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Midterm

ENG337H1 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: The Conscious Lovers

11 pages53 viewsFall 2011

Department
English
Course Code
ENG337H1
Professor
Terry Robinson
Study Guide
Midterm

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Drama Exam
The Country Wife
Author, plus biographical information
- Authored by William Wycherley
- He was an aspiring courtier (attendant to the Queen)
- His life was marred by illness, debt, litigation, and two controversial marriages
- He enjoyed the friendship of the court wits and the admiration of the court ladies
- He also enjoyed the fondness of the King himself
- This is the third of Wycherley’s four plays
- He has a reputation as a powerful comedic and satiric dramatist
- Nell Gwyn was his mistress
The date it first produced on the London Stage
- this play was written in 1675
- it was first performed by the King’s Company at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
-January 12, 1675
- It ran through the mid-eighteenth century and was moderately successful
- In 1753 it disappeared form the stage and was replaced a few years later by two radical
adaptations which claimed to have excised the impropriety of the original
- Both eliminated the vital center of the play – Horner’s character, and the plot of lust and
deception
- It wasn’t put back on stage until 1924
- It was performed on an apron stage – which meant the actors would come forward for
maximum audience contact
Genre
- This is a Social Comedy
- This play received extensive praise for its wit and the increasing disapproval it incurred
for its licentiousness (unprincipled in sexual matters)
- The play was controversial immediately
Plot and Central Characters
- basically there is a Rake, who pretends he is impotent in order to safely have clandestine
affairs with married women
- the arrival in London of an inexperienced “country wife”
- The play serves to humiliate the husbands of the London middle classes
- It was fast paced, lots of complications
Plot
1.) Horner’s impotence trick
He pretends to be a eunuch in order to be allowed where no man may go
He is an upper-class town rake and wants to seduce as many respectable ladies as
possible and thus “cuckolding” their husbands
If he is impotent than he can safely socialize with wives
This also helps him identify women who are secretly eager for extramarital sex
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This shows that these hypocritical upper-class women are rakes at heart
Margery Pinchwife is outraged at the accusations of impotence directed at Horner
and she is about the say so in front of everyone
But the final trickster, Horner averts this by joining forces to persuade the jealous
Pinchwife to pretend to believe Horner
He never becomes reformed but it is assumed that he goes on to reap the fruits of
his misinformation
2.) The married life of Margery Pinchwife
Pinchwife marries a naïve country girl in hopes she will not know to cuckold him
This is a juxtaposition between town and country
In innocent but inquisitive young girl and the other had the sophisticated culture
of sexual relations
Margery is not pure and virtuous however – she is enthusiastic about the
handsomeness of town gallants, rakes and especially theatre actors
Her husband is in a state of continual jealousy
His jealous leads him right into Horner’s hands
3.) The courtship of Harcourt and Alithea
This is a conventional lover story by means of persistence and true love
Harcourt, Horner’s friends, wins the hand of Pinchwife’s sister Alithea
She is engaged the shallow “fop” Sparkish at first
Alithea is however a moral woman who wants to hold her engagement to
Sparkish even while he is stupid
It’s only after Alithea has been caught in a misleadingly compromising situation
with Horner that she finally admits her love for Harcourt
Act 1:
The play begins with Horner explaining to Dr. Quack his brilliant ruse for making a conquest
of London’s upper-class ladies. Horner spread a rumor that he was impotent or a eunuch. This
means that he can gain access to ladies whose husbands and families would otherwise consider
him dangerous. The woman can have affairs with him yet preserve their honor in the eyes of the
world. Sir Jasper Fidget enters with his wife Lady Fidget. Jasper Fidget thinks because Horner
pretends to be uninterested and rude to Lady Fidget that he what he is saying is true. Sir. Jasper
