China Travels: Figurations, Revisions, and Transformations from Wycherley’s Time to the Present Day


  • Sara Soncini University of Pisa



This article revisits the performance history of The Country Wife by looking at changing configurations of its celebrated china scene across a centuries-long journey that begins with Wycherley’s own reprise of the same trope in his next comedy, The Plain Dealer, and reaches up to the present day. Unlike the vast majority of Restoration plays, which virtually disappeared from the stage from the mid-eighteenth until well into the twentieth century, The Country Wife has remained a fixture within the English repertoire; the afterlife of its iconic scene, however, is a different story, a bumpy map with its highs and lows, emergences and suppressions and, sometimes, metamorphoses. By focusing on some paradigmatic stages in the history of the play’s reception and reproduction, this paper evidences at once the frailty and the resilience of Wycherley’s archetypal comic scene and of the object it contributed to install as a prominent theatrical and cultural signifier.

Keywords: Restoration comedy; The Country Wife; William Wycherley; china scene; reception; translatability; cultural relocation