"Restoration comedy" is the term applied to a play written during 1660-1700, the period in which the monarchy was restored to England. In the years prior to the Restoration, heavy Puritan influence caused all of the theaters in the country to be shut down. When they reopened in 1660, playwrights celebrated their new creative freedom with a surge of bawdy, sexually-charged comedies. The main characters in these plays were typically rakehells, playing whatever games necessary to get as many women as they can.
William Wycherley’s The Country Wife is one of the most famous examples of a Restoration comedy. The story follows the rakish Mr. Horner as he tricks his way into sexually conquering all of the women in town. Horner’s unabashed libertine qualities and his successful trickery of the husbands in the play make him the quintessential Restoration comedy character. Another fixture of Restoration comedies was the division of the story into a main plot and a subplot. In this case, the tale of Horner and his lasciviousness games are contrasted by his friend Mr. Harcourt's pursual of Alithea. Though Harcourt uses knave-like tricks to break Alithea out of her engagement, he is more interested in love than sexual achievement.