Discuss how the passage below, excerpted from Act 1 of The Country Wife, deals with the central theme of the play?

The Country Wife by William Wycherley

In a well-organized, double-spaced, 750-word essay, answer one of the following questions:

  1. a) Discuss how the passage below, excerpted from Act 1 of The Country Wife, deals with the central theme of the play?

HORNER:  Well Jack by thy long absence from the town, the grumness of thy countenance, and the slovenliness of thy habit, I should give thee joy, should I not, of marriage?

PINCHWIFE: [aside] Death! Does he know I’m married too?  I though to have concealed it from him at least.—My long stay in the country will excuse my dress, and I have a suit of law, that brings me up to town, that puts me out of humour; besides, I must give Sparkish tomorrow five thousand pound to lie with my sister.

HORNER:  Nay, you country gentlemen, rather than not purchase, will buy anything; and he is a cracked title, if we may quibble.  Well, but am I to give thee joy? I heard thou wert married.

PINCHWIFE:  What then?

HORNER:  Why, the next thing that is to be heard is, thou’rt a cuckold.

PINCHWIFE:  [aside]  Insupportable name!

HORNER:  But I did not expect marriage from such a whoremaster as you, one that knew the town so much, and women so well.

PINCHWIFE:  Why, I have married no London wife.

HORNER:  Pshaw! That’s all one; that grave circumspection in marrying a country wife is like refusing a deceitful, pampered Smithfield1 jade to go and be cheated by a friend in the country.

PINCHWIFE:  [aside] A pox on him and his simile!—At least we are a little surer of the breed there, know what her keeping has been, foiled2 or unsound.

HORNER:  Come, come, I have known a clap gotten in Wales; and there are cousins, justices’ clerks, and chaplains in the country, I won’t say coachmen.  But she’s handsome and young?

PINCHWIFE:  [aside]  I’ll answer as I should do.—No, no, she has no more beauty but her youth; no attraction but her modesty; wholesome, homely, and housewifely; that’s all.

DORILANT:  He talks as like a grazier3 as he looks.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

HORNER:  But prithee, was not the way you were in better?  Is not keeping better than marriage?

PINCHWIFE:  A pox on’t!  The jades would jilt me; I could never keep a whore to myself.

HORNER:  So, then you only married to keep a whore to yourself.  Well, but let me tell you, women, as you say, are like soldiers, made constant and loyal by good pay  rather than by oaths and covenants.


  1. Well-known London market
  2. Injured, literally; figuratively a deflowered or diseased woman
  3. Cattle-breeder









  1. b) Discuss how the passage below, excerpted from Act 5 of The Country Wife, deals with the central theme of the play?


LADY FIDGET. Drink thou representative of a Husband. Damn a Husband!

MRS. DAINTY FIDGET. And as it were a husband, an old keeper.
MRS. SQUIMISH. And an old Grandmother.

HORNER. And an English bawd,1 and a French surgeon.

LADY FIDGET. Ay we have all reason to curse ’em.
HORNER. For my sake, ladies?

LADY FIDGET. No, for our own, for the first spoils all young gallants’ industry.

MRS. DAINTY FIDGET. And the others art makes ’em bold only with common women.

MRS. SQUIMISH. And rather run the hazard of the vile distemper amongst them, than of a denial amongst us.

MRS. DAINTY FIDGET. The filthy toads choose mistresses now as they do stuffs, for having been fancied and worn by others.

MRS. SQUEAMISH. For being common and cheap.

LADY FIDGET. Whilst women of quality, like the richest stuffs, lie untumbled and unasked for.

HORNER. Ay neat, and cheap, and new often they think best

MRS. DAINTY FIDGET. No, sir, the beasts will be known by a mistress longer than by a suit.

MRS. SQUEAMISH. And ’tis not for cheapness neither.

LADY FIDGET. No, for the vain fops will take up druggets,2 and embroider ’em, but I wonder at the depraved appetites of witty men; they use to be out of the common road, and hate  imitation. Pray tell me, beast, when you were a man, why you rather chose to club with a multitude in a common house, for an entertainment, than to be the only guest at a good table.

HORNER. Why, faith, ceremony and expectation are unsufferable to those that are sharp bent, people always eat with the best stomach at an ordinary,3 where every man is snatching for the best bit.

LADY FIDGET. Though he get a cut over the fingers—but I have heard people eat most heartily of another man’s meat, that is, what they do not pay for.

HORNER. When they are sure of their welcome and freedom, for ceremony in love and eating, is as ridiculous as in fighting, falling on briskly is all should be done in those occasions.

LADY FIDGET. Well, then, let me tell you, sir, there is nowhere more freedom than in our houses, and we take freedom from a young person as a sign of good breeding. And a person may be as free as he pleases with us, as frolic, as gamesome, as wild as he will.

HORNER. Haven’t I heard you all declaim against wild men?

LADY FIDGET. Yes, but for all that we think wildness in a man a desirable quality. A tame man, foh.

HORNER. I know not, but your reputations frightened me as much as your faces invited me.

LADY FIDGET. Our reputation! Lord, why should you not think that we women make use of our reputation as you men of yours? Only to deceive the world with less suspicion. Our virtue is like the statesman’s religion, the Quaker’s word, the gamester’s oath, and the great man’s honour—but to cheat those who trust us.

MRS. SQUEAMISH. And that demureness, coyness, and modesty, that you see in our faces in the boxes at plays is as much a sign of a kind woman as a vizard-mask in the pit.

MRS. DAINTY FIDGET. For I assure you, women are least masked when they have the velvet vizard on.

LADY FIDGET. You would have found us modest women in our denials only.

MRS. SQUEAMISH. Our bashfulness is only the reflection of the men’s.

MRS. DAINTY FIDGET. We blush, when they are shamefaced

HORNER. I beg your pardon, ladies, I was deceived in you devilishly. But why that mighty pretence to honour?

LADY FIDGET. We have told you. ‘Twas for the same reason you men pretend business often, to avoid ill company, to enjoy the better and more privately those you love.

HORNER. But why would you never give a friend a wink then?

LADY FIDGET. Faith, your reputation frightened us as much as ours did you, you were so notoriously lewd.

HORNER. And you so seemingly honest.



  1. A woman in charge of a brothel.
  2. Cheap fabrics
  3. A meal provided at an inn at a fixed price and time

The post Discuss how the passage below, excerpted from Act 1 of The Country Wife, deals with the central theme of the play? appeared first on Essay Lane.


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