Love And Marriage In Restoration Comedy English Literature Essay

A comedy is normally a light, instead amusing, play that trades with modern-day life and manners. Such a play frequently has a satirical angle, but ends merrily. Among the many sub-genres under comedy, one can happen the comedy of manners, which originated in France with Moliere ‘s Les Precieuses ridicules ( 1658 ) . Moliere saw this amusing signifier as a manner to rectify societal absurdnesss.

In England, the comedy of manners is represented by the dramas of William Wycherley, George Etherege, William Congreve, and George Farquhar. This signifier was subsequently classed “ Old Comedy ” but is now known as Restoration Comedy because it coincided with the return of the Charles II to England. The chief end of these comedies of manners in the period of Restoration is to mock society, or in other ways lift up society for examination, which could do negative or positive consequences. In the terminal, audience will express joy at themselves and society.

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The definition of comedy and the background of the Restoration Comedy aid to explicate the subjects that run throughout these comedies of manners. One of the major subjects is matrimony and the game of love. However, if matrimony is a mirror of society, the twosomes in the dramas show something really dark and sinister about order. Many reviews of matrimony that we see in the drama are lay waste toing, but the game of love is non much more hopeful. Although the terminations are happy and the adult male constantly gets the adult female, one can see matrimonies without love and love personal businesss that are rebellious interruptions with tradition.

This survey will concentrate on two dramas of Restoration comedies, William Wycherley ‘s The Country Wife ( 1675 ) and William Congreve ‘s The Way of the World ( 1700 ) , to demo how dramatically society has progressed. A dramatic alteration, in moral attitudes about matrimony and love has taken topographic point.

In Wycherley ‘s Country Wife, the matrimony between Pinchwife and Margery represents a hostile matrimony between an old ( or older adult male ) and a immature adult female. The twosome, Pinchwife, is the focal point of the drama, at least as twosomes go, and Margery matter with Horner merely adds to the wit of the drama. Horner runs around cheat oning all of the hubbies, while he pretends to be a eunuch. This pretense brings the adult females teeming to him. He is a maestro at the game of love, though he is emotionally impotent. He can non love, which makes him an interesting character for analysis. The relationships in the drama are dominated by green-eyed monster or cuckoldry, with the exclusion of the cheery twosome, Alithea and Harcourt, but they are truly reasonably deadening.

The component of green-eyed monster in matrimony seems to be particularly prevailing in the drama. In Act IV, scene two, Mr. Pinchwife says, in an aside:

Mr. PINCHWIFE. So, Ti field she loves him, yet she has non love plenty to do her conceal it from me ; but the sight of him will increase her antipathy for me and love for him, and that love instruct her how to lead on me and fulfill him, all imbecile as she is.

He insults her, non to her face of class, but he ‘s serious. He wants her to be stupid, non able to lead on him. But even in her obvious artlessness, he does n’t believe she is guiltless. To him, every adult female came out of nature ‘s custodies “ obviously, unfastened, silly, and tantrum for slaves, as she and Heaven intended ’em. ” As he says, “ No adult female can be forced. ” But he besides says, in another aside:

Mr. PINCHWIFE. Why should adult females hold more innovation in love than work forces? It can merely be because they have more desires, more soliciting passions, more lust and more of the Satan.

Mr. Pinchwife is n’t particularly bright, but in his green-eyed monster, he becomes a unsafe character. He becomes passionate in his huffy ravings, believing Margery had conspired to cheat on him. Little did he cognize that he was right, but if he had known the truth, he would hold killed her in his lunacy. As it is, when she disobeys him, he says:

Mr. PINCHWIFE. Once more write as I ‘d hold you, and inquiry it non, or I will botch thy composing with this. I will knife out those eyes that cause my mischievousness.

He does n’t of all time hit her or knife her in the drama ( such actions would n’t do a really good comedy ) , but Mr. Pinchwife continually locks Margery in the cupboard, calls her names, and in all other ways, Acts of the Apostless like a complete dork ( to set it nicely ) . Because of his opprobrious nature, Margery ‘s matter is non a surprise. In fact, it is accepted as a societal norm, along with Horner ‘s promiscuousness. At the terminal, the whole scene with Margery larning to lie is besides taking in pace because the thought has already been set up when Mr. Pinchwife voiced his frights that if she loved Horner more, she would hide it from him. And with that, societal order is restored.

In Congreve ‘s The Way of the World, the tendency of Restoration continues, but matrimony becomes more about contractual understandings and greed, so about love. Millamant and Mirabell iron out a pre-nuptial understanding before they agree to get married. Then Millamant, for an blink of an eye, seems willing to get married her cousin, Sir Wilful, so that she can maintain her money. It is a conflict of the marbless ; it is non a battleground of emotions. In that manner, “ The Way of the World ” can be likened to Shakespeare ‘s Much Ado About Nothing, where Beatrice and Benedict drama at love in their conflict of marbless.

It ‘s amusing to see the two marbless traveling at it, but, when we look deeper, there is an border of earnestness behind their words. After they list conditions, Mirabell says:

MIRABELL. These provision admitted, in other things I may turn out a manipulable and following hubby.

Love may be the footing of their relationship, as Mirabell appears honest ; nevertheless, their confederation is a unfertile love affair, devoid of the “ touchy, feely material, ” which one should trust for in a wooing. Mirabell and Millamant are two marbless perfect for each other in the conflict of the sexes ; however, the pervading asepsis and greed reverberates as the relationship between the two marbless becomes much more confusing. But so, that is the manner of the universe.

Confusion and misrepresentation are the “ manner of the universe, ” but compared to The Country Wife and other earlier play, Congreve ‘s drama shows a different sort of pandemonium, one marked with contracts and greed alternatively of the mirth and confusion of Horner and other profligates. The development of society, as mirrored by the dramas themselves is evident.


1. Drabble, Margaret, The Oxford Companion to English Literature

2. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, The Major Authors, Sixth Edition

3. Abjadian, Amrollah, Dr. , A Survey of English Literature ( II )

4. Patterson, Michael, The Oxford Dictionary of Plays

5. Abrams, M.H. , A Glossary of Literary Term, Eighth Edition

6. William Wycherley, The Country Wife, 1675

7. William Congreve, The Way of the World, 1700

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