The Plain Dealer

Definition

Theater

  • A harsh comedy by Sir William Wycherley, sometimesconsidered his best play. Loosely based on Molière's TheMisanthrope (1666), it was first performed in 1676 at Drury Lane.The identification of the misanthropic title character, Manly, withthe author himself led to the latter being nicknamed 'Manly' Wycherley.The play's satire is strident and frequently obscene. At one pointManly anticipates the objections of the audience by asking, "Israiling satire... and roaring and making a noise humour?"In the later 18th century the play generally appeared in a bowdlerizedversion by Isaac Bickerstaffe. The Renaissance Theatre Companypresented a noted revival of Wycherley's original at London's ScalaTheatre in 1925.

    Manly, a plain-dealing naval captain, returns from the Dutchwars with a distrust of all mankind except his fiancée Olivia,to whom he has entrusted his money, and his best friend Vernish. Heis shocked, therefore, to find them married to each other. Fidelia,a young woman who had followed Manly to sea disguised as a male, triesto intervene on his behalf but the treacherous Vernish attempts torape her. When she is wounded defending Manly from an attack by Vernish,the captain realizes that it is Fidelia who loves him and vows tomarry her.

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