Satire in the News–again!

I keep thinking about our recent class discussions on Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” and our too brief brainstorming about contemporary satirical subjects. Satire is such a tricky genre and runs great risks of missing the mark, and yet its power lies in calling out shocking truths–like this really fascinating modern-day satirical website, “Rentaminority.com” which I heard about on NPR.org yesterday afternoon.

 

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Ryan Davis, Satire Blog

Nothing Special

Satire, the perfect way to expose a problem without being too direct yet too concealed that the point is simply lost. We’ve viewed several elements of satire through the Restoration Period thus far, each serving the purpose to expose a sociologic problem occurring at the time. But if these problems were so extreme why not just form an angry letter explicitly addressing the problems directly? There are many answers to my rhetorical question but the biggest being: where’s the fun in that and addressing the problem through creativity has proven to be a much better solution. Your audience is appalled by the ridiculousness of the writer yet the meaning of that behavior becomes apparent. I will be addressing two texts specifically throughout this blog, each with a significant meaning behind them for the overall populous to address, and they arguably could even apply today.

I mean satire isn’t really that great, there’s nothing wrong with creating a list of demands for the government or whomever to follow. We all know that people respond to vicious complaints of what to change in the world, even if they are subjective. Satire doesn’t even work, that’s proven by the text that just happen to be lying randomly in front of me that dates back from 1729 by Mr. Jonathan Swift. This piece is probably still very popular today because of its beautiful sentence structure.

The element of satire still very much exists today and for people who are aware of this brilliant device the meaning behind it becomes very apparent.  A very famous example comes to us from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, more specifically their satirical method of exposing the unethical and absurd method for witch hunting. This isn’t the only satirical piece that remains in today’s pop culture. Shows like South Park, The Office, Parks and Recreation and plays such as the Book of Mormon, just to name a few, thrive on satire. But does satire really work? The evidence for the sudden correction of the problems addressed isn’t documented in a back room in a library somewhere. However, undoubtedly, the pieces that utilize satire perfectly do shed light on problems which, if said piece gains enough popularity, will get the ball rolling in making the world a better place.

“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift is anything but modest. If the definition of “modest” involves eating children, wearing a newborn as a stylish hat, and raising children for the soul purpose of making a profit is considered “modest”, then yes, this is a indeed a modest proposal. In Swift’s thirteenth paragraph he writes “Infant’s flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March, and a little before and after…” (142) If the audience didn’t understand satire then this might come as a shock to the reader, and it will still come as a shock if they do. But of course Swift isn’t seriously addressing wearing your lovely new baby as a hat, he’s addressing the corruptness of the time period and the overwhelming poverty that roams the streets. Mothers need to eat, why not use their natural ability of childbirth to turn a profit? The highlight of the piece is on page 144, in our text, and is a list of proposals that Swift has in order to kill the problems facing Ireland. Among these proposals are brilliant ideas that eliminate mothers giving birth without being married, overpopulations, and raising children with love, homelessness, and overall poverty. If this is read by the right audience, an audience that doesn’t take everything literal and makes use of the absurdness, then maybe these problems got addressed to an extent. However these problems are always happening and most likely will never be solved completely. It’s interesting who will be the next Jonathan Swift and address the problems facing the world today.

Modest Proposal

Shifting to another piece of satire addressed earlier on in this course is the play written by William Wycherly, The Country Wife. Satire doesn’t always have to have a comedic element throughout the piece, this play mixes wacky comedy with finger pointing towards the audience responsible in a very serious manner. This piece exposes the inhumane behavior amongst humans, more specifically, the interactions between the opposite sex. The play has themes of adultery, possessiveness , and violence towards men and women. A beloved character in this play is Pinchwife, a kind hearted young man that wishes the best for his wife and trusts her completely. I wish I could write this description in good faith but this character is the exact opposite. But she isn’t completely pure either so he has a right to be upset, maybe not enough to carve the word “bitch” in her face but still he has a fair argument. This character embodies the possessiveness that can occur in a relationship, or a marriage. His solution is to lock her in a room and treat her like property, granted the scenes containing Mr. and Mrs. Pinchwife is hard to swallow but it is Wycherly’s proposal to the problem. A great element in this piece is the mixture of poetry and prose. The play begins and ends with poetry, serious poetry setting the stage and laying blame to those responsible of these acts at the end. Maybe these poetic words don’t impact a direct meaning but they do however leave the audience thinking of the corruptness of society, “Whose purses for your manhood make excuse, and keep your Flanders mares for show, not use.”(Wycherly 68)

