The Representation of Marriage in The Country Wife
William Wycherly represents marriage in a peculiar way in The Country Wife. The classic marital values of love, trust, and becoming one with your partner in a bond of love are distorted by intense emotion. The appropriately named Mr. Pinchwife is a jealous husband who moves his new wife Margery to the country with hopes keep her from the outside world, namely the city of London, and the inevitable infidelity that lies there in his mind. However, by denying Mrs. Pinchwife her freedom, Mr. Pinchwife alienates her and encourages her resentment of him.
Early in the play, when Pinchwife describes his new wife to his friends as "ugly," "ill-bred," and "silly" (I, i, 419), the reader realizes that Pinchwife is terrified that another man will take his wife if he does not degrade and hide her. Pinchwife also states that "Good wives and private soldiers should be ignorant" (I, i, 400). Pinchwife believes that he has married a truly innocent wife, saying, "A fool cannot contrive to make her husband a cuckold" (I, i, 432). The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word "cuckold" as "A man married to an unfaithful wife." Mrs. Pinchwife does initially appear to be naïve in that she does not know what jealousy is (II, i, 56). Jealousy, however, and Pinchwife's preoccupation with it, becomes a central theme to the plot, and is the motive for many of Pinchwife's actions. Alithea, Pinchwife's sister, says about jealousy:
"Jealousy…begets a thousand plagues…the loss of her honor, her quiet…her life sometimes; and what's as bad almost, the loss of this town, that is, she is sent into the country, which is the last ill usage of a husband to a wife" (IV, i, 57-67).
Mrs. Pinchwife has now begun to realize how controlling Mr. Pinchwife really is. She even refers to herself as a "poor lonely sullen bird in a cage" (III, i, 4). Mrs. Pinchwife has grown very curious to see the city, especially when Pinchwife mentions Horner's admiration of her. Pinchwife angrily scolds his sister, saying, "Do not teach my wife where the men are to be found… I bid you to keep her in ignorance, as I do" (II, i, 56). But, the next day, Pinchwife agrees to take his wife, "masked" as a young boy, into town, with hopes of dispelling...