Mr. Horner, a man with a reputation for lewdness. Newly returned from France, he finds an excellent method of duping unsuspecting husbands. With the aid of a quack, he spreads the fictitious information that he is no longer sexually potent. Foolish husbands, needing someone to escort and amuse their wives, invite the clever Mr. Horner to their homes. In this way, he finds his way to the bedchambers of many high-born ladies who no longer have to fear the tarnishing of their reputations if they associate with a man because this one is impotent.
Mr. Pinchwife, who, like Sparkish and Sir Jasper Fidget, is a cuckold who helps to bring about the very thing he fears most, the seduction of his naïve wife. He is right when he says that cuckolds are generally the makers of their own misfortune. Dour, humorless, and exceedingly jealous, he takes every precaution to keep his wife from falling into the predatory hands of Horner. Foolishly, he is the very instrument that brings about this event.
Mrs. Margery Pinchwife
Mrs. Margery Pinchwife, his country wife. She is little aware of London’s pleasures until she is informed of them inadvertently by her husband. Little by little, she loses some of her innocence until, finally, she meets Horner. After this brief interlude, she learns what a dullard her husband is. Cleverly, she manages to send a love letter, carried by her unsuspecting husband, to Horner....
(The entire section is 612 words.)
A note about the names of the characters:
Most of the characters in The Country Wife have "character-names"; that is to say, their names signify a character trait. This is an old tradition in British drama, a carry over from medieval morality plays where characters were named "Avarice," "Greed," "Lust," "Chastity," and so on. Morality plays were primarily interested in teaching religious morals. During the Restoration, playwrights such as Wycherley professed to be teaching morals even though their plays often gave no sign of such, except through the names of the characters.
Harcourt’s beloved, Alithea is perhaps the most intelligent and, therefore, interesting of all the characters. Althea is the only woman in the whole play who acts with dignity and common sense.
Dorilant is a friend of Horner and Harcourt, a gallant. He joins them in witty repartees.
She is the wife of Sir Jasper Fidget and is in love with Horner. Lady Fidget is as equally debauched as the men and completely hypocritical.
Sir Jasper Figet
Lady Fidget's husband, Sir Jasper is equally lewd, but gullible and given to malicious enjoyment of other people's defects. He makes endless and mindless jokes about Horner's alleged impotence.
Dainty Fidget is their daughter, and also in love with Horner.
He is Alithea's lover. A witty, ebullient man with an intelligent flair, he wants to marry her, which, in the context of Restoration comedies, is unusual.
Horner is the intelligent, intellectual hero of the play, but also a debaucher. A man of the world, he pretends to be impotent in order to seduce London women; he seems to have no scruples...
(The entire section is 512 words.)