(C) A CRITICAL AND PRODUCTION HISTORY OF THE PLAY, INCLUDING A REPORT ON THE TEXTUAL PROBLEMS (IF ANY) OF THE ORIGINAL AND AN ASSESSMENT OF THE MAJOR TRANSLATIONS (IF THE PLAY WAS WRITTEN IN A LANGUAGE OTHER THAN ENGLISH)
The Country Wife, a comedy written by William Wycherley, was published in 1675. This was during the restoration. Plays produced in this time were lit by candle light. During the show, the candles would melt. Intermission would be held to change the candles for new ones.
The play was written in English. No major translations.
“A product of the tolerant early Restoration period, the play reflects an aristocratic and anti-Puritan ideology, and was controversial for its sexual explicitness even in its own time. The title itself contains a lewd pun. It is based on several plays by Molière, with added features that 1670s London audiences demanded: colloquial prose dialogue in place of Molière’s verse, a complicated, fast-paced plot tangle, and many sex jokes. It turns on two indelicate plot devices: a rake’s trick of pretending impotence to safely have clandestine affairs with married women, and the arrival in London of an inexperienced young “country wife”, with her discovery of the joys of town life, especially the fascinating London men.
The scandalous trick and the frank language have for much of the play’s history kept it off the stage and out of print. Between 1753 and 1924, The Country Wife was considered too outrageous to be performed at all and was replaced on the stage by David Garrick’s cleaned-up and bland version The Country Girl, now a forgotten curiosity. The original play is again a stage favourite today, and is also acclaimed by academiccritics, who praise its linguistic energy, sharp social satire, and openness to different interpretations.” -World Heritage Encyclopedia.
The Country Wife has three different plots, which goes against the laws of unity. Some say this play, or the Horner plot, is distantly based off of the play Eunuchus by Terence, because of Horner’s impotence trick. The Pinchwife and Margery plot is based off of Molier’s School for Husbands and School for Wives.
The Country Wife‘s first performance in 1675 was by The King’s Company at the Theatre Royal. The theatre had only opened the previous year, so it was still very new. It was performed over the years until 1753, when the public’s taste for sexual jokes changed. After 171 it was performed again by the Phoenix Society in 1924 at the Regent Theatre in London. The first-ever American performance of Wycherley’s original Country Wife took place in 1931.
During the 171 years offstage, a less offensive version of the play was written. The Country Girl by David Garrick. It was very popular, lasting through productions into the 20th century. Wycherley’s original is again a stage classic. There was a BBC Play of the Month production of The Country Wife, in 1977. The Country Wife was also restaged as a musical – Lust in 1992. It later transferred to the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London’s West End. It moved to the John Houseman Theatre in New York in 1995, twenty years ago.
–A Brief History of Stage Lighting. Larry Wild. Northern edu. 2013
-World Heritage Encyclopedia