Love And Marriage In Restoration Comedy

A comedy is usually a light, rather amusing, play that deals with modern day life and manners. Such a theatre often has a satirical slant, but ends gladly. Among the many sub-genres under humor, one will discover the humor of manners, which originated in France with Moliere's Les Precieuses ridicules (1658). Moliere observed this comic form as a way to correct cultural absurdities.

In Britain, the funny of manners is represented by the takes on of William Wycherley, George Etherege, William Congreve, and George Farquhar. This form was later classed "Old Funny" but is currently known as Restoration Comedy since it coincided with the go back of the Charles II to England. The main goal of the comedies of manners in the period of Restoration is to mock world, or in other ways lift up modern culture for scrutiny, which could cause negative or positive results. In the end, audience will laugh at themselves and world.

The description of comedy and the background of the Restoration Comedy help to explain the themes that run throughout these comedies of manners. Among the major styles is marriage and the overall game of love. However, if matrimony is a reflection of modern culture, the couples in the plays show something very dark and sinister about order. Many critiques of matrimony that people see in the play are devastating, however the game of love is not much more hopeful. Even though the endings are happy and the man invariably gets the woman, you can see relationships without love and love affairs that are rebellious breaks with traditions.

This analysis will focus on two plays of Repair comedies, William Wycherley's The Country Better half (1675) and William Congreve's JUST HOW of the World (1700), to show how dramatically population has progressed. A remarkable change, in moral behaviour about marriage and love has taken place.

In Wycherley's Country Wife, the matrimony between Pinchwife and Margery represents a hostile marriage between a vintage (or old man) and a young woman. The couple, Pinchwife, is the focal point of the play, at least as couples go, and Margery affair with Horner only increases the humor of the play. Horner operates around cuckolding all the husbands, while he pretends to be a eunuch. This pretension brings the women swarming to him. He's a get good at at the game of love, though he is emotionally impotent. He cannot love, which makes him a fascinating character for research. The human relationships in the play are dominated by jealousy or cuckoldry, apart from the gay few, Alithea and Harcourt, nonetheless they are really pretty boring.

The component of jealousy in matrimony appears to be especially prevalent in the play. In Act IV, landscape ii, Mr. Pinchwife says, in an aside

Mr. PINCHWIFE. So, tis basic she loves him, yet she's not love enough to make her conceal it from me; but the sight of him will increase her aversion for me and love for him, and that love instruct her how to deceive me and satisfy him, all idiot as she is.

He insults her, not to her face of course, but he's serious. He would like her to be stupid, unable to deceive him. But even in her clear innocence, he doesn't consider she actually is innocent. To him, every woman came out of nature's hands "plain, available, foolish, and fit for slaves, as she and Heaven planned 'em. " As he says, "No girl can have no choice but. " But he also says, in another away

Mr. PINCHWIFE. Why should women have more invention in love than men? It could only be because they have significantly more wants, more soliciting passions, more lust and more of the devil.

Mr. Pinchwife isn't especially excellent, but in his jealousy, he becomes a dangerous figure. He becomes keen in his mad ravings, considering Margery acquired conspired to cuckold him. Little have he know that he was right, but if he previously known the reality, he'd have wiped out her in his madness. As it is, when she disobeys him, he says

Mr. PINCHWIFE. Once again write as I'd perhaps you have, and question it not, or I'll spoil thy writing with this. I'll stab out those eyes that cause my mischief.

He doesn't ever hit her or stab her in the play (such activities wouldn't make a good funny), but Mr. Pinchwife continually locks Margery in the closet, calls her brands, and in every other ways, functions such as a complete jerk (to place it properly). Due to his abusive character, Margery's affair is not a surprise. Actually, it is accepted as a interpersonal norm, along with Horner's promiscuity. By the end, the whole landscape with Margery understanding how to rest is also taking in stride because the idea was already set up when Mr. Pinchwife voiced his anxieties that if she loved Horner more, she'd conceal it from him. And recover, social order is restored.

In Congreve's The Way of the World, the trend of restoration remains, but relationship becomes more about contractual agreements and greed, then about love. Millamant and Mirabell flat iron out a pre-nuptial arrangement before they consent to marry. Then Millamant, for an instant, seems prepared to marry her cousin, Sir Wilful, so that she will keep her money. It is a fight of the wits; it is not a battlefield of feelings. In that way, "JUST HOW of the World" can be likened to Shakespeare's Much Ado About Little or nothing, where Beatrice and Benedict play at love in their battle of wits.

It's comical to start to see the two wits going at it, but, whenever we look deeper, there is an edge of seriousness behind their words. Once they list conditions, Mirabell says

MIRABELL. These provisos admitted, in other things I may establish a tractable and complying man.

Love may be the foundation of their marriage, as Mirabell appears honest; however, their alliance is a sterile love, without the "touchy, feely stuff, " which one should expect in a courtship. Mirabell and Millamant are two wits exquisite for one another in the battle of the sexes; nevertheless, the pervading sterility and greed reverberates as the relationship between your two wits becomes a lot more confusing. But, this is the way of the world.

Confusion and deception will be the "way of the world, " but set alongside the Country Better half and other earlier drama, Congreve's play shows another kind of chaos, one marked with contracts and greed rather than the hilarity and mix-up of Horner and other rakes. The advancement of world, as mirrored by the works themselves is obvious.


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

2. The Norton Anthology of English Books, The Major Writers, 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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