Monday, August 9, 2021

The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley

The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley , The Country Wife Summary - The Country Wife may be a Restoration comedy, that is, an English theatrical comedy written during the amount 1660-1710, when theatrical performances resumed in London following their 18-year spell of illegality under the reign of the Puritan Commonwealth. As a genre, Restoration comedy is notable for displaying a recrudescence of bawdiness, the general public expression of which had been suppressed under the Puritans, and for taking a satirical, or maybe cynical, view of marriage and sexuality. As are going to be seen, these characteristics owe much to the genre’s social and historical contexts.

 Restoration comedy had for its intended audience English court and other social insiders; whereas the Elizabethan theater had played to a cross-section of English society, stage audiences of the Restoration had a much more specific social identity, and therefore the comedies they enjoyed reflect their attitudes and values accordingly. The aristocracy had regained its security and visibility with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, but it had lost permanently much of its political and economic significance; as a result, this rather aimless class expended its energies on theatergoing and other, more dissolute antics. As if to catch up on its moral nullity, however, the Restoration aristocracy placed more emphasis than ever on social virtuosity and therefore the punctilios of comportment; essentially, it proposed outward good breeding, instead of virtuous moral conduct, as a principle of societal coherence. The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley , This valorization of display, of perfect manners, wit, and therefore the ability to improvise, clearly informs the action and dialogue of Restoration comedies. Moreover, the minimization of genuine moral virtue are often seen to impact the values, like they're , that inform the plays. Among the Restoration aristocracy, sexual libertinism was fashionable and marriage scorned; consequently, as David Cook and John Swannell put it, marriage generally appears in Restoration plays “at best as a convenient means of acquiring an income, and at the worst as a continuing source of jealousy and frustration.” Husbands, especially , tend to seem absurd, being either compulsively jealous or obtusely complacent.

In order better to know this derogation of marriage, it'll be convenient to talk of Restoration comedy, and of the values that animate it, as breaking down into two phases, namely the sunshine comedies of the 1660s and therefore the cynical comedies of the 1670s. the previous , as B. A. Kachur points out, attended feature an obligatory couple the model of Shakespeare’s Beatrice and Benedick; this couple’s “mutual antagonism-cum-attraction provided the requisite does of benign sexual energy that resolved itself happily in romantic love and consensual marriage between the subversive libertine and inviolable heroine.” The plots, then, tended toward a decisive social and moral resolution, imaged within the impending licit coupling between the leading characters: the libertine, and therefore the moral subversion he represented, were domesticated and brought in check by his voluntary submission to the virtuous heroine. The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley against this , the comedies of the 1670s were darker; as Kachur observes, they featured “a preponderance of lecherous men and married women who opted for dispassionate and illicit sex and denigrated marriage altogether.” The sexual behavior of those characters attended effect not resolution but dissolution, and therefore the comedies of the 1670s attended have ambiguous conclusions, instilling insecurity instead of social affirmation. The Country Wife (1675) is, of course, of this latter type.

From the 1660s to the 1670s, a shift had occurred in contemporary attitudes toward the institution of marriage. This shift was due partially to certain events during the Interregnum, i.e. the amount of parliamentary and military rule under the Commonwealth of England, beginning with the execution of King Charles I in 1649 and ending with the restoration of the monarcy under Charles II in 1660. The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley,  one among these events was the marriage Act of 1653, passed under the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell; this Act required a civil ceremony so as for a wedding to be legally recognized, and by shifting jurisdiction of marriage from church to state, it redefined marriage as a civil contract instead of a sacramental bond. Inevitably, this redefinition diminished the religious awe during which the institution of marriage had long been held. It also enabled a revaluation of the facility dynamics obtaining between husband and wife: traditionally, the husband was sovereign within the domestic sphere and therefore the wife was subservient to him; the model for this relation, of course, was the sovereignty of the monarch over his subjects, but because the deposition of Charles I had cast doubt upon the inevitability of the reign of monarchs over the commons, therefore the marriage Act made the reign of husbands over wives depend not on a spiritual necessity but on negotiations between the 2 parties concerned. The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley, Perhaps, then, women needed not be the subservient vassals of their husbands; increasingly, they were viewed as free individuals with rights and private agency. The tyrannical or neglectful behavior of husbands therefore became grounds for criticism and satire.

