The Theme of War Between All Against All in the "The Country Wife" - Essay Sample

Published: 2024-01-07
The Theme of War Between All Against All in the "The Country Wife" - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  English literature Women Literature War
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 965 words
9 min read

The central theme in the play “The Country Wife” by William Wycherley is the war between all against all. The author reveals the war through the idea of artificiality, materialism, and pretense surrounding the routine lives of characters, notably the new king and the married individuals. The author wrote the play during the earlier Restoration period, where people held anti-puritan and aristocratic ideologies towards wealth, marriage, and sex. General Oliver Cromwell had governed England for 11 years leading to rapid changes in the scientific, social, and literature lives of the natives. The restoration period saw the reinstating of Charles II to the throne leading to a difference in the lives of the people where socio-political conflicts, Neo-Classicism, realism, and imitation of the ancients increased. In the play, Wycherley exhibits war between the people through their diversified socio-political beliefs seeking to become superior to replace the Puritan ideologies provided by the former leader. Thus, the characters’ efforts in the play reveal the war between them through the deceitfulness and paranoia exhibited in their efforts to reform England after the Puritan regime.

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Firstly, there is a war between genders in the play. The male and female want to gain a reputation from their compatriots, yet both depict paranoia on the most recognized and respected gender. For instance, Horner acknowledges the women’s reputation around him when he says I know not; your reputation frightened me more as much as your faces invited me. In return, the ladies acknowledge that men use their reputations to deceive the world with less suspicion. Lady Fidget says that our reputation! Lord, why should you not think we women make use of our reputation as you men of yours? Only to deceive the world with less suspicion... Additionally, Horner admits that women are like men; they both use their reputations to deceive people who cannot suspect. Thus, men and women in the play are at a virtual war trying to outdo each other through reputation.

Marriages are the other form of social institution portraying the war between male and female characters in the play. The excerpt demonstrates a lack of affection and matrimonial love; instead, marriages are full of hypocrisy and corruption in the urban lifestyle. The author satirizes the pretense betrayed in marriages. Lady Fidget satirically explains how men go out for business reasons to meet other ladies avoiding their families. Later in the text, the writer employs Sir Jasper and Pinchwife to demonstrate an ignorant and paranoid picture that ironically facilitated their wives to the rake. On the same note, Mrs. Dainty Fidget expresses her displeasure on how men nowadays choose mistresses as other kinds of stuff. She says the filthy toads choose mistresses now as they do stuff, for having been fancied and worn by others. It shows how infidelity has hit marriages hard. Women openly know what their husbands are doing, but they cannot just leave that marriage; instead, they decide to do the same. Lady Fidget, in her statement, openly admits that wildness in a man is a desirable quality. Women seem to be attracted to this kind of man outside their marriage.

Wives become paranoid and deceitful to quench their sexual desires with little adherence to the traditional ethics governing marriage. From the excerpt, Lady Fidget and Dainty ended up being adulterous and unfaithful later at some point. They demonstrate that they do not care about their husbands and are willing to do anything to fulfill their sexual desires. At the start of the excerpt, Lady Fidget says, drink thou representative of a husband. Damn, husband! It shows how these wives genuinely hate their husbands. She later says, ay, we have all reasons to curse them. It demonstrates the caricature the author employs to show disrespect and unfaithfulness among the couples. The women are paranoid concerning the actions of their husbands. Lady Fidget explains how men assume business often to avoid their wives and join those they love. The women think that their husbands are out with their mistresses when they are out for business purposes. Therefore, the insinuation puts women at war with their husbands because men deserve to cuckold in reality by discarding their wives.

Moreover, the story brings out materialism as one of the primary reasons men go for mistresses. Mrs. Squeamish describes the mistresses as common and cheap as Lady Fidget further adds, whilst women of quality, like the richest stuff, lie untumbled and unasked for. From the statement, these women seem provoked because their husbands go for worthless mistresses. They sound to be comfortable if their husband would choose to be with rich and quality mistresses. The witty appetites of men lead them to a typical road and imitation. Lady Fidget explains paradoxically how men decide to share those cheap and common ladies instead of having quality rich stuff women whom they will not share with anybody else. When you were a man, Lady Fidget asks why you rather chose to club with a multitude in a common house, for entertainment, than to be the only guest at a good table. It portrays the paranoia that women have towards men leading to issues between the two genders.


In conclusion, the author has carefully demonstrated the war between people in the play through individuals’ materialism and artificiality. The play depicts marriages as lethal social institutions to romance where women see them as hindrances prompting them to become deceitful on their husbands. The women are also paranoid about their husbands’ business operations as a channel to enable them to hang out with their mistresses. Thus, all characters in the play are at war with others because of a lack of trust, gender issues, and materialistic intentions.


Wycherley, W. (2014). The country wife. A&C Black.

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