William Wycherley’s The Plain Dealer is the Restoration comedy adaptation of Moliere’s The Misanthrope. Manly is a captain--and a pretty terrible one who went to sea just to get away from people--and prides himself on his “plain dealing” with other people. However, he doesn’t see that what he prizes as honesty strikes others as rudeness, brashness, and cruelty. More than anything, though, Manly is in pursuit of the beautiful Olivia, a wealthy woman who is just as misanthropic as he is. To win her heart, Manly must contend with rival suitors, a litigious widow who relies on him to be her star witness, and his eager and loyal page. The love triangles are entangled with deception: Olivia falls in love with the page, who is actually a woman named Fidelia in disguise, because she is in love with Manly. An excellent example of early Restoration comedy of manners plays, The Plain Dealer satirizes London high society with Wycherley’s trademark wit, wordplay, and colorful characters.
The Plain Dealer guide sections