is now mainly remembered as a novelist, Henry Fielding was a prolific dramatic author, writing twenty-eight plays in total, twenty-five over a span of nine years. As Thomas Lockwood, editor of the only modern compilation of Fielding’s complete plays, observes, this “is a remarkable record […] unlike any other in the period and almost without parallel from the Restoration to the nineteenth century” (Plays I, xvii). 1 Between 1728, when Love in Several Masques premiered in Drury Lane, and 1737, when the Licensing Act drove him away from the stage, Fielding alternated between two types of plays: regular comedies in five acts—which were not as successful as he would have liked—and farcical burlesques of sentimental comedies, operas, tragedies, and pantomimes—which were generally applauded. Despite his ambition to become a serious author, he resorted to burlesque and farce when he became fully aware of the comparatively little success that regular comedies could bring him and realized, as one of his dramatic alter egos put it, that “a Farce brings more Company to a House than the best Play that was ever writ […] who would not rather Eat by his Nonsense, than Starve by his Wit” (The Author’s Farce, 1730, in Plays I, III, i, 256). As a farcical playwright, Fielding learned to make a living by way of mockery, something that earned him as many admirers as enemies. Given the centrality of marriage for eighteenth-century society, as a regular dramatist, he learned that the marriage plot was an apposite vehicle to instruct and entertain his audiences. The consolidation of these lessons, as will be detailed later in this book, left a remarkable legacy in his novels.