Sunday, October 28, 2007


Rakehell- according to folk etymology refers to someone who strokes the fires of Hell (with a rake of course!) in order to make them hotter.

During the restoration period (1660-1688) the term was often shortened to just Rake. A Rake is a man who wastes his (usually inherited) fortune on wine, women and song, incurring lavish debts in the process. They were used regularly as stock characters in novels and plays, characterized as sexually promiscuous spend-alls.

The clearest example of a Rake appears in William Wycherley’s The Country Wife as the protagonist Horner.

During the reign of Charles II the carefree, witty, sexually irresistible aristocratic courtiers; the Earl of Rochester and the Earl of Dorset were admired as real life examples. Following Charles II’s reign however, the term took a dive into squalor becoming the butt of moralistic tales in which a Rake’s typical fate was debtor's prison, venereal disease, or, in the case of William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress, insanity in Bedlam.

[Jose Miranda]

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