William Wycherley’s The Country Wife Essay

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William Wycherley’s “The Country Wife”

“A Restoration comedy is like an eighteenth-century sitcom; it’s entertaining” (MacKenzie, “Behn”). However, the similarities between the two genres are more far-reaching than their equal entertainment value. For example, the cast of William Wycherley’s Restoration comedy, “The Country Wife,” consists of some central characters that are strikingly similar to those in the cast of the modern situation comedy, Seinfeld. Harry Horner from “The Country Wife” and George Costanza from Seinfeld both fit the male “wit” character type. Likewise, Lady Fidget, one of Horner’s lovers, and another woman, who’s one of Costanza’s fleeting lovers, both fit the female “wit” character type. Through the
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“He starts a rumor going round to the effect that he has become a eunuch; …wives, he trusts, will be intrigued” (2288). Horner’s conclusion is logical and clever, considering the fact that masks “were a widespread item of Restoration fashion[;]…they were worn both by ‘virtuous’ women and by prostitutes, with the tantalizing effect of rendering those two human categories not quite distinguishable from one another” (2288). From this social climate, he discerns that if he wears a metaphorical mask, or a unique social label, this mask might have a similar “tantalizing effect” on women; it might make discerning female wits want to discover whether the man behind the mask is truly asexual or erotic.

However, after putting on his mask, Horner passively waits for Lady Fidget to present him with the opportunity to exchange pleasure; he does not go out and actively seek the opportunity on his own. Instead, Sir Jaspar actively seeks out Horner, on Lady Fidget’s behalf, and presents him to her; however, she only relents to Horner’s company after she asks: “[b]ut are you sure he loves play and has money?” (2309). Horner can’t “play” or negotiate an exchange of pleasure with Lady Fidget unless he first has money, so a male wit has to spend time to somehow get money, before he can even try to obtain pleasure from a female wit. However, in order to negotiate with Horner, Lady Fidget, as the

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