World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Rake (character)

Article Id: WHEBN0000494563
Reproduction Date:

Title: Rake (character)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: A Rake's Progress, The Country Wife, The Relapse, Restoration comedy, John Vanbrugh
Collection: Restoration Comedy, Stock Characters
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Rake (character)

The Tavern Scene from A Rake's Progress by William Hogarth.

A rake, short for rakehell (analogous to "hellraiser"), is a historic term applied to a man who is habituated to immoral conduct, particularly womanising. Often a rake was also prodigal who wasted his (usually inherited) fortune on gambling, wine, women and song, incurring lavish debts in the process. Comparable terms are "libertine" and "debauchee."

The Restoration rake was a carefree, witty, sexually irresistible aristocrat whose heyday was during the Earl of Dorset, who combined riotous living with intellectual pursuits and patronage of the arts. At this time the rake featured as a stock character in Restoration comedy.[1][2][3]

After the reign of Charles II, and especially after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the cultural perception of the rake took a dive into squalor. The rake became the butt of moralistic tales in which his typical fate was debtor's prison, venereal disease, or, in the case of William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress, insanity in Bedlam.[4]


  • In history 1
  • Categories of the rake in restoration comedy 2
  • In popular culture 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

In history

John Wilmot, the most infamous of the Restoration rakes

The defining period of the rake was at the court of Charles II in the late seventeenth century. Dubbed the "Merry Gang" by poet

  • The dictionary definition of rake at Wiktionary

External links

  • E. Beresford Chancellor (1925) The Lives of the Rakes (6 vols). Philip Allen.
  • Fergus Linnane (2006) The Lives of the English Rakes. London, Portrait.
  • D. Squibb (2011) The Art of Being a Rake in 21st Century Britain

Further reading

  1. ^ Harold Weber, The restoration rake-hero : transformations in sexual understanding in seventeenth-century England (Univ. Wisc., 1986; ISBN 0-299-10690-X).
  2. ^ See generally, Jean Gagen, "Congreve's Mirabell and the Ideal of the Gentleman", in PMLA, Vol. 79, No. 4 (Sep. 1964), pp. 422–427.
  3. ^ David Haldane Lawrence (2007) "Sowing Wild Oats: The Fallen Man in Late-Victorian Society Melodrama", Literature Compass vol. 4 no. 3, pp. 888–898 (2007)
  4. ^ John Harold Wilson, A Rake and His Times (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Young, 1954).
  5. ^ Fergus Linnane (2006) The Lives of the English Rakes. London, Portrait: 19–20
  6. ^ Graham Parry (1986) "Minds and Manners 1660–1688" in Stuart England edited by Blair Worden. London, Guild Publishing: 176–8
  7. ^ Kenyon, J.P. The Stuarts Fontana Edition 1966 p.188
  8. ^ Fergus Linnane (2006) The Lives of the English Rakes. London, Portrait: 113–166
  9. ^ David S. Berkeley, "The Penitent Rake in Restoration Comedy", Modern Philology, 49 (1952), pp. 223–33
  10. ^ C. D. Cecil, "Libertine and Précieux Elements in Restoration Comedy", Essays in Criticism, 9 (1959), pp 242–44; Robert D. Hume "The Myth of the Rake in 'Restoration Comedy", Studies in the Literary Imagination, 10 (1977), p. 38.
  11. ^ Robert Jordan, "The Extravagant Rake in Restoration Comedy," Restoration Literature: Critical Approaches, ed. Harold Love (London, 1972), pp. 69–90
  12. ^ Jordan, "Extravagant Rake," p. 76, pp. 87–88.
  13. ^ For the special case of Bellamira, see Sir Charles Sedley's "The Mulberry-Garden (1668) and "Bellamira: or, The Mistress" (1687), ed. Holger Hanowell, p. lxxxvii ff.; the article on the rake is an excerpt from Hanowell's edition, with permission by the editor.
  14. ^ Hume, "Myth of the Rake,", pp. 42–44.
  15. ^ Harold Weber, The Restoration Rake-Hero, pp. 52, 91–97. Warren Chernaik, Sexual Freedom in Restoration Literature (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 22–51.
  16. ^ Samuel I. Mintz, The Hunting of Leviathan: Seventeenth-Century Reactions to the Materialism and Moral Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes (Cambridge, 1962); Louis Teeter, "The Dramatic Uses of Hobbes' Political Ideas," ELH, 3 (1936), pp. 140–69.
  17. ^ Wolfgang Zach, Poetic Justice: Theorie und Geschichte einer literarischen Doktrin (Tübingen, 1986), pp. 115–22.
  18. ^ Zach, Poetic Justice, p. 127; Hume, "Myth of the Rake," pp. 52, 55