In conclusion, satire isn’t simply a serious of ridiculous proposals in order to solve the words problems, it’s a creative and witty method for a writer to address their audience in a manner that shocks them to the point where a change is very much needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Miller, John. “Jonathan Swift.” Hey Miller RSS. N.p., 10 Feb. 2013. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail. By Terry Gilliam, Terry Gilliam, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, and Eric Idle. Perf. Graham Chapman, John Cleese, and Eric Idle. Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment, 2002

Swift, Jonathan. A Modest Proposal. N.p.: n.p., 1729. Print

Wycherley, William. The Country Wife. N.p.: n.p., 1675. Print

 

 

Sam’s restoration blog

Sam Gagnon

2/16/16

Brit lit

Literary raid: How a British Neoclassicist took the fruits of his predecessors and turned them into desserts.

 Four score and seven years ago. Scrap that. Well over three hundred years ago, when the restoration period in England held its fifteen minutes (or 129 years)of fame like New Wave in the 1980’s or Drive in movies in the 1950’s, a man named Alexander Pope created a big stink. By stink, I mean masterpiece, though it’s hard to say whether Pope’s sources of inspiration would be pinching their noses or applauding his efforts. When Pope was still around and kicking, he and those in his circle were staunch supporters of the neoclassical movement that swept through the nation like a plague. Except this sort of plague took readers, not lives. As a neoclassical poet, Alexander Pope used both playfulness and bawdiness to challenge the previous period’s puritanical control. Aside from pushing the envelope, Neoclassicists like Pope were avid fans of Greek and Roman art forms. Consequently, most neoclassicist’s wanted to emulate the sheer beauty contained in Greek/Roman tales, but at the same time, strived to be original about it. Which is why “neo”, or “new”, is slapped in front of the title.

To paint a brief biography, Alexander Pope was born in London on May 21st, 1688. Around 1700, his family relocated to Binfield in Windsor forest. He wasn’t educated in the traditional sense, yet he was a regular bookworm in his day. A retired statesman who lived nearby, who went by the name of Sir William Trumbull, helped inspire the soon to be poet. Dramatist and poet William Wycherley and poet critic William Walsh gave the motivation Pope needed to get to where he ended up. Unfortunately, Pope got a tubercular infection in his later youth, and never grew any taller than four feet six inches. Despite his short stature, his words of wisdom are held in high regard.

Alexander Pope scribbled upon parchment with his ink and quill for quite a while. Come 1712, he had produced his first incarnation of a mock-epic. By 1714, he tied up the loose ends, and beefed up his story to ultimately produce what rendition we read today. While Catholics pay homage to the father, son, and Holy Ghost, Neoclassicist’s share a scared belief of sorts. In their poems, they are dedicated to retaining classical form. This means they borrow concepts from epics, elegies, and odes. Neoclassicists are adamant about focusing on nature. Not necessarily the birds and bees per se, but universal truths. Ways of thinking and ideas that can hold steady decade to decade. Lastly, Neoclassicists had a penchant for wit. While this may be associated with humor, their definition of wit fell in par with clever wordplay and intellect. They encouraged the reader to think despite the overlying silliness.

Reading the five cantos, I noticed an abundance of themes utilized by neoclassicists. Even though Pope’s spoof of an epic may seem daft, his effort isn’t a battle fought in vain. In fact, Pope organizes his story in a thoughtfully composed way. He scoffs the formula of the ancient storytellers, but in good fun. All the larger than life accounts of heroes in dire situations are trivialized in content, but remain amplified in tone. One soldier’s distinguished valor is another woman’s departed lock. Pope does a stellar job at juxtaposing asinine with astounding, and all the while, manages to create a compelling story from the unorthodox ingredients he uses to make the lines sing.

