Kevin De Ornellas The Country Wife ENG302C2
1. William Wycherley
A Shropshire lad, born 1641, died 1715.
Educated in France and at Oxford.
First play, Love in a Wood, 1671, was set in St. James’s Park
Was favoured by the King’s mistress, the Duchess of Cleveland.
Annoyed Charles II by secretly marrying in 1679.
His most famous work is The Country Wife, probably performed first in 1675; the
play’s first edition was published in 1675.
2. Critical reputation.
Wycherly’s plays were admired by Charles Lamb.
But Thomas Macaulay considered the plays to be indecent and licentious.
David Garrick produced a censored version of The Country Wife called The
Country Girl (1766).
3. Restoration context.
Theatres: closed between 1642 and 1660.
The influence of Shakespeare.
A culture of bawdiness.
Females on stage.
Plays conveyed through prose.
Plays about sexual intrigue, filled with stock characters – lusty young women,
sexually voracious older women, fops, country squires, scheming valets etc.
Restoration plays performed only in moderated versions in the eighteenth century;
rarely performed at all during the nineteenth century; some revival during the
twentieth century when their hedonism seemed to reflect twentieth-century
Reputation for innuendo, blasphemy and general immorality: Wycherley was one
of the many Restoration dramatists attacked by the influential campaigning
moralist, Jeremy Collier in his 1698 book, Short View of the Immorality and
Profaneness of the English Stage.
4. Characterisation: typographical constructions.
My Lady Fidget.
5. The plot of The Country Wife.
Horner tells his doctor to spread it around that his patient has become impotent – he thinks that being perceived as a eunuch will allow him access to intimate situations with women whom he can subsequently seduce. It looks like it will work with Lady Fidget,...
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