Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*London. Fashionable capital of Great Britain in which the play is set during the seventeenth century. The characters move easily through this world of fine society, a world of playhouses, parks, and drawing rooms. Original audiences of upper-class gentlemen and ladies, many of whom would be from the court, would be familiar with the common places of London that are mentioned in the play. They would be familiar with the fashionable shops on the Exchange, mentioned in act 1, as well as the Inns of Court, where the lawyers practice, mentioned in act 3. The vision of London in the play excludes most of the real London of the day, which would in reality be dominated by the merchant middle class and large areas of poverty-stricken dwellings and shops.

English countryside

English countryside. Contrasting with fashionable London in the play is the world of the “country,” essentially anywhere outside London. The city represents all that is fashionable and modern; the country represents the unsophisticated and out-of-date lives of such characters as Lady Woodvill and Old Bellair. Harriet, accompanying her mother to town, sees her only hope for a satisfactory life in making a marriage that will assure her a residence in London. Dorimant, in act 5, vows to move to the country if that is what it would take to marry Harriet. This vow shows the sincerity of his intentions toward her.

*St. James Park

*St. James Park. Much of the play occurs out of doors in the fashionable Mall area of St. James Park. The Mall was a long tract in St. James formerly used for playing pall-mall. By the time of this play it was known as a fashionable park used for walking, for meeting lovers, and for displaying the latest fashions. In this play the Mall is contrasted with Hyde Park, another, much more fashionable area of leisure.