Within the first three lines, Pope is already on a roll. He says “What dire offence from am’rous causes springs, what mighty contests rise from trivial things. I sing- this verse to Caryll, muse!” (Pope, lines 1-3). While the opening lines gear more towards classical form, it is an example of wit as well. Before men like homer or Virgil would begin their epics, they gave their regards to the gods or muses above that would propel the potency of their passages. In this instance, Pope pays his dues to a friend of his. An ordinary human being, no greater or worse than anyone else. He contrasts grave consequence with sexual undertones and high stakes with arbitrary intent.

As Belinda awakens from her slumber, Pope continues to execute well on his investment in wit. The text reads “Sol thro’ the white curtains shot a tim’rous ray, and op’d those eyes that must eclipse the day” (Pope, lines 13-14). The sun is personified as a mild mannered entity that acts self-conscious when compared to Belinda. Considering the sun hones the power to burn skin and impair vision, its glory is pushed to the back burner when put next to Belinda’s radiance.

As Belinda is entangled in the confines of her dream, she is visited by Ariel, big poobah of the sylphs. Their purpose is to protect the honor of women woven in prestige. Though Ariel’s intent to serve is respectable, the sylphs do more to butter up a superficial quality than unlock the potential of a woman. “Know farther yet, whoever fair and chaste rejects mankind, is by some sylph embrac’d: For spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease assume what sexes and what shapes they please. What guards the purity of melting maids, in courtly balls, and midnight masquerades” (Pope, lines 67-72). The common day woman is, in this instance, subjected to be nothing more than a product of pleasure. Though society has shaped up since, some of the ripples still branch out in the pond.

My last observation regarding the first canto revolves around Belinda’s sprucing up for the gathering at Hampton court. The language used has a religious quality to it, implying that the woman’s code of conduct is to look good. “A heav’nly image in the glass appears, to that she bends, to that she rears; Th’ inferior priestess, at her altar’s side, trembling, begins the sacred rites of pride” (Pope, lines 125-128). This line catches my attention largely because Belinda is buttered up to the likes of a deity. At the same time, her honor is sullied by a superficial filter. That being image. She is adored because her family are financially handsome as much as she is physically handsome. Consequently, she is put up on a pedestal, but for the wrong reasons. Belinda’s maid, Betty, is portrayed as an “inferior priestess” purely based on status. A woman’s duty to spruce up is raised to a religious standard, but at the same time, prioritization to decorate undermines a woman’s ability to be anything more than eye-candy.

Onwards and outwards to canto two with more surprises and tom foolery alike. Classical form peaks its helmeted head again when an allusion to a journey is portrayed. “The sun first rises o’er the purple main, than issuing forth, the rival of his beams lanch’d on the bosom of the silver Thames” (Pope, lines 2-4). Just like the protagonist embarks on a grandiose journey in an epic, Belinda sails down the Thames on her way to the Hampton court. Her destination will be received with company in comfort rather than company in battle.

Alexander Pope named his poem “Rape Of The Lock” for a definite reason, yet at the same time, the circumstances around the action packed calamity can be looked at from different angles. “Love in these labyrinths his slaves detains, and mighty hearts are held in slender chains. With hairy sprindges we the birds betray, slight lines of hair surprise the finny prey” (Pope, lines 23-26). Belinda’s hair can be poised as a trap to lure a lover’s glance. Though it can be perceived that Belinda is open game, the temptations of her admirers are the fiends to be hunted. Regardless, the title still fits, but the incentive seems to flutter around vulnerability in desire and vulnerability in guard on both parties involved.

Sexual innuendo’s sell like hotcakes in this poem, but one of my favorite ones occurs when Ariel breaks the glass in case of an emergency, and recruits his underlings to attend to Belinda’s immediate needs. “Whether the Nymph shall break Diana’s law, or some frail china jar receive a flaw” (Pope, lines 105-106). Diana’s law references the roman goddess of chastity and the moon. This Insinuates that Belinda’s promiscuity may strip her of her virginity. This notion is reinforced when fifty Sylph’s are recruited to monitor her dress.

