Gender Norms In William Wycherley's The Country Wife

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William Wycherley’s, The Country Wife employs characters that challenge traditional gender norms and go against societal expectations to generate comic relief. His main character, Horner pretends to be sexually impotent, while the supposed innocent woman from the country, Margery Pinchwife is sexually precocious. Many of the women in this play are provocative and secretive, while many of the men are clueless and conceited cuckolds. Wycherley uses satiric reversal, humor, and the challenging of gender norms to highlight that although, as humans we try to appear as rational and honorable, ultimately we are not always what we seem to be. In fact, really, we are often governed by our wills, instincts and desires. In the onset of the play, Horner is speaking with “The Quack” or the doctor that he finds to spread false rumors for him. The Quack says, “I have undone you forever with the women, and reported you throughout the whole town as bad as an eunuch, with as much trouble as if I had made you one in earnest.” (194, Wycherley) Wycherley uses satiric reversal here because Horner is pretending to not be able to have sex, in order to have more sex. According to Rogers, ”Horner’s pose as a eunuch, besides emphasizing the exclusively physical nature of his interest in women, symbolically suggest that- for …show more content…
Horner portrays himself as impotent, in order to deceive husbands and get closer to women. Lady Fidget and Mistress Squeamish act honorable and reputable, however partake in sexual affairs with Horner. Margery begins to take on the persona of the twons women, when she realizes that is how she can get what she truly wants. Even Alethea almost goes through an unhappy marriage in order to keep her honor and reputation. Through these characters, Wycherley emphasizes that human nature as a whole are not always what we seem to

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