Places Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 326


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*London. Capital and leading city of England. The play depicts fashionable London, in which wives are expected to be ready to deceive their husbands and take lovers and where gentlemen are considered potential or actual rakes. This is a world in which country manners and morals are regularly derided and feminine chastity is associated with lack of London sophistication, except by Margery Pinchwife’s sister, Alithea, who is the play’s true heroine.

Horner’s lodging

Horner’s lodging. London bachelor apartment of Mr. Horner; a key setting in the play, as the place where Horner’s scheme of pretending to be impotent in order to gain access to other men’s wives is announced in the first act. The lodging is later the scene of various seductions and the notorious “china scene,” in which Horner uses the metaphor of “inspecting his china” to describe his conquests of various women. In act 5 the apartment is the setting for the play’s denouement, in which Alithea chooses Harcourt over her naïve suitor, and Pinchwife’s suspicion about Horner’s successful seduction of Margery is refuted by the repetition of the lie about Horner’s supposed impotence, which is reaffirmed by his mercenary doctor.

Pinchwife’s house

Pinchwife’s house. Home of the old cuckold Mr. Pinchwife and his young bride, Margery Pinchwife. The house is a virtual prison for Margery, whom Pinchwife is determined to hide from fashionable London and potential seducers. The location also provides a scene for his debates with his sister-in-law, Alithea, who consistently argues that his effort to “protect” Margery from meeting amatory rakes will produce the opposite effect and make her determined to escape from his zealous confinement of her.

New Exchange

New Exchange. One of many fashionable meeting places for rakes and ladies, it is the setting for Margery’s rebellious adventure away from the house, where disguised as a boy, she encounters Horner, which leads to her seduction.

Historical Context

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 736

The Country Wife by William Wycherley was published in 1675. It is classified in English literature as a Restoration comedy. To understand what a Restoration comedy is, and to appreciate the play itself, it is necessary to understand (1) the play's historical and social context, (2) the chief literary and social concerns of the period's writers, and (3) the state of the English language when the play was written.

Restoration literature, like the Restoration period itself, was caught between two much greater literary epochs: the metaphysical period of the early- to middle-seventeenth century, and the sophisticated and rational period that followed the Restoration, which Matthew Arnold referred to, somewhat ironically, as "our excellent and indispensable eighteenth century."

The term "Restoration" is a historical one used to indicate the period between 1660 and 1688 when Charles II was restored to the throne of England in 1660, and King William of Orange succeeded to it after James II, Charles's brother, was deposed in 1688.

In 1649, Charles II's father, Charles I, was beheaded by an order of Parliament ruled by the Puritan Oliver Cromwell. Charles II and his family fled to and sought refuge in Paris. Charles's mother, Henrietta Maria, was the princess of France, sister to Louis XIV. Meanwhile, back in England, despite ten years of rule without a monarchy, the English could not settle on a nonroyal head of state after Oliver Cromwell died. In 1659, Charles II was invited back to England, and with his return, the House of Stuart was restored. Hence, this period is called the "Restoration."

Contrary to expectations, Charles's taste in literature had a distinctly French flavor, something...

(The entire section contains 2046 words.)

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Critical Essays