Canto three, above the rest, whets my whistle because of the striking social commentary. Belinda’s boat arrives at Hampton cort, and she and her party are ready to mingle with the finest cluster of folks England has to offer. When politicians are concerned, “finest cluster of folks England has to offer” is debatable. Especially when Pope writes “Here Britain’s statesmen oft the fall foredoom of foreign tyrants, and of nymphs at home”(Pope, lines 5-6). While politicians discuss affairs related to foreign diplomacy, they will squabble and gossip about women. It goes to show that politicians are treated like law producing robots when they harbor virtues and vices much like anybody else would.

The commentary on humanity gets even juicier. Another societal jab is put in place. Especially within the dualism regarding the hungry judges. “Mean while declining from the noon of day, the sun obliquely shoots his burning ray; the hungry judges soon the sentence sign, and wretches hang that jury men may dine; the merchant from th’ exchange returns in peace, and the long labours of the toilette cease” (Pope, lines 19-24). The judges are both apathetically rash to make a decision so that they can attend lunch, though, at the same time, they are hungry to administer the power they hold with the titles they have. The lines also displays, on a socioeconomic level, that the poor do more and get less and that the upper crust do less and receive more.

No real epic is complete without a “300” style battle. No mock-epic is complete without a grizzly game of cards. “And particolour’d troops, a shining train, draw forth to combat on the velvet plain” (Pope, lines 43-44). Though the quote I used doesn’t embody the grandiose analysis of the actual game itself, it provides an overview of the similarity in theme when compared to an epic. Where in an epic the troops would march on the field, the cards are stacked on the table.

Canto four, say no more. Except I will be saying more. Normally, I would have provided an intermission at this point in the blog. Perhaps even a refund and an apology if it doesn’t meet expectations. However, I’m here to fight the good fight. So buckle up and grab some popcorn, because we’re still riding the restoration rollercoaster. This one might be obvious, but I was compelled to include it anyways. “E’er felt such rage, resentment, and despair, as thou, sad virgin! For thy ravish’d hair.” (Pope, lines 9-10). The lines correlate with the title of the poem. Belinda compares her hair being removed without consent to being deflowered against her will. Hence, “The Rape Of The Lock.”

When the Sylph’s ditch on Belinda, Umbriel, head honcho of the Gnomes takes matters into his own hands. “Swift on his sooty pinions flitts the gnome, and in a vapour reach’d the dismal dome. No cheerful breeze this sullen region knows, the dreaded east is all the wind that blows.” (Pope, lines 17-20). Umbriel visits the “cave of spleen” to rally some trouble. It is infested by trippy creatures, ghastly smells, and horrid sights. It certainly isn’t overcome by fire and brimstone, but it is an underworld in its own right. Adhering to the laws of an epic, it is custom that a trip to the underworld would be included.

Ridden with angst over the possibility that the Baron will flaunt Belinda’s lock of hair, Belinda stews in her own self-pity and negativity. Her “friend”, Thalestris, confronts her squeeze “sir Plume” to have the Baron give the hair back. It isn’t out of charitable kindness, but much rather, her request is built on the foundations of an alternate agenda. that being reputation,reputation,reputation. Considering Belinda and Thalestris are associated with one another, if Belinda gets heckled, by the transitive property, so will thalestris. Switch around the time frame and reason, and the situation and revolving circumstances stay put. Especially if the setting is a junior high or high school. Yikes.

This is it. The home stretch. My foot is lingering towards home plate as I attempt not to be tagged out while sliding into canto five. I’ll keep this one short and sweet as I fattened my blog into a super-size me meal. Hopefully, the copious serving has more nutrition than the average fast food. Alas, I digress. If Clarissa were a real human being, I would give her a pat on the back. Of all that is said and all that is recorded in this wacky chronicle of arbitrary events, Clarissa steals the show with her wise sage musings at the end. “But since, alas! Frail beauty must decay, curl’d or uncurl’d, since locks will turn to grey, since paint’d, or not paint’d, all shall fade, And she who scorns a man, must die a maid;” (Pope, lines 25-28). Clarissa, the same Clarissa that handed the Baron the scissors, delivers a speech poignant in its honesty. She understands the inevitability of dying beauty, and that even when looks slip, wit will surely remain. Perhaps she is the only character that chooses brain over figure in the entire poem. Her vocal exclamations are worthy of a standing ovation, yet, especially in the technological age, many people determine their value in terms of “likes” on social media (not to point fingers at women, this goes out to men as well).

