Thursday, 12 March 2015

Review of 'The Country Wife'

(image taken from google)

This 17th Century play goes hand in hand with The Man of Mode, which I reviewed here the other week. Again, this play forms a part of the Restoration drama canon, and as such has many of the common features of it. Very bawdy (to say the least), this play questions relationships and hierarchies between men and women. 

Horner (aptly named) creates a rumour at the beginning of the play that through some kind of venereal disease he has become impotent. This allows him to get away with far more licentious behaviour with men's wives than would otherwise be allowed. Alongside this plot, the audience follow the lives of many other characters. There is the not-so-witty Mr Sparkish, due to marry Alithea; Pinchwife, whose decision to shut his wife up from the contagion of London morals doesn't quite go to plan, and more.

As with The Man of Mode, many questions about gender roles and sexuality are raised in this play. The most potent of these (get the pun?) is the idea that as long as a man is impotent one's wife is safe with him. This largely dwells from the lack of contraception during this period - a man needed to make sure his heir was in fact his, so his wife had to remain untainted by any other man with the potential to produce offspring. I found it incredibly interesting that this was the key reason for keeping a woman faithful, rather than the spread of venereal disease or the idea of husbandly possessiveness (as is very prevalent in later literature). 

Have you read it? What did you think?

Steph x

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