 

Moreover, the conduct of Charles II himself, in both his public and his personal capacities, provided grounds for criticism and even cynicism about both the state and therefore the marital state. Charles’s governance of England was culpably inept; by the 1670s, it had been clear that the hopes of 1660 were to be disappointed which the King wasn't to orchestrate stability within the realm or establish trust within the regime. Additionally, his personal example was deplorable: he was infamous for his extramarital affairs and for his illegitimate children, who numbered above a dozen. The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley , The King, then, wasn't the lynchpin of national harmony that he need to have been; neither was he an honest husband. within the cynical comedies of the 1670s, these facts were made to analogize and comment upon one another . Kachur sums it up: “By the 1670s, marital relationships within the comedies were dominated by characters, like embittered subjects to a seemingly disloyal and detached king, whose skepticism and disenchantment over matrimony bespoke the overall malaise and dissatisfaction with the present state of Britain’s restoration, and their want of fidelity, trust, and affection toward their mates, also as their illicit sexual liaisons, signalled a covert rebellion against a bond that neither party found tenable.” Such, clearly, is that the social, political, and moral atmosphere that precipitated Wycherley’s The Country Wife.

The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley William Wycherley’s The Country Wife was written and first performed in London, in 1675. The play has lived on together of the foremost famous samples of British Restoration comedies and continues to be produced frequently. The Restoration era, between 1660 and about 1700, describes the amount following the Commonwealth era and therefore the restoration of English monarchy. During the Commonwealth, theatre was banned in England for 18 years, so together with his return to the throne, King Charles II encouraged not only the reinstatement of the theatre but the assembly of plays with lascivious content and language. Restoration comedies had complicated romantic plots, often featuring a mix of labor and (as the character Sparkish complains) members of the aristocracy. After Puritan control during the Commonwealth, artistic responses just like the Country Wife adopted a transparent anti-Puritan stance. But even during this moment of permissiveness, the play was considered scandalous and was actually banned from the stage between 1753 and 1924.

The Country Wife, supported a compilation of Molière’s the varsity for Husbands (1661), the varsity for Wives (1662), and Terence’s The Eunuch (161 BCE), is about marriage, infidelity, and male friendship. Harry Horner, an infamous womanizer, enlists his doctor to spread the false rumor that Horner has become impotent to convince other men to trust him to be alone with their wives. Jack Pinchwife, a former rake, has recently married Margery Pinchwife, a lady from the country, since rampant cuckolding seems to be a trait learned within the city. The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley Pinchwife tries to cover his wife from his philandering friends, but Horner becomes enamored with Margery, who immediately falls for him. As Horner schemes to bed Margery (as well as all the opposite married ladies around him), his friend Frank Harcourt falls crazy with Pinchwife’s sister, Alithea, who is betrothed to Mr. Sparkish, a foolish bore who believes that he's witty and intelligent. Much trickery ensues, involving masks, fake twins, and humorous mix-ups. At the top of the play, Mr. and Mrs. Pinchwife remain unhappily together while Harcourt presumably marries Alithea, and Horner goes on to stay bedding unhappy wives who can preserve their honor and reputation under the ruse that Horner is incapable of defiling them.

The Restoration era introduced the primary professional women actresses, as before the Commonwealth, female roles on English stage were played by boys. This led to the creation of “breeches roles,” which required women to wear pants, a trope that manifests within the Country Wife when Margery Pinchwife is disguised as her own brother. Given the style of the amount , the appeal of getting women in breeches roles was the chance to ascertain their legs in form-fitting clothing. The play depicts competitions that occur between men and therefore the ways in which women become pawns and prizes in those competitions. It shows these interactions as a game during which a woman’s honor and reputation are tantamount to her social value, and yet the impeachability of her virtue is decided less by her actions than by the gossip surrounding her actions (or even inactions). The Country Wife differs from many romantic comedies in its cynicism about marriage and an ending during which the protagonist doesn't wed his beloved or maybe receive punishment for duplicitousness but instead continues his rakish behavior.

