Theater: Bad Restoration

The Country Wife, by William Wycherley. Charles II's England shared the obsession of its king—it was sex-mad. From that consuming passion sprang the witty, monomaniacally bawdy drama known as Restoration comedy. If Congreve was the age's greatest theatrical wit, Wycherley (1640-1715) may well have been its most vigorous social chronicler. He was a rake who later reformed, with all the zealotry that implies. In him, the pagan warred with the Puritan, the scandalizer with the sermonizer, and perhaps never more fiercely than in his most durable play, The Country Wife.

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