Conceptual Metaphor in Discourses of Women and Marriage in Seventeenth-Century Comedy


  • Csenge Aradi University of Szeged Hungary



Conceptual metaphor, Marriage, Wives and husbands in 1600s, Women, 17th century.


Conceptual metaphors reflect general conceptions of women and marriage in seventeenth-century comedy. Through the comparison of Molière’s The School for Husbands (1661) and The School for Wives (1662) with Wycherley’s The Country Wife (1675), the author of the present paper analyzes metaphors depicting women’s position and marriage in contemporary English and French society. The cognitive linguistic analysis (based on Johnson & Lakoff, 1980; Kövecses, 2005; 2010) was complemented with elements of Sociocriticism (Duchet, 1979), an approach that defines text as a social act. Sociocriticism claims that literary texts mirror the reality of their age, and they therefore need to be interpreted according to their own socio-cultural context. Women of the 1600s had an inferior status within the dominant male discourse, and this fact is unambiguously manifested in the metaphors extracted from the comedies. However, there are some considerable differences in the realization of these metaphors in the analyzed plays. First, metaphors in The Country Wife are visually more ingenuous than those applied in The School for Husbands and The School for Wives. Second, metaphors in Wycherley’s play are closely connected to the everyday life of the characters (i.e., members of the English gentry and aristocracy), as opposed to Molière’s comedies, in which metaphors are conventional both on the general and specific level, and thus provide little culture-specific information on the issue. A third difference is that metaphorical correspondences in The Country Wife are made explicit, and they run through the whole of the play, establishing coherence to the discourse. In contrast, the two French plays do not unbind any of the relevant metaphors. As a conclusion, it can be stated that whereas in The Country Wife the representation of women and marriage is based on extended conceptual metaphors reflecting contemporary socio-cultural context, in The School for Husbands and The School for Wives conceptual metaphors reinforce but do not constitute the basis of illustrating the issue in question.


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