Beautiful Maria in the act of true love : "Emman & Maria"


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Beautiful Maria in the act of true love : "Emman & Maria"


Chapbooks, Nigerian
Nigerian literature (English)


Felix Stephen advertises this play as a comedy that depicts moral behavior for those in love. He says that it can also be read, and notes that it was written specifically for African readers and actors, (pg. 4). This might suggest a performance history. However, performances would have occurred in schools or in social clubs, since at this time there were no established theatre groups in the region. 

The pamphlet cover has a woodcut of a European couple, perhaps French, in court dress. The play appears to borrow heavily from Cyrano de Bergerac,Shakespeare and from many of the comedy-of-manners plays written in the 18th and 19th century. It is fairly well developed compared to Stephen's other plays in the Onitsha Market Literature Collection such as, How to Play Love.

The characters include Maria, Theresa, Emmanuel, and the servants David and Joe. David and Joe run love errands for Emmanuel. Maria, who is Emmanuel's love interest, wants to test any future lover for emotional endurance and commitment. Theresa serves as a well-developed foil to Maria. The servants serve double duty as plot developers and analyzers of class issues. In one potential plot twist, Maria suggests that she might accept a love application from Joe rather than his master Emmanuel.

Maria: If it is from your master, well I must have to suggest to you that there is no need wasting [sic] time. I had on some occasions told you frankly that I do not want him to speak to me on this matter anymore. I repeat that if you would like to come in as suitor that I shall not waste [sic] time to grant, (pg. 10).

However, this plot twist never develops and is replaced with the classic one of concealed gender identity. Joe is getting ready to embark on his own quest for a marriage partner when he stumbles on David's true identity as Helen. The play ends with Helen and Joe, along with Maria and Emmanuel, getting married in a nearly Shakespearean double wedding. This plot twist is discussed in the essay on drama.

Like much of English comedy, this play relies on plot twists and servants to drive the plot and the humor. The pamphlet ends with a sort of epilogue to the play in which Emmanuel prevents a friend or associate's wife from leaving him for a life of prostitution followed by two pages of wise sayings. This ending suggests that this play was meant for the reader and consumer of pamphlets, by purchasing this play one receives the added value of advice and wise sayings.


Stephen, Felix N.


Onitsha : published and obtainable from Michael Allan Ohaejesi




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Onitsha market literature





Stephen, Felix N., “Beautiful Maria in the act of true love : "Emman & Maria",” KU Libraries Exhibits, accessed March 2, 2021,