See also

Townes Van Zandt has a classic song named "Rake" on his 1971 album Delta Momma Blues. It has been covered by Steve Earle among others.

The Decemberists's album The Hazards of Love contains the song, "The Rakes Song", which tells the story of a womanizer that marries and when he comes widowed, murders his children

In popular culture

As a consequence, future emphasis was no longer on libertinistic adventures but on the conversion and domestication of the dashing young men. D'Urfey's' Love for Money (1691) and Cibber's Love's Last Shift (1696) are moralising plays and pave the way for the sentimental comedy of the early eighteenth century.

However, the number of persistent rakes continued to grow, together with an upsurge in cuckolding action, and, between 1672 and 1687, not all persistent rakes are punished satirically.[18] Only towards the end of the century did the increasing criticism of dramatic immorality and obscenity make the authors return to more traditional moral standards. In 1688, Shadwell’s Squire of Alsatia initiated the return to a Horatian prodesse in comedy, which had already been put forth in the Preface to The Humorist (1671): "My design was it, to reprehend some of the Vices and Follies of the Age, which I take to be the most proper, and most useful way of writing Comedy" (The Complete Works of Thomas Shadwell, ed. Montague Summers, Vol. I, p. 183).

It is, above all, the emotional distance from the objects of his desire as well as from the havoc he creates, which renders the persistent rake so frightening. Criticism of the libertine was heard not only in the 1670s when sex comedies were en vogue but also earlier, whenever the male partner of the gay couple was blamed for having indulged in immoral behaviour. One major counter-argument was the call for poetic justice. Thomas Shadwell and Dryden, for example, discussed the necessity of poetic justice to punish dissoluteness in their plays.[17] To reintroduce moral standards, the rake, they demanded, had to be reformed towards the end of the play. If a persistent rake was allowed to propagate his philosophical libertinism, "poetische Ungerechtigkeit" ("poetic injustice") was likely to threaten the norm. Shadwell's Epsom-Wells may be regarded as a chief instigator of an excessive libertinism which is not questioned. The play, significantly, ends with a divorce rather than the standard device of a marriage.

In his pursuit of pleasure and sensual satisfaction, the philosophical libertine shows hedonistic, Epicurean, and anti-rationalist patterns of thought. In their ideal of life, the libertines of this order may almost be compared to the genius of a somewhat later time: like the genius, the libertinistic rake is anti-authoritarian, anti-normative, and anti-traditional.

The libertinistic philosophy that the scintillating persistent rakes display seems to rebel against the narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy lurking behind the façade of Puritan honesty and bourgeois moral standards. It has been pointed out that the views of the philosophical libertine were strongly influenced by the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes.[15] But then, Hobbes was not necessarily an unquestioned ideal among the court élite, and Hobbesian ideas certainly did not permeate many comedies. Dryden, for one, drew on Hobbesian ideas in his tragedies but these ideas are internalised by villains only.[16]

