Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 8
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"Upon His Drinking a Bowl," Thomas Shadwell's The Libertine, William Wycherley's The
Country Wife, and James Boswell's London Journal, 1762-1763. I argue that the limitations and
self-contradictions of standard definitions of libertinism and the ways in which libertine
protagonists and libertinism in general function as critiques of libertinism. Moreover, libertine
protagonists and poetic personae reinterpret libertinism to accommodate their personal agendas
and in doing so, satirize the idea of libertinism itself and identify the problematization of
"libertinism" as a category of gender and social identity. That is, these libertines misinterpret
often deliberately-Hobbes to justify their opposition and refusal to obey social institutions
e.g., eventually marrying and engaging in a monogamous relationship with one's wife-as well
as their endorsement of obedience to nature or sense, which can include embracing a libertine
lifestyle in which one engages in sexual encounters with multiple partners, refuses marriage, and
questions the existence of God or at least distrusts any sort of organized religion.
In chapter 2, I discuss Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan or The Matter, Forme, and Power of
a Common-wealth Ecclesiastical and Civil (1651) and the ways in which Restoration libertines
often misinterpreted the theories Hobbes articulated in Leviathan. Libertines often read
Hobbes's Leviathan as an endorsement of living according to instincts and self-interest and a
disdaining of social institutions. However, Hobbes promotes the commonwealth form of
government for enforcing laws and controls upon the citizens living within it. Chapter 2
summarizes Leviathan and defines several terms Hobbes uses in the work, including the "natural
condition of man" or the state of nature, commonwealth, sovereign, sovereign power, subject,
"law of nature," "right of nature," and contract (Hobbes 60, 62, 64, 81, 88). I also discuss
contradictions within Hobbes's theories about the use of preemptive violence and his first law of
nature or "Fundamental Law of Nature" (64). Chapter 2 goes on to examine the specific ways in
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Smith, Victoria. Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell, dissertation, May 2008; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc6051/m1/14/?q=rochester: accessed April 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .