Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 71
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LIBERTINE SELF-CRITICISM AND SELF-SATIRE IN
WYCH E RLEY' S THE COUNTRY WIFE
Many critics of The Country Wife identify its male protagonist, Homrner, as a conventional
libertine guided by Hobbesian self-interest and instant gratification, a libertine who disobeys
social institutions in favor of following the self-interest which motivates him. For example,
Thomas Fujimura writes, "In Homrner he [Wycherley] has also created his most striking
Truewit-a plain-dealing, yet ironic Wit, mordant and blunt in his speech, libertine in his
principles, skeptical in temper, and rationalistic" (144). Susan Owen adds, "Homrner's name has a
threefold significance, suggesting a cuckold-maker (the traditional symbol of the cuckold being
horns), a wild beast with animalistic sexuality, and the horned devil"- with the exception of the
"horned devil" label, these are all characteristically libertine ideals (132). Lawrence Stone writes
that Homrner is an "insatiable adulterer" and "a prisoner of sex" (Stone 250). "He derived,"
continues Stone, "no sensual pleasure from his conquests, only sadistic satisfaction at the
seduction and then betrayal of his victims: his gratification came from their private humiliation
and public ruin" (Stone 250). Charles Hallet adds a Hobbesian component to the discussion
about Horner. He writes that Homrner "is acting solely out of that emotion Hobbes saw as the
foundation of human society-self-interest. Further, it is Homrner's primary intention to exploit
the self-interest of others so as to escape the limitations of the social contract himself' (Hallett
While I agree that self-interest and sexual gratification guide and motivate Wycherley's
Homer, I disagree with the one-dimensional caricatures of libertinism in such assessments. Like
the other libertines in this study, Wycherley's Homer is a far more complicated, self-
contradictory libertine who, in addition to possessing the qualities outlined in more standard
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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/m1/77/?q=rochester: accessed July 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .