The Parallels Between August Von Kotzebue’s Lovers’ Vows and Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

By writing Mansfield park to be a real-life foil to Elizabeth Inchbald’s interpretation of August Von Kotzebue’s Lovers’ Vows, Jane Austen re-inverts Kotzebue’s subversive moral standard and creates a work positing equal moral conscience. Austen’s resulting text is a novel that, although separate in its stories and characters, also upholds distinct parallels to “Lover’s Vows” in the structure and situations of the plot and subplot. For the sake of this essay, I will follow Kotzebue’s narrative scheme which is reversed in “Mansfield Park. ”

To begin, I will first outline the distinct parallels in the characterization of the two texts: Maria and Julia Bertram represent Austen’s conception of a potential Agatha; Amelia has been transformed into Mary Crawford and her opposite, Fanny Price; Count Cassel appears as Mr. Rushworth, as well as Henry Crawford; Sir Thomas Bertram’s afflictions and station align him with Baron Wildenhaim; Edmund, a young and pious clergymen, acts as Austen’s Anhalt. Just as Austen borrowed from Kotzebue in her characterization of Mansfield Park’s characters, she also developed a plot that, while not completely identical, reflects many of the same situations and moral lessons as “Lovers Vows;”


Agatha Friburg, the virtuous, abandoned mistress of Baron Wildenhaim, is living a wretched existence in great misery and poverty. When the Baron later promises to marry Agatha, she is raised from her wretched lot to happiness, respectability, and prosperity. Subplot: Maria Bertram is born into happiness, respectability, and prosperity but is proud, selfish, undisciplined, and passionate. When she leaves her loveless marriage, she forces Henry to make her his mistress. When he refuses to marry her, she is abandoned and drags out the remainder of her wretched existence in great misery.


Baron Wildenhaim is torn between worldly and unworldly motives in considering Count Cassel a fop and a fool, but an excellent match, and suitor for the hand of his legitimate daughter Amelia.


Sir Thomas Bertram is torn between worldly and unworldly motives in considering Mr. Rushworth “a fop and a fool, but an excellent match, and prospective husband for his eldest daughter Maria.

Sir Thomas is similarly conflicted about Henry’s proposal to Fanny.


Wildenheim, oblivious to Cassel’s real character, asks Anhalt, a young clergyman, to plead Count Cassel’s case. Although Amelia and Anhalt are in love, because she is above him in social station, Anhalt does not consider marriage. Once Wildenheim discovers Cassel’s libertinage, Amelia is freed from their engagement. Wildenhaim brings himself to overlook Anhalt’s humble station and welcome him as a son-in-law for the sake of his moral worth. Sir Thomas, oblivious to Henry’s real character, tries to force Fanny to accept his proposal. He then asks his son Edmund, a young clergyman, to plead Henry’s case. But Meanwhile, Edmund is infatuated with Mary Crawford who considers Edmund her social inferior. When Sir Thomas discovers of Henry’s libertinage, Fanny is freed from his pursuit. Eyes now opened to Mary’s true character; Edmund loves Fanny at last. Sir Thomas then brings himself to overlook her humble station and to welcome her as a daughter in-law for the sake of her moral worth. As Jane Austen alters the moral standards of the situations that she assumes, each undergoes the same change from a strict archetypal treatment towards a complex reality. For instance, the adjustment of the ethical values required a complete change in Agatha/Maria, along with the fortune which befell her. Austen’s entire moral philosophy dictates that virtuous women do not fall. By extension, women who lose their virtue must not expect to be rehabilitated. Austen maintains a parallel in their situations after the sin has been committed. However, while Agatha’s downfall is pictured at the beginning of the play, Maria’s is at the end of the novel.

Lovers’ Vows and Mansfield Park

“Agatha: …As soon as my situation became known, I was questioned, and received many severed reproaches: but I refused to confess who was my undoer; and for that obstinacy was turned from the castle. I went to my parents, but their door was shut against me. My mother, indeed, wept as she bade me quit her sight for ever; but my father wished increased affliction might befall me (pp. 487)” “…She must withdraw…to a retirement and reproach, which could allow no second spring of hope of character… Mrs. Norris… would have had her received at home and countenanced by them all. Sir Thomas would not hear of it… Maria had destroyed her own character. And he would not by a vain attempt to restore what never could be restored, be affording his sanction to vice… (pp. 464). ”

Likewise, Sir Thomas/Baron Wildenheim find themselves in positions to favor a loveless match for the sake of worldly advantages. In the case of Sir Thomas, he is so-tempted twice. Count Cassel is not unlike Henry, and a daughter’s happiness is at stake in both cases. Lovers’ Vows Mansfield Park

Baron: “…and am I after all to have an ape for a son-in-law? No. I shall not be in a hurry. I love my daughter too well. We must be better acquainted before I give her to him…The poor girl might, in thoughtlessness, say yes, and afterwards be miserable” (p. 493 f) “Not all his good-will for Mr. Rushworth, not all Mr. Rushworth’s deference for him, could prevent him from soon discerning some part of the truth—that Mr. Rushworth was an inferior young man… He had expected a very different son-in-law; and beginning to feel grave on Maria’s account, tried to understand her feelings. … Advantageous as would be the alliance, and long standing and public as was the engagement, her happiness must not be sacrificed to it. (p. 200)

The parallel here is close, the true difference between the situations lay solely within the weight of parental conscience. While Maria is undoubtedly more at fault for the end of her marriage, Sir Thomas nevertheless takes on a great deal of guilt for having allowed the marriage to take place. In contrast, Wildenhaim remains guiltless. Austen has turned a thoroughly conventional conflict into a painfully interesting one. At the same time, she showcases her interpretation of a “well-made-match;” the couple must be both fiscally and romantically ideal. By punishing Maria for her indiscretions which arguably began at her acceptance of Mr. Rushworth’s proposal of a would-be loveless marriage, Austen showcases the dire consequences for stepping outside of her world’s moral standard.

The parallel between the two texts is even more distinct when considering Henry’s proposal to Fanny. Both Mansfield Park and Lovers’ Vow include a young clergyman’s place within their respective, “main” love triangles; “[Anhalt] came to me by your command, ’ Amelia…informs Wildenhaim, ‘to examine my heart respecting Count Cassel. I told him that I would never marry the Count. ” Fanny could have used Amelia’s words verbatim to Sir Thomas about Edmund and Henry. However, while Anhalt is already devoted to Amelia, Fanny is forced to listen to the man she loves, knowing his affections for Mary Crawford, urge her to marry another. In contrast to Amelia, Fanny keeps her affections for Edmund a secret; she is the very picture of a modest woman. Despite Amelia and Fanny’s deviance in action, the two girls reap the same reward. In both cases Cassel and Crawford are revealed, and the clergyman wins the bride—Thus the invention of Mary.

Mary is charged with shouldering Amelia’s distinct lack of modesty. She, like Amelia, claims no disinclination to the married state, in fact she greatly encourages Edmund’s advances in the same way that Amelia tactlessly announces her love for Anhalt to the world. Unlike Amelia, however, she considers Edmund’s profession a serious drawback—not only a physical manifestation of her assumed superficiality, but an expression of Kotzebue’s patronizing views on the social status of the clergy. Where Austen aligns Mary with Amelia, she frames Fanny as a living antithesis and reproach to her prototype in the play, thereby reinforcing her moral standard: Women who are virtuous and marry well do not fall, by extension the opposite is true.

In Lovers’ Vows Kotzebue condoned and rewarded immorality in Agatha; Jane Austen condemned and punished it in Maria Rushworth. He depicted immodesty in an attractive light in Amelia; she exalted the opposite virtue in Fanny Price and penalized indelicacy in Mary Crawford. He allowed Baron Wildenhaim to rise easily above worldliness; She depicted Sir Thomas Bertram succumbing to insidious temptation. Austen took Kotzebue’s character devices and situations and granted them a profoundly human significance that constructed and reinforced her own moral standard upon the reader.


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