I smell something, and it smells like the superfluous skirmishing of bumbling snobs. “So spake the dame, but no applause ensu’d; Belinda frowned, Thalestris called her prude. To arms, to arms! The fierce virago cries, and swift as lighting to the combate flies.” (Pope, lines 35-38). ). While Clarissa gives a charismatic speech, it hardly phases any of the society men or women. Driven into a frenzy by the great hair fiasco, the ladies and gentlemen beat one another with fans and canes. Sarcastic comments and crude glances are also used as ammunition in the fight. Along with the game of Ombre, this signifies a second and final mock battle scene.

My fingers are broken, but my morale is sturdy. Before I address the patient audience with my conclusion, I’d like to talk about a sock puppet retelling of “The Rape Of The Lock” for a few sentences. I discovered it via youtube, and will provide the link in the citation list. While the video is intended to appeal to a younger audience, I enjoyed the artistry and simplicity of how the user recaptured the big picture. Umbriel’s trip to the underworld isn’t included, but overall it was a fun watch that demonstrates the key elements of the story. The language and composition were twee. To reiterate, it encapsulates the major instances for a beginner to verbose British literature.

This is the end. Not quite like Jim Morrison’s “The End” off The Doors self-titled debut. If bad jokes produce bad grades, I’m on a nine Inch Nails downward spiral. Self-deprecation aside, I hope I educationally entertained throughout the course of this blog. It was a hoot. My eyes and fingers will take a moment of silence until I channel my inner Jay-Z and move “On To The Next One” (God bless most of his discography, but the third blueprint was garbage). “A Rape Of The Lock” is a quintessential mock-epic. Pope should be inducted into the neoclassical hall of fame if he isn’t already. Richard Nixon proclaimed he was not a crook post presidency, and I will do the same as I present my citations. Thank you for reading all my analysis, sophomoric spouts, and everything in between.

Work Cited

 

Alexander Pope.Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 15 Feb. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Pope, Alexander. English. pg 25 of the rape of the lock: a heroi-comical poem. In five cantos. Digital image. Https://commons.wikimedia.org. N.p., 31 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_rape_of_the_lock_pg_25.jpg&gt;.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKuQvgD-VX8

Smoke, Mirrors and Censorship

The restoration period, referring to the restoration of Charles the II as the king of England, brought about a change whose mannerism in essence was outrageous and provocative to say the least. The traditional English monarchy was restored from a state of various republican governments, which had been set in place after the beheading of Charles I in 1649. (An Introduction to William Wycherley) The Restoration was characterized by the shift from the ruling of the republican governments, which were stricter than the traditional catholic monarchy. This restoration resulted in numerous political and literary changes, which took advantage of their newfound freedom to shock and enterntain.

Prior to the restoration period the English theater was closed for 18 years. The reason the republican governments closed the theaters in the first place was because many religious and political leaders believed theater was inherently evil. On the other hand, Charles the II loved theater and was enormously lenient in regards to what he allowed to be performed. Most of these plays approved by Charles the II, naturally, did not conform to the more traditional religious morality causing controversial reactions and interpretation of aristocratic London Society.

One of the most influential writers of this period was William Wycherley (1640-1715.) Noted as one of the foremost dramatists of the restoration period, he was master at combining irreverent social satire and complex verbal wit to create comedies of lasting appeal. Wycherley’s candid treatment of moral attitudes and behavior have attracted controversy over the years into present day. The subjects attracting nature are particularly those of sexual nature. During his own time, he was first denounced as a purveyor of moral indecency as his plays were highly suggestive. The play The Country Wife written in 1675 was one of his most provocative plays among his other three Love in a Wood, The Gentleman Dancing Master, and The Plain Dealer. These plays all dealt in their own way with poking fun and casting judgment on the hedonistic cynicism of Aristocratic London society. Whether or not his play’s are satirical or a farce is often debatable as the true intent is lost with the author.

