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What techniques does William Wycherley use in his Restoration comedy The Country...

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fw44 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 1, 2012 at 2:19 PM via web

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What techniques does William Wycherley use in his Restoration comedy The Country Wife  to outline the major themes of the play?

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lprono | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted July 27, 2012 at 9:19 AM (Answer #1)

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Wlliam Wycherly's Restoration comedy The Country Wife (1675) satirizes social manners and habits without trying to propose right moral models for the audience to follow. The one-liner technique that Wycherly pioneered in the play to achieve his satirical purposes has proved influential for many generations of playwrights up to the present. Wycherly found people from urban society acted superior without even being aware of their attitude. He made fun of this behavior with a series of powerful one-liners, oten in the form of asides, that commented ironically on the characters' manners. These dry, concised comments were then expanded with more ironic remarks, attracting laughter from the public. Through this technique, Wycherly conveyed his satire of Restoration society and its institutions such as marriage. See for example, Act II, Scene I: Lady Fidget is talking about honor when Sir Jasper and Horner enter and, upon hearing the word "honor", Sir Jasper comments

Ay, my dear, dear of honor, thou hast still so much honor in thy mouth -

Horner's aside puts Sir Jasper's comment in totally different light:

That she has none elsewhere.

The ensuing discussion causes more laughter from the audience with the double entendre generated by the expression "the naked truth".

Also, the many different disguises that take place in the play call attention to the theme that contrasts seeming and being, what one claims to be and what one really is. For example, Horner passes off as eunuch, Sparkish as a wit, Pinchwife wants to be regarded as a man who knows his ways in the urban context and Lady Fidget as a respectable and honorable woman, while Margery and Harcourt materially put on different disguises in the course of the play.

Finally, the technique of ending the play without a clear-cut resolution between old and new values clearly reinforces the theme of moral ambivalence, subjecting the institution of marriage and the entire Restoration society to the extremely human temptations of hypocrisy and sexual greed.

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