The Country Wife

Role of Women in the Restoration Period

There are many texts that deal with the role of the individual male in society; their positions are discussed politically, socially and personally. However, in-depth discussion of the individual female role in society is often lacking during the Restoration period. Women are props, background objects, prizes. They are often viewed simply as aesthetically pleasing, sexual beings. In William Wycherley’s play The Country Wife, men discuss women as sexual objects to be won, shared, or used. The perfect contrast to the themes regarding women in this play is Mary Astell’s essay, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies. In the portion of the essay found in the DeMaria anthology, Astell praises women’s abilities and encourages them to rise above and become equal to men in every way. The two texts provide an interesting contrast with one another on a theme that was lost during the period amongst political treatises and industrialization.

Mary Astell speaks directly to women about their advancement and position in society, which will also lead to their placement in heaven. Straightaway, she seeks to “improve [women’s] Charms and heighten [their] Value by suffering [them] no longer to be cheap and contemptible” (Astell 423). She states that the...

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