Finally, the philosophical rake, the most attractive libertine figure, is characterised by self-control and refined behaviour as well as by a capacity for manipulating others. His pronounced libertinistic leanings are not supposed to contribute anything to the comic development of the plot. Rather, his libertinism is serious, thus reflecting the philosophical principles of the pleasure-seeking, cynical Court Wits. It is this kind of libertinism that has secured the notoriety of, say, The Man of Mode, and Sir Charles Sedley's Bellamira: or, The Mistress (see Bellamira (play)).[13] Not only characters like Horner and Dorimant spring to mind but also Rodophil and Palamede in Dryden's Marriage-a-la-Mode, Longvil and Bruce in Shadwell's The Virtuoso and the eponymous heroine in Sedley's Bellamira.[14] These plays are not representative of the average Restoration comedy, however. The reform of the ordinary rakish gentleman is the common pattern for the ending of the play. Similarly, extravagant rakes enter into marriage. However, as soon as the persistence of the rakes remains almost unquestioned, it is difficult to decide whether libertines, no matter of what "colour," play a major part in their authors’ satiric strategies. Although Etherege's Dorimant is "tamed" by Harriet, his conversion at the end is rather doubtful. Similarly, Wycherley's Horner is not punished satirically.

The vicious rake is invariably presented as a despicable, if wealthy person, who thrives on scheming and intrigue. He is frequently married and abuses his wife (examples are Pinchwife in The Country Wife or Sir John Brute in Vanbrugh's The Provok'd Wife).

Thus, the extravagant rake is a comic figure because his actions are exaggerated. But he is never a comic fool. [12] He is, above all, a self-aware character who "is what he wants to be," who delights in those qualities "with which he is endowed," and who provides "carnival release."[11] The extravagant rake is characterised by anti-normative conduct throughout, even though he finally settles down in matrimony. Between 1663 and 1668, examples are Wellbred in

Still other assessments of the libertine concentrate on the kind and intensity of libertinistic demeanour. Here, the rake falls into any one of three categories: extravagant libertine, vicious libertine, and philosophical libertine.

Another typology distinguishes between the "polite rake" and the "debauch," using criteria of social class and style. In this case, the young, witty, and well-bred male character, who dominates the drawing rooms, is in sharp contrast to a contemptible debauch, who indulges in fornication, alcoholism, and hypocrisy.[10]

On the whole, rakes may be subdivided into the penitent and persistent ones, the first being reformed by the heroine, the latter pursuing their immoral conduct.[9] Libertinistic attitudes, such as (sexual) licentiousness, alcoholism, scouring and gaming, can be discerned in characters belonging to the satiric norm as well as to the satiric scene. However, only the degree of wit brings the rakish gentleman, the Truewit, closer to the satiric norm, whereas Falsewits are always exploded in the satiric scene. The motivation of a rake to change his libertinistic ways is either hypocritical (Falsewits) or honest (Truewits). In other words, penitent rakes among the Falsewits only abandon their way of life for financial reasons, while penitent Truewits ever so often succumb to the charms of the witty heroine and, at least, go through the motions of vowing constancy.

Categories of the rake in restoration comedy

Other rakes include Colonel Charteris; Cagliostro, Lord Byron, John Mytton, Giacomo Casanova, Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun; the Marquis de Sade and Beauchamp Bagenal.

A later group of aristocratic rakes were associated with the Hell Fire Club in the eighteenth century. These included Francis Dashwood and John Wilkes.[8]

[7], broke into a church at night and relieved himself against the communion table and in the pulpit.Thomas Wharton, 5th Baron Wharton In 1682 [6] in a duel for the latter's wife.Francis Talbot, 11th Earl of Shrewsbury, as they simulated sex with each other, and the lowlight was Buckingham killing Covent Garden Following the tone set by the monarch himself, these men distinguished themselves in drinking, womanising and witty conversation, with the Earl of Rochester outdoing all the rest. Many of them were inveterate gamblers, brawlers and some were also duelists but not to the approval of King Charles. Highlights of their careers include Sedley and the Earl of Dorset preaching naked to a crowd from an alehouse balcony in [5]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.