The Country Wife

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The Country Wife
by William Wycherley

Dramatis Personae[edit]

  • Mr. Horner.
  • Mr. Harcourt.
  • Mr. Dorilant.
  • Mr. Pinchwife.
  • Mr. Sparkish.
  • Sir Jasper Fidget.
  • A Boy.
  • A Quack.
  • Waiters, Servants, and Attendants.
  • Mrs. Margery Pinchwife.
  • Alithea, Sister of Pinchwife.
  • Lady Fidget.
  • Mrs. Dainty Fidget, Sister of Sir Jasper.
  • Mrs. Squeamish.
  • Old Lady Squeamish.
  • Lucy, Alithea’s Maid.

Prologue[edit]

Spoken by Mr. Hart

Poets, like cudgelled bullies, never do
At first or second blow submit to you;
But will provoke you still, and ne’er have done,
Till you are weary first with laying on.
The late so baffled scribbler of this day,
Though he stands trembling, bids me boldly say,
What we before most plays are used to do,
For poets out of fear first draw on you;
In a fierce prologue the still pit defy,
And, ere you speak, like Castril give the lie.
But though our Bayes’s battles oft I’ve fought,
And with bruised knuckles their dear conquests bought;
Nay, never yet feared odds upon the stage,
In prologue dare not hector with the age;
But would take quarter from your saving hands,
Though Bayes within all yielding countermands,
Says, you confederate wits no quarter give,
Therefore his play shan’t ask your leave to live.
Well, let the vain rash fop, by huffing so,
Think to obtain the better terms of you;
But we, the actors, humbly will submit,
Now, and at any time, to a full pit;
Nay, often we anticipate your rage,
And murder poets for you on our stage:
We set no guards upon our tiring-room,
But when with flying colours there you come,
We patiently, you see, give up to you
Our poets, virgins, nay, our matrons too.

Act I[edit]

Scene I.—Horner’s Lodging

Enter Horner, and Quack following him at a distance.

Horn. [aside]. A quack is as fit for a pimp, as a midwife for a bawd; they are still but in their way, both helpers of nature.—[Aloud.] Well, my dear doctor, hast thou done what I desired?

Quack. I have undone you for ever 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.

Horn. But have you told all the midwives you know, the orange wenches at the playhouses, the city husbands, and old fumbling keepers of this end of the town? for they’ll be the readiest to report it.

Quack. I have told all the chambermaids, waiting-women, tire-women, and old women of my acquaintance; nay, and whispered it as a secret to ’em, and to the whisperers of Whitehall; so that you need not doubt ’twill spread, and you will be as odious to the handsome young women as—

Horn.As the small-pox. Well—

Quack. And to the married women of this end of the town, as—

Horn. As the great one; nay, as their own husbands.

Quack.And to the city dames, as aniseed Robin, of filthy and contemptible memory; and they will frighten their children with your name, especially their females.

Horn.And cry, Horner’s coming to carry you away. I am only afraid ’twill not be believed. You told ’em it was by an English-French disaster, and an English-French chirurgeon, who has given me at once not only a cure, but an antidote for the future against that damned malady, and that worse distemper, love, and all other women’s evils?

Quack. Your late journey into France has made it the more credible, and your being here a fortnight before you appeared in public, looks as if you apprehended the shame, which I wonder you do not. Well, I have been hired by young gallants to belie em t’ other way; but you are the first would be thought a man unfit for women.

Horn.Dear Mr. Doctor, let vain rogues be contented only to be thought abler men than they are, generally ’tis all the pleasure they have; but mine lies another way.

Quack. You take, methinks, a very preposterous way to it, and as ridiculous as if we operators in physic should put forth bills to disparage our medicaments, with hopes to gain customers.

Horn. Doctor, there are quacks in love as well as physic, who get but the fewer and worse patients for their boasting; a good name is seldom got by giving it one’s self; and women, no more than honour, are compassed by bragging. Come, come, Doctor, the wisest lawyer never discovers the merits of his cause till the trial; the wealthiest man conceals his riches, and the cunning gamester his play. Shy husbands and keepers, like old rooks, are not to be cheated but by a new unpractised trick: false friendship will pass now no more than false dice upon ’em; no, not in the city.

Enter Boy.

Boy. There are two ladies and a gentleman coming up.

[Exit.


This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.