by William Wycherley
Wycherley's stated that he wrote this play when he was twenty-five years old, in the year 1665-6. Its first stage performance took place earlier than the spring of 1674. In 1674, John Dryden wrote of the play: "The author of The plain dealer, whom I am proud to call my friend, has obliged all honest and virtuous men by one of the most bold, most general, and most useful satires, which has ever been presented on the English theatre." The plain dealer was published in 1677.
This play is the most powerful of William Wycherley's four comedies. The satire and wit of Wycherley are everywhere evident from the mock dedication to the epilogue. The main intention of the plot is borrowed from Le Misanthrope by Molière but the play is so coloured with Wycherley's individuality that it appears original. Voltaire has contrasted the two plays by stating "All Wycherley's strokes are stronger and bolder than those of our Misanthrope, but then they are less delicate, and the Rules of Decorum are not so well observed in this Play."
The Widow Blackacre has been described by Voltaire as "the most comical character that was ever brought upon the stage."
An extract from The plain dealer is available on this website.
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Page created 22 November 2002 and last
updated 20 December 2002
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