first Act of The Sorcerer is laid in the grounds of Sir Marmaduke's
estate. The village folk are gathered in honor of the betrothal of Alexis,
Marmaduke's son, and Aline, the daughter of Lady Sangazure, who half
a century before had been the sweetheart of Sir Marmaduke himself. The
pew-opener enters with her daughter, Constance, who is deeply in love
with the Vicar. The Vicar, however, cannot be brought to an understanding
of this either by the girl's behavior toward him or by her mother's
hints. Alexis and his fiancée sign the contract, and everyone congratulates
them on their nuptials. Along with Aline, Alexis speaks of his belief
that rank should not govern marriage. To prove his theory, he obtains
a supply of love potion from his well-known family sorcerers, Walls &
Co. This concoction does not affect married people, but makes the unmarried
pair off without consideration of rank. Alexis orders John Wellington
Wells, of Wells & Co., to perform the incantation, after which he mixes
the potion with tea and serves it to the guests at the engagement party.
All gradually fall asleep and the curtain falls.
It is midnight as the second Act opens and the guests are awakening.
Alexis wishes Aline to swallow some of the potion, so that he may be sure
her love will not change. She protests, but does as he asks. As each person
regains consciousness they propose marriage to the first person they see:
Constance professes love to the aged notary, Sir Marmaduke professes his
intention to marry the old pew-opener, and Lady Sangazure proposes to
Wells. Wells, on the other hand, is filled with remorse at the condition
he has brought about, and must leave the great Lady, as he is already
engaged to "a maiden fair on a South Pacific isle." Doctor Daly (the Vicar)
and Aline see each other and begin to become violently attached. Alexis,
thoroughly frightened by the state of affairs, rushes to Wells and entreats
him to remove this dreadful spell. Wells tells Alexis that, to accomplish
this task, either he or Alexis must be sacrificed to Ahrimanes. But as
neither is willing to be the victim, the guests are made to choose.