Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Review of "The Man of Mode"

The above excerpt from this 17th century play sounds like it could have come out of the mouth of Lady Macbeth, however, writing over half a century later, the playwright Etherege had quite a number of different aims in his portrayal of the scorned women. The political climate of Etherege's writing was one of libertinism. Charles 1 had been killed and a spirit of puritanism had entertained the interregnum, but with the Restoration seeing Charles II put on the throne, a period of somewhat licentious behaviour ensued. Charles II was known for his many mistresses, and if you've ever read any of Rochester's poetry, you'll know how, let's say "saucy" Restoration literature can be! 

Dorimant, a man of wit, convinces the town that through the contraction of a venereal disease he has become impotent. In this way he can allow men to let him have access to their wives, believing that he can do them no harm (the rogue!). Mrs Loveitt is one of the first to fall under his wiles and realise that she desires him. After this, women seem to keep falling into his trap. Sir Fopling Flutter on the other hand, as his name suggests, is the foppish laughing stock of the play - misplaced attempts at wit, unfashionable clothing and outdated speech make him far less desirable to the women. The real question of the play is: will Dorimant's trickery be discovered? And by the men or the women of the play?

This play really made me think about how restrictive Victorian literature has been on the notion of sexuality, especially female sexuality. All of the women in this play display some level of sexual desire, even if it is misplaced in this man of supposed impotence. However, Mrs "Loveitt"s name in particularly gives a slightly negative outlook upon the notion of women chasing after men they desire. The complex natures of the women were also interesting as again, in later English literature this seems to have disappeared a tad. Here the women are at once devious, loving, skeptical, chaste and yet sexual creatures.


Have you read it? What did you think?

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