William Wycherley

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Wycherley, William

(wĭch`ərlē), 1640?–1716, English dramatist, b. near Shrewsbury. His first comedy, Love in a Wood (1671), was a huge success and won him the favor of the duchess of Cleveland, mistress of Charles II. His next play, The Gentleman Dancing-Master (1672), was followed by his two masterpieces, The Country Wife (1674?), in which the hero feigns castration as a cover for his affairs, and The Plain Dealer (1676), an exposé laden with satirical irony on the deception inherent in love and friendship. His brilliant wit and savagely clever satire give him a prominent place in the history of English Restoration drama. He lost court favor by his marriage (c.1680) to the countess of Drogheda, and after her death he spent several years in prison for debt. With the accession of James II he was released from prison and given a pension. The publication of his Miscellany Poems in 1704 led to a friendship with young Pope, who revised many of the elder poet's verses.


See his complete plays, ed. by G. Weales (1966); biography by W. Connely (1930, repr. 1969); studies by R. Zimbardo (1965), U. Santz (1978), and E. McCarthy (1985).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wycherley, William


Born May 28(7), 1640, in Clive, Shropshire; died Jan. 1,1716, in London. English playwright; the outstanding comic dramatist of the Restoration.

The son of gentry, Wycherley was educated at law in France and later studied at Oxford. He served in the military during the Second Dutch War. His verse collection Hero and Leander in Burlesque was published anonymously in 1669, and his first comedy, Love in a Wood, or St. James’s Park (1671), brought him success. His comedies The Gentleman Dancing Master (1671–72), The Country Wife (1675), and The Plain Dealer (1676) vividly portrayed the age of King Charles II, the Merry Monarch, with its glorification of aristocratic life. Wycherley depicted the vices of the aristocracy with obvious pleasure and unequaled frankness, but without passing judgment. The wit, sparkling language, and realistic elements of Wycherley’s plays mark them as outstanding works of their own era and as forerunners of the classical English comedy of manners.


In Russian translation:
Priamodushnyi. [Foreword by A. Anikst.] Moscow, 1968.


Zimbardo, R. Wycherley’s Drama. New Haven-London, 1965. Connely, W. Brawny Wycherley. Port Washington, N.Y.-London [1969].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.