Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Olivia’s lodging

Olivia’s lodging. London home of the mistress of Captain Manly, the “plain-dealer” of the play’s title. The play’s stage directions do not provide a description of Olivia’s rooms, but the actions that occur there distinguish the site as the most important set in the play. William Wycherley’s intent in The Plain-Dealer is to satirize both hypocrisy and idealism, and his satire becomes blatantly obvious every time the scene switches to Olivia’s lodging. It is there that Olivia’s true nature, an unfaithful, flirtatious hypocrite, is revealed. The plain-dealing Manly is often seen in the shadows or in darkness while visiting Olivia at her home, and truly, he is, for a while, in the dark about her real character. Likewise, she tries to keep others in the dark about the reality of her moral fiber.

Manly’s lodging

Manly’s lodging. London home of the naval captain Manly whose chief interest is finding a new ship after losing his last ship in a battle against the Dutch. Manly’s lodgings are meant to be a stark contrast to Olivia’s. While untruth and infidelity pervade Olivia’s “world,” his dwelling is, in his own opinion, a shrine to truth and virtue. He will not allow shallow flatterers or false friends into his home; in fact, he attempts to thwart visitors by placing guards outside his door. Ultimately, his actions and attitude simply reveal that he is an idealist and a bit of a misanthrope, a person who erroneously thinks that he can live a righteous life by alienating himself from humankind, thereby avoiding any falseness.

Cock in Bow Street

Cock in Bow Street. London tavern that is a center of intrigue. There, Manly and his page Fidelia, an heiress in disguise, scheme to expose Olivia’s promiscuity; Manly’s previous trusted friend Vernish exposes his hypocrisy; and the widow Blackacre and two knights talk of past and future forgeries of legal documents. Ultimately, all characters seen at this tavern prove themselves hypocrites, even Manly, who prides himself on his “plain-dealing.”

Westminster Hall

Westminster Hall. This legal arena provides more insight into the character of Widow Blackacre, a woman obsessed with the law, lawsuits, legal briefs, and legal cases. In addition, her courtroom scene there directly links the legal motifs that pervade the play.