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.
Mr. Sparkish, a boring idiot who desires, more than anything else, to be a wit. He is called “a bubble, a coward, a senseless idiot” and is outraged. Credulously, he is duped by all he meets, always feeling, however, that he is a wit, even to the very end.
Sir Jasper Fidget
Sir Jasper Fidget, the husband of Lady Fidget. Almost the equal of Sparkish in stupidity, he unsuspectingly begs Horner to be an escort for Lady Fidget. Even when he is in the next room from the lovers, he is unaware that his wife and Horner are doing anything other than looking for china plates.
Lady Fidget, a woman who wants to protect her reputation for virtue at all costs. In public, she raves about her chastity; in private, however, she tells bawdy jokes, drinks wine, and, in her boudoir, finds the indefatigable Horner a delightful and stimulating companion.
Alithea, a comely young woman, the sister of Pinchwife and the mistress of Sparkish. At first, she remains true to her witless lover. Later, however, she finds Harcourt a much more interesting person.
Mr. Harcourt, a friend of Horner. Clever and somewhat unscrupulous, he gulls the would-be-wit, Sparkish, by pretending to be a good and faithful friend.
Lucy, Alithea’s maid, who is clever enough to help Mrs. Pinchwife meet Horner. At the end of the play, she convinces Pinchwife and Sir Jasper that there has been no intrigue between their wives and Horner.
Mrs. Dainty Fidget
Mrs. Dainty Fidget, who, like Lady Fidget, is infatuated with Horner, particularly when she can associate with him without endangering her reputation.
Mrs. Squeamish, another of the many women surrounding Horner. In the end, she learns, as do the others, that she must share him with several women.
A quack, through whose professional status Horner is able to convince the gulls of his impotency. The quack helps him by spreading this information through the city. He is amazed when the scheme works so well.
Mr. Dorilant, Horner’s friend and a man about town. During Horner’s dalliance with Mrs. Pinchwife, Dorilant shows considerable interest in Lucy.
List of Characters
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...
(The entire section is 2,840 words.)