His ability to change his focus of language when talking to different people ensures that everybody trusts him and he can therefore get his own way.
Horner also delights in manipulating others, and loves inducing jealousy on Mr Pinchwife, thus telling him that Mrs Pinchwife is, “A glorious creature, beautiful beyond all things I ever beheld.” He also uses symbolism to his advantage to further annoy Pinchwife, telling him, “I have only given your little brother an orange, sir.” Pinchwife understands the sexual connotations but as Horner may have meant it harmlessly, he cannot be seen to be annoyed. Therefore, Horner is still able to make fun of Pinchwife in front of his face whilst still retaining his innocence. In addition, he is always in control of the conversation, for example, in contrast to Mr Pinchwife’s anguish, Horner is relaxed and jokes, saying, “Come, prithee kiss me, dear rogue.” In addition, he very rarely uses pauses during his speech, showing that he is confident of the situation and of what he is saying.
He also uses a great deal of double entendre, namely to deceive husbands who are too dim-witted to understand the hidden meaning, accepting it at face value only. For example, he says to Sir Jasper, “If ever you suffer your wife to trouble me again here, she shall carry you home a pair of horns.” Sir Jasper understands this to mean that he shall punish his wife, but Horner actually talks of the horns as symbolising him being made a cuckold.
His use of double entendre creates humour for the audience as they can enjoy Horner’s wit whilst also laughing at the other character’s naivety, such as Sir Jasper misinterpreting, “I’ll get into her the back way, and so rifle her for it.” Sexual connotations appear regularly in his speech to express his true meanings, “I will have a roll-wagon for you too.” This refers to china as a sexual representation, and the roll wagon, a cylindrical-bodied vase, commented on due to its shape.
Horner uses both the quack, his only confidant, and asides to let the audience know what he is plotting and thinking, and as the audience is therefore aware of his true intentions, there is a large amount of dramatic irony in his comments. For instance, when he lies to Mr Pinchwife about making advances on his wife, “I’d never do’t to a woman before her husband’s face, sure,” we know better and therefore his remarks amuse us. In addition, his use of asides, an anti-naturalistic device but useful means of commenting on present occurrences and their significance, lets the audience know of the true contents of Mrs Pinchwife’s letter. As a result, his comment to Mr Pinchwife, “Tell her I will obey her letter to a tittle, and fulfil her desires,” is entertaining.
Horner also uses heightened poetic language to express himself in a less smutty way, such as to Lady Fidget, “To talk of honour in the mysteries of love is like, talking of heaven or the deity operation of witchcraft, just when you are employing the devil.” His constant use of similes has a variety of effects, such as charming the ladies, and amusing other men, thus ensuring he always gets his way.
In contrast to Horner, whom is very fashionable and intellectual, Mrs Pinchwife is a mere country wife and is therefore thought as, as being quite dim and very unfashionable. She has many comic mannerisms, such as speaking with a West Country accent, “Just like t’other,” which accentuates her supposed lack of intelligence, and she also uses phrases such as, “O jeminy!” and, “I han’t half my bellyful of sights yet.” This makes her seem very unsophisticated and her character emphasises the country-city social divide in the play. She asks lots of inexperienced questions, “Where are the best fields and woods to walk in, in London?” which give the impression that she is not quite aware of what is going on around her, and make her look quite silly.
By not understanding the sexual connotations of oranges and china, her naivety is highlighted, “He sent away a youth, that was there, for some dried fruit and China oranges,” as she speaks openly about the episode to her husband. Had she been aware of the true meanings, she would have kept quiet. Without intending to, she manages to drive Mr Pinchwife mad with rage by honestly telling him of events and her thoughts, “He has the sweetest breath I knew.” She also unintentionally creates humour as the audience laugh at her innocence annoying her husband so, and comments such as, “I don’t know where to put this here, dear bud. You shall eat it,” in regards to the fruit, endear the audience to her due to her purity. It is ironic that she is the most honest women in the play, at least originally, yet is the only one suspected of making her husband a cuckold.
Mrs Pinchwife is portrayed as being very sweet, even towards her horrid husband, using the pet name, “Bud,” for him. Her innocence will not even allow her to be rude to other people, “I can’t abide to write such filthy words.” This makes the audience feel extremely sorry for her when her husband is so cruel to her, and her use of negative language heightens this sympathy, “When I think of my husband I tremble and am in a cold sweat, and have inclinations to vomit.” She also uses a lot of punctuation to emphasise her points and panic. However, she uses very long sentences, in some cases up to seven lines long, which again highlight her low level of intellect. The same effect is achieved by her repetition of words such as, “I won’t,” and she also uses many pauses in her sentences, “…Well, I will not send it…Ay, but then my husband will kill me…” This illustrates her lack of confidence and certainty in what she is saying and thinking, and that she is never one to be in control of a conversation.
There are hints in the play that suggest Mrs Pinchwife will be potentially dishonourable later on in the play, “But I would have ventured for all that,” in regards to men taking advantage of women at the theatre. Her education also improves as the play proceeds as she realises that she must keep things a secret from her husband in order to get what she wants, cunningly forcing him to let her seal the letter in order that he will not discover its true contents, “Lord, you think me so arrant a fool I cannot seal a letter?” By using asides when her husband is on stage, and speaking aloud when is off, Mrs Pinchwife enables to audience to know what she is thinking and understand her visual actions, “No, I must not give him that, so I had been served if I had given him this.”