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.

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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.

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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/

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