The Country Wife, William Wycherley, Set Against the Backdrop of the Restoration

Topics: The Country Wife, Drama, Marriage Pages: 4 (1395 words) Published: April 11, 2011
This answer is written by Ms.Neha Pinto

William Wycherley’s great comedy, The Country Wife has received voluminous, yet curiously mixed assessment. Macaulay, with characteristic exaggeration, branded it as ‘one of the most heartless and profligate of human productions’. Undoubtedly it is an extremely, witty play, but coarse and indecent, at the same time. However it remains popular with readers and teachers of English Literature and what it cannot be separated from is its relationship to the high culture of the Restoration period.

The continuity of drama in England, which had founds its greatest manifestation during the Elizabethan, Jacobean and Caroline periods was broken 1642, when the theatres were ordered closed under the rule of Oliver Cromwell and his Commonwealth government. The reaction against Puritan manners and morals was inevitable. It almost forcefully changed the course of English drama because many of the returned Cavaliers had spent their exile in France and become expert in French wit and French gallantry, and because the King Charles II himself, “an indolent sensualist” began to encourage an atmosphere of hedonistic liveliness at Court. He set the tone for the Court Wits, who owed much to the brilliant dramas of writer Moliere, based on the ‘comedy of manners’. William Wycherley’s play is a ‘comedy of manners’, and it clearly reflects in The Country Wife. The characters of the play stand as a mirror to the Restoration society. Although character is secondary to the play its significance is obvious because characters are type rather than individuals. all characters seem to be subordinated to this main purpose. Even the dialogue, the cut and thrust of wit and repartee, the word-play and double entendre, serve only to heighten the savage satire of characters like Jaspar, Lady Fidget, Mrs. Squeamish, Mr.Pinchwife and Sparkish. All episodes in the play are but part of an over-all design to expose the ways of a heartless world, where most men...
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