A notorious London rake who, in order to gain sexual access to “respectable” women, spreads the rumor that venereal disease has rendered him impotent. In the course of the play he manages liaisons with several of the female characters. Horner is the most insightful of all the “wits” in the play, often drawing out and commenting on the moral failings of others, but in his sexual conduct he is the most depraved.
A middle-aged London man, newly married to the rustic Margery. A rake before his marriage, he is now the archetypal jealous husband: he lives in fear of being cuckolded, not because he loves his wife but because he believes that he owns her. He is a latent tyrant, potentially violent.
The attractive young “country wife” of the title, Margery is newly married to Jack Pinchwife and is visiting London for the first time to see Alethea’s wedding. Unaccustomed to city ways, she is largely guileless and not overwhelmingly bright but perhaps not so incapable of intrigue as she first appears. Her unrefined sexual vitality and all-around naturalness contrast with the hyper-civilized corruption of the Londoners around her.
The younger sister of Jack Pinchwife, who wants to marry her off for financial reasons. She is engaged to Sparkish, whom she values because he appears incapable of jealousy; in the course of the play, however, she attracts the amorous attentions of Harcourt, whom she begins to value for his intelligence and gallantry. Alethea is the most straightforwardly admirable person in the play: her residence in London and enjoyment of the pleasures of the town have sharpened her wits but not dulled her morals.
A rakish friend of Horner, Harcourt meets Alethea early in the play, flirts with her in front of Sparkish, and soon falls in love with her. His devotion to the meritorious Alethea bespeaks his basic good nature, and in the course of the play he is converted to a vision of marriage based on mutual love and esteem.
A rakish friend of Horner and Harcourt.
A shallow and foolish playboy who considers himself, wrongly, a “wit.” He is engaged to Alethea, attracted primarily by her money. He appears to Alethea incapable of jealousy, but this is true only insofar as the envy of other men increases the “value” of his prospective wife, whom he thinks he owns.
Alethea’s clever and sensible maidservant. She is skeptical of her mistress’s plans to marry the vapid Sparkish, and she is resourceful in coming up with schemes to encourage a match with Harcourt.
Sir Jasper Fidget
A man of business who derives no end of amusement from the rumor of Horner’s impotence. He is happy to entrust his wife, Lady Fidget, to Horner’s company, on the theory that the presence of the supposed eunuch will keep her occupied and discourage the advances of other, more potent men.
The wife of Sir Jasper Fidget, she is much younger than her husband and a leading figure in “the virtuous gang.” Utterly hypocritical, she piques herself on her virtue in public and avails herself of Horner’s physical charms in private. Late in the play she articulates a defense of the hypocrisy of high-born ladies.
The unmarried sister of Sir Jasper Fidget. Like Lady Fidget, she is a member of “the virtuous gang” and secretly a conquest of Horner’s.
A young unmarried woman related to the Fidgets. Like Lady Fidget, she is a member of “the virtuous gang” and secretly a conquest of Horner’s.
Old Lady Squeamish
The grandmother of Mistress Squeamish; she strives in vain to preserve her granddaughter’s purity.
The doctor whom Horner enlists to spread the rumor of his impotence.
The Country Wife Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Country Wife is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The attractive young “country wife” of the title, Margery is newly married to Jack Pinchwife and is visiting London for the first time to see Alethea’s wedding. Unaccustomed to city ways, she is largely guileless and not...