The Country Wife

The Mythic Archetype of Don Juan in The Country Wife and The Rover College

In Wycherley’s The Country Wife and Aphra Behn’s The Rover, both authors explore masculine ideals through the legendary character of Don Juan, as respectively exemplified by Harry Horner and Willmore. By casting their heroes as embodiments of this mythic figure of virility and sexuality, both Wycherley and Behn reveal the masculine ideals of their time. In his article “Wycherley’s The Country Wife and the Don Juan Character,” Anthony Kaufman defines the myth of Don Juan as being “transcultural” and taking “many forms,” alternately portrayed as a “vulgar seducer… a seeker after a full, ideal lover… the embodiment of masculinity” (216). With this definition in mind, Don Juan becomes the fundamental model for both Horner and Willmore’s characterizations, thereby rendering the secondary male characters as inferior specimens.

Kaufman further characterizes the emblematic Don Juan figure as displaying distinct overtures of sexual hostility. He labels this aggression as “overt sadism directed toward his female victims” (Kaufman 217). Interestingly, it is not the actual performance of sex or even explicit female sexuality that Don Juan enjoys; rather it is the “hostile joke, the triumph in sadism,” that satisfies him (Kaufman 217)....

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