Places: The Man of Mode

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1676

First produced: 1676

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Comedy of manners

Time of work: 1670’s

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*London

*London. Man of Mode, TheFashionable 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 The city represents all that is fashionable and modern; the country represents the unsophisticated and out-of-date lives of such characters as Lady Woodvill and Old Bellair.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.

BibliographyHolland, Norman N. The First Modern Comedies: The Significance of Etherege, Wycherley, and Congreve. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1959. This masterful collection of essays underscores the conflict in The Man of Mode between personal fulfillment and social expectations. Holland contends that Etherege exposed false sentiments and pretentiousness as agents of hypocrisy.Huseboe, Arthur R. Sir George Etherege. New York: Macmillan, 1987. Even though this is a literary biography, the author devotes nineteen pages and many more cross-references to The Man of Mode. Discusses character types and frames the discussion in the context of aristocratic manners and mores as defined by the court of Charles II. Carefully examines Etherege’s use of heroic couplets, blank verse, and prose.Powell, Jocelyn. “George Etherege and the Form of Comedy.” In Restoration Dramatists: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Earl Miner. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966. This wide-ranging essay links Etherege’s realism to the physical action and narrative promise in Anton Chekhov’s plays. Emphasizes dramatic technique and the naturalism of details.Sharma, Ram Chandra. Themes and Conventions in the Comedy of Manners. New York: Asia House, 1965. Reinforces the significance of The Man of Mode as a groundwork for Restoration themes and patterns. Provides a systematic record of Etherege’s career.Underwood, Dale. Etherege and the Seventeenth-Century Comedy of Manners. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1957. The author justifies the critical and historical importance of The Man of Mode as a masterpiece of English comedy. Highlights Etherege’s distinction between nature and reason in terms of pre-Enlightenment idealism. Discusses the “comedy of values” motifs.
Categories: Places