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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

VII. The Restoration Drama

§ 16. Sir Courtly Nice

His best comedies came next: City Politiques (1683), and Sir Courtly Nice, or It cannot be (1685). The date of the former of these pieces, long a subject of debate, is now established. In its elaborate and very amusing satire on the whigs, despite Crowne’s perfunctory professions to the contrary, the originals from which some of the portraits were drawn may be detected without difficulty. Titus Oates masquerades as Dr. Panchy, and Stephen Colledge is introduced in the guise of a bricklayer; while frequent hits are made at Shaftesbury in the person of the Podestà of the very un-Neapolitan “Naples” where the action is supposed to take place.

Sir Courtly Nice is by far the best of Crowne’s plays, and has in it something of the true spirit of comedy which, in this age, reched its height in the group of comic dramatists headed by Congreve. It is founded on Moreto’s play No puede ser guardar una mujer (No holding a Woman), which is itself an imitation of Lope de Vega’s Mayor Imposibile (The greatest of impossibilities). An English version of Moreto’s comedy, by Sir Thomas St. Serfe, had been produced without success in 1668, under the title Tarugo’s Wiles, or the Coffee-House; but Crowne does not seem to have been aware of its existence. In any case, the principal characters in Crowne’s play are new. Sir Courtly himself, with Hothead and Testimony—an admirably contrasted pair, representing, in a most diverting manner, the extreme factions of the age—and Surly are all due to Crowne’s invention.