Fools and Jesters in Literature, Art, and History: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook

By Vicki K. Janik; Emmanuel S. Nelson | Go to book overview

Country Squires and Bumpkins

( England: In Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama: 1660-1773)

Janet S. Wolf

In a period as renowned for its comedy and satire as the English Restoration and eighteenth century, we would expect the drama to be rich in fools and jesters, and that is exactly what we find. The rake hero has affinities with the trickster, and another type of fool in this period is the fop. Older tyrannical parents who arrange their children's marriages for financial gain or who deceive themselves about their continued attractiveness to the younger generation also behave foolishly. Restoration and eighteenth-century plays have their share of tricky servants. Contemporary undergraduates, if asked to identify the fool in a Restoration comedy, are most likely to name the women who are seduced by the rake. In other words, there is hardly a single character type in Restoration comedy who could not qualify as the fool or jester. The country squires and bumpkins, however, are the figures who best sustain the Elizabethan traditions of the natural and the wise fool. In this entry, I will concentrate on six squires and bumpkins: Margery pinchwife in William Wycherley The Country Wife ( 1675), Sir Credulous Easy in Aphra Behn Sir Patient Fancy ( 1678), Prue Foresight and Ben Legend in William Congreve Love for Love ( 1695), Sir Wilfull Witwould in Congreve The Way of the World ( 1700), and Tony Lumpkin in Oliver Goldsmith She Stoops to Conquer ( 1773).


BACKGROUND

The Restoration period in England is characterized by rebellion against Puritan repression and by sexual license and decadence. Restoration dramatists tend to be promonarchial and to celebrate urban sophistication and upper-class lit-

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