Wycherley’s plays, frequently deemed the most thematically serious works of restoration comedies of manners, were generally construed as clever and amusing but of negligible importance. Literary critic Robert d. Hume says his plays are closer to a farce than a satire because they were “delightfully bawdy and funny… profound it is not and only a prude, a hypocrite, or a stuffy academician would have it otherwise.” (An Introduction to William Wycherley) Although candidly dealing with sexual topics to the point where their bawdiness became nearly legendary, his plays also give off an air of sophisticated urbanity and licentious wit, seemingly digging a bit deeper at the society Wycherley was surrounded by. He blatantly targets hypocrisy and pretense and his most sever condemnation is reserved for those who purport to be what they are not. His plays often conformed to conventions of the restoration comedy of manors with emphasis on sexual intrigue and mistaken identity. Wycherley also utilized traditional restoration stock characters such as the roguish wit; the deceived cuckold; the conceited, ineffectual fop; and the falsely pious hypocrite displaying stereotypes most often seen in the aristocratic London Society.

Besides witty banter and sexual innuendo are themes of individual in conflict with society as shown in the Country Wife as characters struggle for personal and sexual freedom. Mrs. Pinchwide is a great example of this as she is trapped and condemned by her protective husband, wishing only to escape the confines society (her husband) has placed her into as a result of sexual disgrace and jealousy. Mr. Pinchwife is afraid to have his wife cheat because he does not want to be seen as a cuckold. Mrs. Pinchwife craves what she cannot have and is forced to deceive to finally become sexually satisfied. The cheating is taken lightly as it being brought to light would cause more social issues for Pinchwife to leave her as apposed to keeping it quiet and hiding her from society in general. Through the technique of forming witty double entandras humor and irony take a backseat to the recognized relationship presented between dissimilar things expressed in extravagant similes. The drama and comedies were an important part of society at this time as they provided a window into the revolutionary eye of geniuses such as Wycherley who saw society for what it real was; smoke and mirrors.

I think Wycherley’s plays were largely dismissed as morally indecent, drawing more attention to the censorship, so that London’s society would not be too heavily scrutinized and recognized for its faults and hypocrisies. The constant attention drawn to sexually explicit material evident in the play seems to aim to draw attention from the issues presented in the plot where, according to critic Louis Kronenberger, presents “a society almost wholly lacking in either conscience or heart.” This speaks enormously of the aristocratic society who devotes little to discovering and acting upon their true virtue in exchange for acting in terms of social conformity. The characters in The Country Wife base their decisions off how they will be perceived by others, trading both their morality and personal wishes to preserve their image in their social circle. For this reason, the potential didactic nature of the play, which presents many social issues, may be ignored and denied in exchange for scrutiny of the offensive nature.

Although licentious, The Country Wife was not considered widely offensive until the latter part of the eighteenth century, when changing social and sexual mores rendered it unacceptable to the public. David Garrick produced an adaptation called the country girl, a considerably tamer version that deleted any mention of adultery, which was the version widely performed into the 19th century. Ridding the play of the sexual implications seems, though, to render Wycherley’s apparent intention of scandal evident in the original version, the element making it so celebrated. The sexual implications are important to the play as it helps speak of the character of these societal stereotypes and their aversion to socially taboo topics and action. Removing these elements almost reiterates Wycherley’s ridicule of society as they are so worried about image, rather than intent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

 

“An Introduction to William Wycherley.” Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800 8 (1993): 339-42. Web.

 

 

Brett Hanson Restoration Blog

SEX and RESTORATION

Hey everyone, I am going to talk to you about the Restoration Period Drama and why it is interesting to me. Restoration period drama is a funny time period to just jump right into. With the restoration period came a time where the people of Britain were trying to get out of a slump that they were in because of their ruler. After the country got Charles II, people needed to cut loose and have their time to be wild and free. This included lots of sex and drinking throughout the country, due to this oppression that they had. When a country wants to be entertained they usually will want that form of entertainment to be on the same guidelines of their own lives. That being said theater and drama during the restoration time was very satirical and risque because it was catering to a crowd of rich upper class people who were interested and into risque activities. One play that shows off the basics of the restoration period drama would be the play called The Country Wife which was written by William Wycherley. The satirical aspect of this play is that it is a comedy of manners, which is based off of anti puritan ideas that made fun of the era with tons of witty humor. One of the big themes of this play is the objectification of sex and women and what their role is in our society. It plays on the fact that sex was an important aspect of this time and shows women having more of a say in what they want as well.

