Verbal brilliance, urbane sophistication and sexual conquest are the
measures of success for the fashionable set who watched themselves
being represented on the Restoration stage. Yet idealisation and
satire, as this edition of Etherege's masterpiece shows, are flip sides
of the same coin, and the play betrays deep anxieties about ridicule
and social failure. Any London beau would emulate Dorimant, the
unconscionable rake who loves 'em and leaves 'em, but he would also
secretly fear that he in fact resembled Sir Fopling Flutter, the model
of all Restoration fops, in his vanity and affectation. The women fare
no better, being offered for identification Dorimant's discarded
mistress Loveit, scheming for revenge, or the beautiful but hard-headed
Harriet, who dares Dorimant to woo her in the country, for �I know all
beyond Hyde Park is a desert to you and that no gallantry can draw you
farther'.