In 1660, with the return of Charles II to the English throne, theater, the visual arts, science and sexual promiscuity flourish. Thirteen years later, in the midst of political and economical problems, Charles II asks for the return of his friend John Wilmot, aka the second Earl of Rochester, from exile back to London.
John is a morally-corrupt drunkard and a sexually-active cynical poet. When the King asks John to prepare a play for the French ambassador so as to please him, John meets the aspiring actress Elizabeth Barry in the playhouse and decides to make her into a great star. He falls in love with her and she becomes his mistress.
During the presentation to the Frenchman, he falls into disgrace with the court. As a consequence of his irreverent lifestyle, at just 33 years of age, he finds himself dying of syphilis and alcoholism. Will the vulnerability and pain of illness change his attitude towards life?
Did you know?
The poem which Wilmot has been banished from court at the beginning of the film is "A Satyr on Charles II". The historical Wilmot really did submit that poem to the monarch accidentally, but he subsequently left court of his own accord, rather than at Charles' command. Read More