The Country Wife

Definition

Theater

  • William Wycherley's robust Restoration comedy. Firstperformed in 1675 at Drury Lane, it was his greatest triumph and probablythe last play he wrote (although The Plain Dealer was stageda year later). The Country Wife became known as one of thelewdest plays in the language and, although popular in its day, waslater supplanted by Garrick's bowdlerized version, The CountryGirl (1766). No producer had the nerve to touch Wycherley's originaluntil 1924, when it was staged at the Phoenix Society nightclub inLondon. It is now admired for its clever construction and mordantwit.

    The play concerns the libertine Mr Horner, who feigns impotencein order to gain unrestricted access to women. Soon society womenare flocking in droves to admire his 'china.' Mr Pinchwife, who hasmarried the lusty country girl Margery, has not heard of Horner'ssupposed affliction and makes futile attempts to keep his young wifeaway from temptation.

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