In general, theatre going was a very noisy experience, with people talking to their friends, changing seats, and buying and eating oranges. They also flaunted their own wit by commenting on the acting, such as Sparkish on his theatre experience, “The reason why we are so often louder than the players is because we think we speak more wit. ” In addition, there was often brawling, insults being thrown, illegal duelling, and people were often drunk. It was even a place for sexual encounters! People were less interested in the play than being seen by other members of the society at a fashionable event.
James Wright said, “Though a play be a generous diversion, yet ’tis better to read than see, unless one could see it without these inconveniences. ” The Country Wife continued to a be a popular production into the early eighteenth century, but amoral Restoration Comedies then became unpopular as the neoclassical precept of teaching morals returned. Two devised versions by John Lee and David Garrick were written to suit the more moral taste of the new audience, with the impotence plot eradicated and relationships between characters changed. In today’s society, it can again be viewed comically, without the need for censorship.
However, many of the themes are still as relevant now as they were in the seventeenth century. For example, the deceit and cuckolding still occurs today, with an alarming number of people having affairs. People are also still obsessed with what people think of them and the constant battle to be fashionable is still running. In addition, society still has barriers concerning the roles that women take on, and the countryside is still seen as unfashionable! The Country Wife may not directly reflect modern civilization, but its main purpose of causing the audience to laugh at themselves is still possible.