This play is the epitome of the spirit of the reign of Charles II. The plot is presented with Restoration boldness, depending as it does on the supposition of Horner’s impotence and his amorous adventures with various wives who have been gulled into believing that he is incapable of feelings for the opposite sex. While the main device of the play is frankly indecent, the handling of the theme, particularly in the dialogue, is brilliant. Clever dialogue and the whimsicality of Mrs. Pinchwife’s naïveté save the drama from approaching pornography and raise the play to the realm of art. As a result of the play’s deftness, readers usually find themselves laughing, along with the characters, at the duplicity of the women and their lover.
William Wycherley’s comedies were his contribution to English dramatic literature and in one of them, The Country Wife, the Restoration comedy reached its height. Wycherley’s first play, Love in a Wood, was performed in the spring of 1671 and occasioned the start of a relationship between Wycherley and the duchess of Cleveland, who was mistress to the king. Wycherley was, as a result, brought into the court circle and into the favor of the king. The Gentleman Dancing-Master, his second play, apparently opened at Dorset Garden in the fall of 1672. It was not well received by the Restoration audience, perhaps because of its simplicity and lack of vulgarity. The Plain-Dealer, first...
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