 

The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley

Act I.

The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley The play’s action begins with Harry Horner explaining to The Quack his brilliant ruse for making a conquest of London’s upper-class ladies. Horner has spread a rumor that a treatment for venereal disease rendered him impotent, and his new status as a eunuch will allow him to gain access to ladies whose husbands and families would otherwise consider him dangerous. It will also allow the ladies to undertake liaisons with him and yet preserve their honor in the eyes of the world.

 Sir Jasper Fidget enters with his wife, Lady Fidget. Inferring from Horner’s aversion to ladies that the rumors of his impotence are true, Sir Jasper arranges for Horner to act as his wife’s new chaperone and companion. After the departure of the Fidgets, Horner’s two friends, Frank Harcourt and Mr. Dorilant, enter and banter with him about women, wine, and friendship. Soon the fatuous Mr. Sparkish arrives, bores the three friends with his pretensions to wit, and is driven away.

 

Act II.

Margery Pinchwife complains to her sister-in-law, Alethea Pinchwife, that her new husband has confined her indoors and will not let her see the sights in London. The women discuss Pinchwife’s jealousy, and Margery expresses her admiration of the actors she saw at the theater yesterday. Pinchwife enters and impresses both wife and sister with the importance of Margery’s remaining ignorant of the ways of the town. The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley When Margery inquires the reason for this, Pinchwife explains that a licentious man at the theater has seen her and fallen in love with her; Margery is delighted, and soon Pinchwife locks her away in another room.

 Sparkish, who is to marry Alethea tomorrow, arrives with Harcourt to show off his fiancée to him. Harcourt falls in love with Alethea immediately upon seeing her, and he cleverly makes advances to her under the nose of Sparkish, who is too obtuse to comprehend the drift of Harcourt’s dialogue. Alethea tries in vain to wind Sparkish up to some degree of indignation over this behavior; Sparkish believes staunchly that sophisticated town wits are immune to jealousy.

Once Sparkish, Harcourt, and Alethea have left, Pinchwife is surprised by the arrival of Lady Fidget, Dainty Fidget, and Mistress Squeamish. The ladies have come to see Margery, but Pinchwife invents excuses for why they cannot, then departs rudely. The ladies discuss Pinchwife’s jealousy and lament the mistreatment of upper-class wives by their husbands. They also discuss adultery, which they agree injures no one’s honor as long as it goes on in secret.

Sir Jasper arrives with Horner, saying that he has business to attend to and that the ladies must accept Horner as their chaperone. Lady Fidget rejects the idea of spending time with a eunuch, but Sir Jasper wins her cooperation by suggesting that she might win money off Horner at cards. Lady Fidget and Horner then step aside, ostensibly to patch things up, and Horner tells Lady Fidget in confidence that his impotence is a sham. She is delighted with this news, and the pair establish an implicit intention to undertake a liaison.

 

Act III.

Margery and Alethea again discuss the restrictions Pinchwife has imposed on Margery. Pinchwife then enters and, after accusing Alethea of being a disreputable lady, says that he is looking forward to marrying Alethea off to Sparkish and then returning with Margery to the country. Margery protests, however, saying that she wants to stay in London and walk abroad. Pinchwife finally gives in; he decides to disguise Margery as a young man and take her out for an airing.

In the next scene, Horner, Harcourt, and Dorilant stand bantering in the New Exchange. Harcourt confesses that he is in love with Alethea and needs a way of preventing her marriage to Sparkish. Horner advises him to use Sparkish himself as a cover for making advances to Alethea. Sparkish himself then approaches, and soon Pinchwife enters with Alethea and the disguised Margery.

