Book 12 Chapter 4 of Tom Jones.
Book 12 Chapter 5 of Tom Jones
This is part of an ongoing project in which I will record and post one chapter per week of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones over the course of four years.
In this chapter, Tom and Partridge come upon a puppet show, performing a play called The Provoked Husband. The play is dry of any comedy or entertainment value, which most of the audience considers to be a plus, but Tom would rather a Punch and Joan show.
This is an important chapter in its historical context. Henry Fielding had been a playwright earlier in his career, but left the stage when new regulations regarding the content of plays were enacted. The play presented in this chapter, The Provoked Husband, is a play fragment by John Vanbrugh titled A Journey to London, which was completed and renamed after Vanbrugh's death by Colly Cibber. Cibber changed the ending against Vanbrugh's wishes, adding in a happy ending. As well, Vanbrugh's works were also prevented from being performed in anything but bowdlerised versions.
So, the puppet show that Jones and Partridge witness is a comedy with everything funny stripped out, replaced with Lessons to Instruct the Young.