Places: The Country Wife

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1675

First produced: 1675

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Comedy

Time of work: Seventeenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*London

*London. Country Wife, TheCapital 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.

BibliographyHarwood, John T. Critics, Values, and Restoration Comedy. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982. Provides a lucid account of the play in its context of the history and conventions of Restoration drama.Holland, Norman N. The First Modern Comedies: The Significance of Etherege, Wycherley and Congreve. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1959. Perhaps the most influential account of the play. Takes the Harcourt-Alithea relationship as the moral standard by which the actions of the others are measured.Marshall, W. Gerald. A Great Stage of Fools: Theatricality and Madness in the Plays of William Wycherley. New York: AMS Press, 1993. The chapter on The Country Wife is contentious and not entirely convincing, but deserves consideration for its impressive scholarship and insight, especially into the relationship of Margery and Pinchwife.Milhous, Judith, and Robert D. Hume. Producible Interpretation: Eight English Plays, 1675-1707. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Restoration drama. The chapter on The Country Wife provides what is probably the best available introduction to the play and includes a valuable overview of modern critical approaches. A commendatory blend of wit, exemplary scholarship, and common sense.Zimbardo, Rose. Wycherley’s Drama: A Link in the Development of English Satire. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1965. Argues that The Country Wife is foremost a satire, one against “lust that disguises itself.” Persuasive.
Categories: Places