restoration2

By: Granger Collection

In the play they play with the humor of objects being sexual, this humor was funny because it allowed them to talk about sex but not have it be out in the air and blatant. Instead in Act III Wycherley had Horner discover Mrs. Pinchwife in the play and knew that Pinchwife was trying to hide her so people would not recognize her as his wife. To go off that situation Horner decided to try and sleep with her because he knew that Pinchwife would keep his secret of Horner not being a eunuch. When Horner and Mrs. Pinchwife return, Pinchwife has an idea of what happened so he uses the analogy of fruit when he says, “Thank you, Sir. (Aside) You have only squeezed my Orange, I suppose, and given it me again. (To his wife.) Come, come away” (34 Wycherley). Pinchwife says this because he assumes what happens knowing Horner and he is not fazed by it because as long as other people do not figure out he was hiding his wife by dressing up as his brother than he is fine. This is where the play begins to have a lot of complexity to it. Instead of Pinchwife getting mad he is fine with it just because other people did not figure it out. Which is a strange thing for a husband to do because you would assume that he would be mad. Horner just slept (this is assumed) with his wife and all he cares about is that no one else figures it out. This brings up the homosocial aspect of this play and the comedy of manners behind it. The play is saying that Men do not care about their wives because they are just status symbols to other men. Men only have wives to impress, because in the Restoration Period men would always be sleeping around but they would never sleep with their wives because they are just their wives. This is a theme that is throughout the whole play because during the whole play everyone is just sleeping around with each other but it seems like no wife and husband are sleeping with each other.

restoration1

By: Jason Farr

Another scene in the play that shows these objectifications is the famous or infamous china scene. In Act IV Scene III you have Horner, Lady Fidget, and Sir Jasper. Lady Fidget is trying to convince her husband, Sir Jasper, to let her go and get china with Horner. Sir Jasper who thinks that Horner is a eunuch does not mind the fact that his wife will be alone with him so he lets her go off with Horner when he says “Oh women, more impertinent, more cunning and more mischievous than their Monkeys, and to me almost as ugly–now is she throwing my things about and rifling all I have, but I’ll get into her the back way, and so rifle her for it–” (45 Wycherley). This scene really brings out the satirical humor and sexual presence in this play. The way that the script makes it so obvious of what is happening but plays on the fact that the men are just trying to keep their women happy. Horner is putting down women in this line in the play almost to convince Sir Jasper that he is on his side, that women are just these objects that they need to deal with. The humor behind it though is that Horner basically comes out and says that he is going to go have sex with Lady Fidget and Sir Jasper does not get it at all. This plays on the fact that men think they are so cunning and smart but actually the women in this play are getting exactly what they want behind the men’s backs because they are the ones who are smart.

In this play you have to sit back and realize that there is a huge amount of complexity to this work. The entire play is basically about a group of men who are trying to sleep around. It shows how men are accentuated to be so smart by keeping all these secrets and having all this power over their women, when in the background of the play all the women are able to get what they want, and that is sex. All the women sleep around with Horner while none of the guys besides Horner is really getting what they want. That being said it really shows the comedy of the time period well, how satire was able to make a statement that went over a lot of people’s heads. This play has a place as one of the bigger turning grounds of what theater is today, especially with the use of female actors at the time. The County Wife is a well worked piece of writing that has many different aspects going on that accentuate the Restoration Period.

 

For More information on the Restoration Period Drama check out this site:
http://www.theatrehistory.com/british/restoration_drama_001.html

Sources:

Bellinger, Martha. “Restoration Drama.” Restoration Drama. Henry Holt and Company, 2002. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
Greenblatt, Stephen, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 9th ed. Vols. 2d, e, f. NY: W. W. Norton, 2012.  ISBN 978-0-393-91301-9.

Picture Sources:

http://restorationsexuality.blogspot.com/2014/01/william-wycherley.html

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2012/12/20/congreve-most-elegant-subtle-writer-his-time/