Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 32
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Leviathan-actually acts as an anti-Hobbesian in that he promotes the ideas Hobbes opposes and
argues against in Leviathan.
Hobbesian philosophy, as we have seen, does not promote the type of authority Don John
and other real and fictional libertines advocate-solely following instincts and living in
anarchy-but instead promotes the opposite-living in a commonwealth where citizens curb
their instincts and obey a sovereign who legislates on behalf of himself and the citizens he rules.
In the Restoration, many real and fictional libertines invoked Hobbes's Leviathan as
evidence supporting their defiance of social institutions and their advocacy of obedience to their
own self-interest; this preference of obeying instincts over institutions resembles the chaotic state
of nature. For example, in A Satyr against Mankind, Rochester writes: "And, with the rabble
world, their laws obey" (Satyr 1. 199, my emphasis). The laws enacted by social institutions do
not apply to him, but instead, apply to the "rabble," or members of the lower classes. Similarly,
Shadwell, through Don John, satirizes libertine misinterpretations of Hobbes. Shadwell's Don
John instructs his fellow libertines: "Let's on, and live the noble life of Sense./ To all the powers
of Love and mighty Lust" (Libertine 28), endorsing living in the Hobbesian state of "sense" and
nature. Libertines often misinterpreted Hobbes's promotion of commonwealths as an argument
for the exact opposite, a society free from institutional authority or at least one that promotes
following one's instincts within the boundaries and rules implemented by existing social
In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes discusses at length the reasons a commonwealth or a civil
society in which a sovereign elected by the people governs better suits individuals than the
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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/m1/38/?q=rochester: accessed September 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .