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The Country Wife- Contextual Section.

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The Country Wife- Contextual Section William Wycherley wrote The Country Wife in 1675 during the Restoration Period in England. He was born in 1641 at Clive Hall near Shrewsbury to a wealthy family, and he was educated in France where he spent most of his youth. Once Charles II was restored, he returned to England to study at Oxford, and then became a fine, fashionable gentleman in London, of strong intellectual power. There he was able to observe the attitudes and actions of similarly constituted social groups, whom would later be the basis of his plays. The Country Wife is a Restoration Comedy as it was written during the forty years after the restoration of King Charles II to the English throne. He had a particular passion for the theatre, and its development during this period was largely down to him. The civil war in 1642- the Puritan Revolution- had seen his father Charles I beheaded and Oliver Cromwell become the leader of England. This eighteen-year period- the interregnum- saw the puritans discourage and eventually completely ban drama, due to its connections with the monarchy and its immoral non-puritan values. ...read more.


Queues were extremely long to get in, as it was on a first come first served basis. It was a whole day out, as people would usually dine before the play began at around 3 o'clock. Unlike Elizabethan theatre where people of all classes attended, Restoration Theatre was aimed at the higher classes, and the audience was mainly court based. This lead to the playwrights writing plays specifically aimed at these types of people This was mainly because gentlemen of good breeding selected by the King managed the theatres, and the playwrights, whom were also of the upper classes, specifically wrote their plays for the high-quality people. This was because, as a comedy of manners, the plays would reflect on their attitudes, and satirize the conduct in which members of that society behaved. For example, the rakes, fops, and naughty married ladies claiming to virtuous present in The Country Wife, were also members of the high-class society making up the audience during that period. This mocking of their society was meant to make the audience laugh at themselves, and it pleased them that a play had been based on them. ...read more.


People were less interested in the play than being seen by other members of the society at a fashionable event. James Wright said, "Though a play be a generous diversion, yet 'tis better to read than see, unless one could see it without these inconveniences." The Country Wife continued to a be a popular production into the early eighteenth century, but amoral Restoration Comedies then became unpopular as the neoclassical precept of teaching morals returned. Two devised versions by John Lee and David Garrick were written to suit the more moral taste of the new audience, with the impotence plot eradicated and relationships between characters changed. In today's society, it can again be viewed comically, without the need for censorship. However, many of the themes are still as relevant now as they were in the seventeenth century. For example, the deceit and cuckolding still occurs today, with an alarming number of people having affairs. People are also still obsessed with what people think of them and the constant battle to be fashionable is still running. In addition, society still has barriers concerning the roles that women take on, and the countryside is still seen as unfashionable! The Country Wife may not directly reflect modern civilization, but its main purpose of causing the audience to laugh at themselves is still possible. Jody Crooks ...read more.

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