Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wycherley, William. The Plain-Dealer: A Comedy ... London: Printed by T.N. for J. Magnes and R. Bentley, 1677.

Despite a short five-year career that resulted in the output of only four plays, William Wycherley (1641–1715) is considered one of the most influential writers of Restoration comedy. His satirical comedies were biting social commentaries, targeting individual vices such as hypocrisy, pretense, and avarice. His most popular satiric comedy, The Plain Dealer, was first produced in 1676 by the King’s Company at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and first published in 1677. It is a satire on the corruptive effects of materialism and social conventions on love, marriage, and relationships. Manly, the Plain-Dealer and the protagonist in the play, bears a strong resemblance in concept to Moliere’s Misanthrope. As the play progresses the comedic satire develops into a darker, tragic indictment of society itself as Manly eventually embodies all the negatives characteristics that he ridicules and attacks.

Wycherley cites a well-known phrase taken from Horace’s Sermons 1.10: “Ridiculum acri Fortius et melius magnas plerumque secat res” or “Ridicule often decides matters of importance more effectually, and in a better manner, than severity of satire.”

Gift of William M. Elkins

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