The Country Wife

The Country Wife

by William Wycherley
     
 

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'He's a fool that marries, but he's a greater fool that does not marry a fool.'

This bawdy, hilarious, subversive and wickedly satirical drama pokes fun at the humourless, the jealous, and the adulterous alike. It features a country wife, Margery, whose husband believes she is too naïve to cuckold him; and an anti-hero, Horner, who pretends to be

Overview

'He's a fool that marries, but he's a greater fool that does not marry a fool.'

This bawdy, hilarious, subversive and wickedly satirical drama pokes fun at the humourless, the jealous, and the adulterous alike. It features a country wife, Margery, whose husband believes she is too naïve to cuckold him; and an anti-hero, Horner, who pretends to be impotent in order to have unrestrained access to the women keen on 'the sport'. A number of licentious and hypocritical women request Horner's services ? the country wife among them.

The Country Wife has provoked powerfully mixed reactions over the years. The seventeenth century libertine king Charles II saw it twice, and is said to have joined the 'dance of the cuckolds' at the end of one performance; the eighteenth century actor-playwright David Garrick declared it 'the most licentious play in the English language'; the Victorian Macaulay compared it to a skunk, because it was 'too filthy to handle and too noisome even to approach'. Twentieth century productions heralded it a Restoration masterpiece. Sexually frank, and as ready to criticise marriage as infidelity, the virtuosity, linguistic energy, brilliant wit, naughtiness and complexity of this ribald play have made it a staple of the modern stage.

This student edition contains a lengthy, entirely new introduction, by leading scholar, Tiffany Stern, with a background on the author, structure, characters, genre, themes, original staging and performance history, as well as an updated bibliography and a fully annotated version of the playtext.

Editorial Reviews

Seventeenth-Century News

"The Country Wife is shown to surpass much Restoration comedy in structural and thematic unity by counterpointing the principals' attitudes on sex and marriage. Although the plot is episodic and portrays multiple sets of lovers, Wycherley succeeds in evolving a 'clear dramatic line.'"—Seventeenth-Century News

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781408179918
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
02/13/2014
Series:
New Mermaids
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
184
Sales rank:
1,026,644
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Tiffany Stern is Professor of Early Modern Drama at University College, University of Oxford, UK. She is one of the General Editors of the New Mermaid series, and she has also edited two plays in the series - Sheridan's The Rivals (2004) and Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer (2010).

James Ogden is Editor of She Stoops to Conquer for the New Mermaids series and a former Senior Lecturer in English at Aberystwyth University, UK.
William Wycherley (1640-1716) was an English playwright of the Restoration era, whose bawdy and satirical plays contain elements of biting social criticism. Despite their harshness, his works enjoyed a great vogue, and Wycherley became a favourite of King Charles II. Congreve was amongst those who saw Wycherley as an essentially moral writer appointed "to lash this crying age". As a young man Wycherley studied law but became bored and abandoned it: his first play, Love in a Wood, or, St James's Park, was produced at Drury Lane in 1671. He followed this success with The Gentleman Dancingmaster (1672) and his two great plays The Country Wife (1675), and The Plain Dealer (1676). However, as a result of his somewhat dissolute lifestyle, he spent seven years in debtors' prison until rescued by James II.
Tiffany Stern is Professor of Early Modern Drama at University College, Oxford, UK.
James Ogden is a former Senior Lecturer in English at Aberystwyth University, UK.

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