The Role of the Clever Servant in William Wycherly's 'The Country Wife"

Essay by shanneighneighUniversity, Bachelor'sA, April 2006

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Throughout Wycherley's "The Country Wife" the possibilities of love and marriage for the wrong reasons are observed. Each character in the play has his or her own views of the opposite sex and how Love or, for some, merely money or physical attractions should be approached. The reasons for marriage as seen by most of the characters in The Country Wife are contradicted by Lucy, a simple servant with many opinions on the subject of love and marriage. Lucy is a voice of experience although she has none first hand. It is because of this down-to-earth, observer's view which Lucy possesses that opinions which other characters hold are challenged.

The continual theme of Love versus sex in "The Country Wife" shows the ways in which the characters perceive relationships. To the male portion of the London crowd in this play the opposite sex is simply something to be chased, captured, enjoyed and set free again.

Throughout the play Pinchwife is weary of bringing his naive country wife to the city because he knows the ways of his fellow Londoners. This apprehension is later proven to be justified as Horner woos Margery. As the uppity London crowd and even the simple country wife Margery accept this predatory behavior Lucy, a mere maid in Alithea's home is capable of voicing her thoughts on how love and marriage should be approached. The first line we hear Lucy speak is from behind the others, spoken to herself, and to the audience, in case we haven't already noticed what she points out in saying, "to see what easy husbands these women of quality can meet with! A poor chambermaid can never have such ladylike luck. Besides, he's thrown away upon her; she'll make no use of her fortune, her blessing" (III,ii,272-6).