George Farquhar was Irish by birth. He studied at Trinity College in Dublin but left without earning a degree to become an actor. Later he wrote for the theater. He is most remembered for bringing to English comedy a fresh good humor and an emphasis on country settings. One of his plays, The Recruiting Officer (1706), which Bertolt Brecht rewrote, is a lively takeoff on the author's own military experiences. His best-known play, The Beaux' Stratagem (1707), engages the marriage debate and the difficulty of divorce, drawing on divorce tracts of John Milton. It is a lively, very natural comedy of sensibility. Farquhar wrote Discourse upon Comedy in a Letter to a Friend, in which he defended the genre as "a well-framed tale, handsomely told, as an agreeable vehicle for counsel or reproof." Farquhar married a woman he thought to be wealthy. He was mistaken, however. He died penniless in London at the age of 29.
Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) Dublin-born playwright and theatre manager, who produced three classic comedies within a five-year writing career. "Whatever Sheridan has done or chosen to do," Lord Byron wrote, "has been, par excellence, the best of its kind." He was the son of the Irish actor-manager Thomas Sheridan and his wife Frances, a popular novelist. In 1775 the double success of Sheridan's first great comedy, "The Rivals", and his comic opera "The Duenna" allowed him to buy Garrick's share in Drury Lane; he became manager in 1776 and sole owner two years later. Another brilliant comedy of manners, "The School for Scandal", opened in 1777 at Drury Lane to universal acclaim. He also wrote a burlesque of heroic drama, "The Critic "(1779). All are high comedies, featuring such memorable characters as Mrs Malaprop, Lady Teazle, and Mr Puff. Unfortunately he was not so brilliant in his management of Drury Lane. His love of extravagant spectacles almost led to bankruptcy, and he constantly became embroiled in legal action against managers of unlicensed theatres. In 1794 he rebuilt his theatre to such vast proportions that Mrs Siddons called it "a wilderness of a place." In 1780 Sheridan abandoned the theatre to enter parliament, where he gained a reputation as a fine orator (on one occasion speaking for over five hours). When Drury Lane caught fire in 1809 he drank a leisurely glass of wine at the Great Piazza coffee house, watching the flames consume his theatre and remarking "A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine at his own fireside." He died in poverty.