This play follows the sad fortunes of Agatha, who is forced to beg on the street. Her son, Frederick, returns from the army, and she confesses to her son that he is illegitimate. He vows to find his true father, the Baron Wildenhaim. Agatha is taken ill, and some kindly cottagers welcome her into their home, while Frederick wanders the countryside begging. He meets some wealthy noblemen and begs money from them, not realizing that one of them is his own father, Baron Wildenhaim.
Meanwhile, Baron Wildenhaim’s daughter, Amelia, considers whether she will marry the wealthy Count or her lowly tutor.
There’s not much to the plot. It’s very straightforward. There is a slight case of mistaken identity when father and son do not know each other, but it is cleared up fairly quickly. There is not really any suspense regarding Amelia, and who she will decide to marry, because she makes her decision clear in the beginning, and then only has to persuade her father.
The characters spend most of their time crying “Woe is me!” and “Alas!” in a melodramatic fashion. The dialogue is uninspired. There are a couple of good conversations with a couple of witty lines, but most of the play is very forgettable. No wonder Jane Austen made fun of it!
The best part of the play was the butler who loves to talk in rhyme. He writes lengthy poetry for everything that happens each day and tries to recite it to everyone. They are constantly telling him to just talk normally in prose, but he keeps reciting verses because he can’t help it. It’s hilarious!