Horner, recognizing Margery beneath her disguise, makes his move right under Pinchwife’s nose; Pinchwife cannot intervene without admitting to the disguise and humiliating himself. The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley Meanwhile, Harcourt gets Sparkish to plead for him to Alethea, and in begging for reconciliation he covertly (but in terms clear enough to Alethea) expresses his love for her. Alethea becomes frustrated with Sparkish, who refuses to recognize that Harcourt is actually trying to steal her away from him.

When Pinchwife’s back is turned, Horner manages to make off with Margery. Pinchwife searches in vain for his wife, who soon returns with her arms full of gifts from Horner. Pinchwife, suspecting that he has been cuckolded, prepares to leave. Sir Jasper enters to fetch Horner to Lady Fidget.

 

Act IV.

Alethea’s maid Lucy finishes dressing her mistress for the wedding with Sparkish. Lucy disapproves of the match, however, and continues to advocate for Harcourt. The two women argue about the nature of honor and whether it is prudent or just for Alethea to marry a man she does not love, simply because she previously agreed to it. The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley , Alethea also reveals that Sparkish’s lack of jealousy is, to her, his most attractive quality.

Sparkish enters with Harcourt, who is disguised as his fictional brother “Ned,” the parson, who is to officiate at the wedding. Alethea tries in vain to make Sparkish see through the disguise; eventually she gives up and agrees to submit to what she knows will be an invalid marriage ceremony.

In the next scene, Pinchwife interrogates Margery regarding her encounter with Horner. Pinchwife is not yet a cuckold, but he sees that he will have to take measures to ensure that Horner does not have any further success with his wife. Pinchwife forces Margery to compose at his dictation a letter to Horner expressing her disgust with him and renouncing any further contact. Margery complies under threat of physical harm, but once the letter is finished and Pinchwife’s back is turned, she substitutes a love-letter for the harsh one Pinchwife dictated.

The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley , In the next scene, Horner gives The Quack a positive report on the success of his impotence ruse. The Quack then conceals himself as Lady Fidget enters, seeking her first sexual encounter with Horner. The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley , After some preliminary fretting over her reputation, she embraces Horner just in time to be caught in the act by Sir Jasper, who enters unexpectedly. Lady Fidget’s outrageous explanation, that she was merely determining whether Horner is ticklish, satisfies her oblivious husband. Sir Jasper objects, however, that Lady Fidget was supposed to be shopping for china. She explains that Horner himself has some expertise in china and even possesses a few pieces that she would like to obtain. With this excuse, she exits to another room, into which Horner soon follows her on the pretense of protecting his china collection. As Sir Jasper stands gleefully by, anticipating that his wife is about to obtain a valuable piece of china, Lady Fidget and her new lover have a liaison behind the locked door. Mistress Squeamish enters too late and is disappointed to have missed her opportunity; when Horner and Lady Fidget re-enter, they indicate through double entendres that he is physically depleted.

Pinchwife enters, and Sir Jasper departs with the ladies. Pinchwife delivers Margery’s letter to Horner; Horner reads it on the spot and figures out that Margery has substituted a love-letter for one that Pinchwife dictated to her. Pinchwife warns Horner not to cuckold him, but Horner feigns surprise at learning that the “youth” he kissed was not Margery’s brother but Margery herself. With another warning, Pinchwife departs.

After a brief discussion between Horner and The Quack, Pinchwife re-enters with Sparkish. Pinchwife and Sparkish are discussing the latter’s marriage to Alethea, which may be invalid, as the authenticity of the parson is now in doubt. Horner expresses disappointment in Alethea’s attachment to Sparkish; he is thinking of Harcourt’s hopes, though Pinchwife takes him to be disappointed for his own sake. Pinchwife exits, and Sparkish invites Horner to dine with him and Pinchwife. Horner accepts, on the condition that Margery will be invited.

In the next scene, Margery thinks longingly of Horner and sits down to write another letter to him. Pinchwife enters, reads the letter she is composing, and is about to commit a violent act upon her when Sparkish walks in and puts a stop to it, leading Pinchwife off to dinner.

 

Act V.

After dinner, Pinchwife directs Margery to finish the letter to Horner as she had intended. Margery cleverly finishes it in Alethea’s name, suggesting that Alethea, not she, is in love with Horner. Pinchwife warms to the idea of marrying Alethea to Horner instead of Sparkish. Meanwhile, with Lucy’s help, Margery concocts a plan to get to Horner’s lodging: she will impersonate Alethea, who ostensibly wishes to meet Horner and discuss the matter with him but who is so ashamed that she must wear a mask in order not to face Pinchwife. Pinchwife falls for this ruse, and soon he and the disguised Margery depart for Horner’s lodging.

In the next scene, Pinchwife delivers the disguised Margery to Horner and then departs to find a parson who will marry Horner and Alethea. Sir Jasper then enters to inform Horner that Lady Fidget and her friends will soon be arriving.

In the next scene, Pinchwife, in Covent Garden, presents Sparkish with evidence that Alethea has written to Horner and intends to marry him. Sparkish is incensed over this insult. Soon Alethea enters, and Sparkish says such nasty things to her, including an avowal that her only attraction for him was her money, that Alethea concludes that she was deceived all along about his good nature.

In the next and final scene, Lady Fidget, Dainty Fidget, and Mistress Squeamish all carouse with Horner in his lodging. (Margery is concealed in a nearby room.) The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley , The ladies speak openly of their frustrations with the upper-class men who neglect them and of the hollowness of “reputation.” Lady Fidget then makes a reference to Horner’s being her lover; this admission elicits surprise from the other two ladies, who apparently have also availed themselves of Horner’s services. The three ladies quickly agree not to fight over him, however, but rather to be “sister sharers,” all keeping each other’s secrets.

Sir Jasper enters, and then the group receives notice that Pinchwife and others are approaching. Horner sends his guests into another room, then calls forth Margery and tries in vain to persuade her to go home before Pinchwife finds her. Margery, however, has resolved to leave Pinchwife and take Horner as her new husband. Horner sends her back into the other room as Pinchwife and the others enter.

Pinchwife, accompanied by Alethea, Harcourt, Sparkish, Lucy, and a parson, wants Horner to attest that Alethea has visited his lodging. Horner lies, in order to protect Margery, and affirms this. Alethea, baffled and aware that she is dishonored by this slander, avows that she regrets the loss of no one’s good opinion but Harcourt’s. Harcourt declares that he believes her; he then tries in vain to get Horner to clear the matter up. The two men have reached a stalemate when Margery pokes her head in.

Margery gives her opinion that the parson should marry Horner to her rather than to Alethea. Pinchwife, suddenly undeceived, draws his sword on Margery; Horner objects, and Pinchwife turns to threaten him instead, then is restrained by Harcourt. Sir Jasper, entering, inquires what is going on and is amused by the notion of Horner’s cuckolding anyone. Pinchwife’s seriousness, however, instills in him a fear that Horner may be virile after all. The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley.

Lucy intervenes, claiming that Margery’s coming in disguise to Horner’s lodging was not an indication that Margery loves Horner but rather part of Lucy’s plan to break up Sparkish and Alethea. Margery objects, however, that her love for Horner is genuine. Pinchwife makes more threats.

The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley Suddenly The Quack walks in, to the relief of Horner, who calls upon him to attest to his impotence, which The Quack obligingly does. Sir Jasper readily accepts this medical testimony. Pinchwife is more suspicious and requires to be assured that all of London believes in Horner’s impotence before he will accept the idea. Margery continues to dissent, but the ladies overwhelm her testimony with expressions of their confidence in Horner’s deficiency. Among the concluding remarks, Harcourt indicates his impatience to be a husband, the Pinchwifes each indicate their distaste for their marriage, and Lucy insists to Pinchwife that Margery’s expression of love for Horner “was but the usual innocent revenge on a husband’s jealousy.” Margery reluctantly confirms this lie, and Pinchwife resigns himself to accepting the story, though it does not convince him: “For my own sake fain I would all believe; / Cuckolds, like lovers, should themselves deceive.”

 

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