Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 36
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and reason makes him intrinsically anti-reason and anti-Enlightenment, especially when we
consider his approach to Hobbesian philosophy. Like Hobbes, Rochester recognizes the
necessity of social institutions to govern and control the lower classes. However, his views
diverge from Hobbes in terms of his less democratic, more classist opinions. While Rochester
sees these institutions as necessary and important for placing controls upon the "rabble," he,
unlike Hobbes, does not believe the rules and controls employed by the same institutions apply
equally to the upper class. Libertines, then, as members of the upper class, do not have to obey
the same rules and laws governing the lower classes. Despite these differences, however,
Rochester shares Hobbes's opinions regarding finding a balance between obedience to
libertinism and reason-"right reason."
Mankind's mistake, according to the poetic persona, lies in sacrificing instinct and solely
obeying reason. The narrator opens the poem with his response to a hypothetical scenario in
which he could decide his identity at birth. He answers with the following:
Were I (who to my cost already am
One of those strange prodigious Creatures Man.)
A spirit free, to choose for my own share,
What Case of Flesh, and Blood, I pleas'd to weare,
I'd be a Dog, a Monkey, or a Bear. (Satyr 1. 1-5)
The narrator wants to be a "Spirit Free to choose for [his] own share" instead of "One of those
strange prodigious Creatures Man" (Satyr 1. 2, 3). However, a conflict resonates within the
opening lines of the poem when he states that he would prefer to identify himself as "Dog, a
Monkey, or a Bear"-identities considered by most men to be inferior to humankind, but what
the narrator considers superior to his current human identity (1. 5). John Sitter writes, "In
Rochester's lexicon man becomes the aberration, the strange, prodigious creature deprived not
only, as he had been by Boileau and Oldham, of his anthropocentric splendor, but of his very
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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/m1/42/?q=rochester: accessed March 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .