This statement is made when Horner notices Pinchwife’s wife in the theatre despite him trying to hide her. This shows that it was not uncommon for men to have mistresses and people thought less of a man taking a whore out then him taking his wife out. Again, this shows a certain leniency towards the idea of sex and prostitution, which nowadays is considered taboo and more surreptitious. The references throughout the play are often explicit especially in the notorious ‘china scene’ where the word “china” becomes an innuendo for sex.
The characters hint openly at sex and there are many suggestive comments that provoke humour from a modern audience, ” He is coming into you the back way” “She’s playing the wag with him. ” ” Alas, poor man, how she tugs him! ” and “Kill my squirrel” The latter is a very crude expression that a modern audience would understand because of the sexual implication. Although a modern audience interprets not all of the intended humour, the “Country Wife” still appears to be a amusing.
Marriage in the “Country Wife” is portrayed overall to involve no real sense of relationship or mutual respect. Women are seen as objects of pleasure that must be contained and jealousy guarded for fear they might stray and in doing so expose one to ridicule. This is the case for characters such as Pinchwife, Sir Jasper and Sparkish. This is quite a popular thought throughout the “Country Wife” and possibly reflects the ideas of men from the period.
In comparison with people’s views in a modern day era this is literally non existent as men on the whole have more respect for women and women play stronger roles in society now, then they ever did before. Marriage in the “Country Wife” is displayed as being only necessary in providing social rank and any idea of trust or real emotion is non-existent. Interestingly, both male and female have the same attitude towards marriage, even Lucy sees past the ceremonial vow to show marriage for what it really meant: “The woman that marries to love better will be as much mistaken as the wencher that marries to live better”
However, not all of the characters follow suit in this shallowness; Harcourt, Alithea and to some extent Margery have a different perspective on marriage. Harcourt and Alithea stand detached from the other characters and show the audience that marriage can be based on truth, virtue and love. Margery also has the capability to love and she is extremely nai?? ve in the way she interprets it, however after being married to the jealous Pinchwife she soon realises that marriage is not based on love, understanding and indeed, trust:
“If he loves me, why should he ruin me? ” As society goes, there always going to be exceptions and anomalies in the typically stereotyped couple, Harcourt and Alithea are just that and they stand aloof from a society that value nothing beyond maintaining the fai?? ade of a reputation. In today’s society, the state of affairs would probably be reversed although the situations concerning marriage in the “Country Wife” would not be unheard of. Love in the “Country Wife” is sparsely distributed and again only really involves Harcourt and Alithea.
The idea of love is just another hypocrisy that characterises the fashionable times of the Restoration Society and for Horner and the majority of the other characters this simply means satisfying their sexual desires. Love it seemed was literally non-existent and assuming this reflected how life was then it seems that the once puritan lifestyle proceeding to freedom and choice eradicated love in relationships as it appears social status and reputation were more important amongst the majority:
“Women of quality are so civil you can hardly distinguish love from good breeding”. This shows how people put on a front to satisfy their own personal gratification and love amongst the majority of the population meant very little. As far as agreeing or disagreeing whether people’s views have changed towards love, sex and marriage then I would have to disagree. We have to bear in mind that in the times when the “Country Wife” was acted in plays the society was coming to terms with the new found freedom of theatres opening and life changing in general.
After being repressed people went from one extreme to an other and a social ‘rebellion’ occurred consequently because of this. In today’s society, the social status of women is higher than it has ever been and men generally have more respect. In both societies there are always going to be exceptions to the social norm. Although in modern times, we still find the humour in the “Country Wife” appealing it is not because we can generally relate to it but more because we understand its comedy value.