The Country Wife

Key scenes

Notorious scenes in the play include "the china scene", a sustained double entendre dialogue mostly heard from off stage, where Horner is purportedly discussing his china collection with two of his lady friends. The husband of Lady Fidget and the grandmother of Mrs. Squeamish are listening front stage and nodding in approval, failing to pick up the double meaning which is obvious to the audience. Lady Fidget has already explained to her husband that Horner "knows china very well, and has himself very good, but will not let me see it lest I should beg some. But I will find it out, and have what I came for yet" (IV.iii.110). Dialogue such as this made "china" a dirty word in common conversation, Wycherley later claimed.

In another famous scene Lady Fidget's self-styled "virtuous gang" meet up at Horner's lodging to carouse, throw off their public virtue, and behave exactly like male rakes, singing riotous songs and drinking defiant toasts. Finally each of the ladies triumphantly declares that Horner himself is the very lover they have been toasting, and a mayhem of jealousy breaks out as they realise that their friends have also been receiving Horner's favours. But they quickly realise they have no choice but to keep the scandalous secret: "Well then, there's no remedy, sister sharers, let us not fall out, but have a care of our honour" (V.iv.169).

A scene of the Pinchwife plot that combines farce and nightmare is Pinchwife's attempt to force Mrs Pinchwife to write a haughty farewell letter to Horner, using the Freudian threat to "write whore with this penknife in your face" (IV.ii.95). Like all Pinchwife's efforts it misfires, giving Mrs Pinchwife instead an opportunity to send Horner a fan letter.


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