Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 9
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which libertines misinterpret Hobbes, including the libertine preference to live in the state of
nature instead of a commonwealth, and cites fictional libertines such as Shadwell's Don John of
The Libertine (1674) and Wycherley's Harcourt, Sparkish, and Alithea of The Country Wife
(1675) as well as real life libertine John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester.
Chapter 3 analyzes Rochester's libertine poetic personae in his poems A Satyr Against
Mankind, "The Maim'd Debauchee," and "Upon His Drinking a Bowl" and the ways in which
each persona approaches libertinism and misinterprets Hobbes. Distinctively, these three
libertine narrators demonstrate that libertinism and reason, rather than being mutually exclusive
ideas, are simultaneous opposites one can easily reconcile through obedience of what Rochester
calls "right reason." I will examine how Rochester's libertine narrators justify their devotion to
libertinism and, in turn, establish themselves as libertines whose rejection of all authority and
obedience primarily to instincts and nature originate from their own version of Hobbesian
philosophy and libertinism as well as reason. As stated previously, libertinism typically excludes
older and middle-aged men in that it advocates, among other things, greed, prodigality, self-
indulgence, sexual promiscuity, irresponsibility, and selfishness. Middle-aged and elderly men,
like Rochester's narrator of "The Maim'd Debauchee," are former libertines who must relegate
themselves to substituting libertinism for "discretion, prudence, responsibility, and the patient
accumulation of wisdom or of worldly goods" (Chernaik 25). The three poems function as self-
criticisms and self-contradictions of libertinism. As a result, all three poetic personae cannot live
up to any sort of libertine ideal because this ideal constantly changes to accommodate the
similarly shifting needs and desires of each libertine.
My fourth chapter discusses Shadwell's comedy The Libertine, focusing primarily on its
protagonist, Don John, and how his anarchic need to overthrow social institutions (rather than
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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/m1/15/?q=rochester: accessed July 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .