The Country Wife Summary by William Wycherley

A Flirtatious Man

This story is about debauchery, extramarital affairs, and deception. The protagonist is a flirtatious man named Horner who loves to woo married women in particular. Due to his stained reputation, he conspires with a doctor to declare that he has become impotent and is harmless to any married woman.

Hearing the news, Horner’s friends like Harcourt come to console him. The rich men, who previously feared him, bring their women to spend time in the care of Horner.

The Plan Works Well

This works magnificently for Horner who has been planning to find ease access to these women all along through his ruse as an impotent man. Sir Fidget asks Horner to take his wife and her companions to the theatre which he agrees.

However, the ladies find him repulsive due to his impotence. He takes Lady Fidget aside and tells her about his lie and she accepts his invitation. She also convinces her friends to join them.

Horner is also visited by his friend named Sparkish. Interestingly, he is engaged to be married to Mr. Pinchwife’s sister. Mr. Pinchwife himself is an old man who has recently taken a young girl named Margery as his wife.

Pinchwife & Margery Visit Horner

He is aware of Horner’s reputation and wants to keep his young wife away from him. He refuses to take Margery to theatre lest she is preyed upon by Horner.

However, Margery loves theatre and is also fascinated by Horner’s former reputation. So, she disguises herself as a man and accompanies her husband.

At the theatre, Horner sees through Margery’s disguise and eventually succeeds in finding her alone and kissing her behind her husband’s back. Meanwhile, Harcourt meets Sparkish’s fiancée Alithea and is smitten by her. Alithea is also attracted to Harcourt but is still committed to Sparkish.

Margery Writes to Horner

When the couple returns home, Margery writes a letter to Horner and asks Pinchwife to deliver it. Pinchwife takes the letter to Horner thinking that it might be written by his wife to express disgust. He is actually happy to throw it in Horner’s face for his comments about his wife.

Soon, Horner is visited by the Lady Fidget and her companions one by one as they deceive Sir Fidget by hiding their affairs. Sir Fidget has no idea that he has been cuckolded by Horner.

However, he is soon made aware of the fact by Pinchwife who brings another letter from Margery which has Alithea’s signature. It is a love letter directed to Horner. Hearing about this scandal, Sparkish breaks his engagement with his fiancée.

Alithea also exposes Margery’s deception. All hell is about the break loose when the doctor reappears and certifies Horner’s impotence. Margery is resigned to her fate while Horner escapes without any trouble to continue his ruse.