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What was the purpose of The Country Wife by William Wycherley? Why was it written?

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fw44 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:58 PM via web

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What was the purpose of The Country Wife by William Wycherley? Why was it written?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 1, 2012 at 4:30 PM (Answer #1)

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In asking why William Wycherley wrote The Country Wife or his purpose in writing it, in a sense, you are asking that we read the mind of a man who died over 200 years ago, something that is not possible. We do not have an extant treatise by Wycherley  stating his reasons for having written the play or his purpose in doing so. Instead, we have a play in which various characters utter statements, and no narrator to even help us adjudicate among the viewpoints expressed by the characters.

Wycherley's biography suggests that his reasons for writing were twofold: to make money and to attract the interests of patrons. His success as a playwright did in fact attract patronage and income. The play itself is highly entertaining, and does not seem to possess any overt moral or political purpose, except a general satirical view of upper class hypocrisy.

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted May 1, 2012 at 6:06 PM (Answer #2)

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Louis Kronenberger, in The Threads of Laughter, points out that Wycherley led a life of pleasure and had "a vigorous talent mixed with violent emotions," and goes on to discuss Wycherley's "self-consuming, self poisoning rage." Other scholars have explored a Freudian interpretation of The Country Wife, making much of Horner's latent homosexuality, emotional impotence, etc., and concentrating on the language in the china scene.  Others see a reflection of Wycherley's view of marriage. As is true of all farce, the author’s worldview is cynical toward social excess, falseness, and corruption; however, the autobiographical information reflected in farce is a “reverse image” of the characters.  

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