arranges for Horner to act as his wife’s new chaperone and companion. They leave and
Harcourt and Mr. Dorilant come in. They talk about women, wine and friendship. Soon Mr.
Sparkish arrives and bores the three men with his pretensions to wit. He is driven away.
Pinchwife then enters – Horner correctly discerns that he recently got married. Pinchwife fears
that Horner will cuckold him. The men discuss Pinchwife’s reasons for marrying and his choice
of bride – Pinchwife’s contempt for women becomes plain “good wives and private soldiers
should be ignorant”. It comes out that Horner has seen Margery at the theater, Pinchwife
becomes uncomfortable and leaves.
Act 2:
“If you love me you must hate London”
Margery complains to her sister-in-law Alithea Pinchwife that her new husband has confined
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her indoors and will not let her see London. They talk about Pinchwife’s jealousy – Margery
talks about how much she lied the actors at the play the night before. Pinchwife enters and talks
about the importance of Margery’s remaining ignorant in the ways of the town. He says that a
licentious man has seen her and fallen in lover with her. Margery is delighted. Pinchwife locks
her in the next room because Harcourt and Sparkish come in. Sparkish is supposed to marry
Alithea tomorrow, he wants to show off his fiancée to Harcourt. Harcourt falls in love with
Alithea immediately and makes advance to her under the nose of Sparkish. He is too obtuse to
understand what’s going on – “I could gaze upon her till I became as blind as you are’. Alithea
tries to wind Sparkish up, get him to be jealous about Harcourt but Sparkish believes that
sophisticated town wits are immune to jealousy. He only gets mad when he thinks Harcourt is
questioning his intelligence. Sparkish, Harcourt and Alithea leave. Pinchwife is surprised to see
Lady Fidget, Dainty Fidget and Mrs. Squeamish. They came to see Margery but Pinchwife
says they can’t and then leaves. The women talk about his jealousy and lament the mistreatment
of upper-class wives. Then they talk about adultery and agree it injures no one’s honor as long as
it’s kept secret. Sir Jasper and Horner come in – he says they must accept Horner as their
chaperone. Lady Fidget rejects but she accepts when she thinks she’ll win money off him at
cards. Then Horner tells her he is faking. She is delighted and they decide to bone.
Act 3
Margery and Alithea talk about the restrictions Pinchwife imposes on Margery. Pinchwife
enters, accuses Alithea of being disreputable and says he wants to marry her off to Sparkish so he
can go back to the country. Margery says she wants to stay and walk around. Pinchwife decides
to disguise Margery as a young man so he can take her out
Scene ii
Horner, Harcourt, Dorilant are bantering in the New Exchange. Harcourt says he is in love
with Alithea and wants to prevent her marriage to Sparkish. Horner recognizes Margery right
away and makes moves right under Pinchwife’s nose. Pinchwife cannot intervene without
admitting to the disguise and humiliating himself. Harcourt expresses his love for Alithea who
then becomes frustrated with Sparkish who refuses to recognize that Harcourt is trying to steal
her away. When Pinchwife’s back is turned, Horner makes off with Margery. He searches for
her, she comes back with her arms full of gifts. Pinchwife thinks he’s been cuckolded and
prepares to leave. Jasper Enters to fetch Horner to Lady Fidget.
Act 4
Alithea’s maid Lucy dresses her for the wedding with Sparkish. Lucy disapproves of the match
and continues to advocate for Harcourt. The two women argue about the nature of honor and
whether it is prudent or just for Alithea to marry a man she doesn’t love. She says that his lack of
jealous is his most attractive quality. Sparkish enters with Harcourt who is disguised as the
parson to officiate the wedding. Alithea tried to make Sparkish see through the disguise but she
gives up and agrees to submit to what he knows will be an invalid marriage ceremony.
Then Pinchwife interrogates Margery about her encounter with Horner. He forces Margery to
write a letter to Horner, renouncing any further contact. Her complies because he threatens to
harm her but when Pinchwife’s back is turned, she substitutes a lover letter for the other.
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