Wycherley, William (wĭchˈərlē) [key], 1640?–1716, English dramatist, b. near Shrewsbury. His first comedy, Love in a Wood (1671), was a huge success and won him the favor of the duchess of Cleveland, mistress of Charles II. His next play, The Gentleman Dancing-Master (1672), was followed by his two masterpieces, The Country Wife (1674?), in which the hero feigns castration as a cover for his affairs, and The Plain Dealer (1676), an exposé laden with satirical irony on the deception inherent in love and friendship. His brilliant wit and savagely clever satire give him a prominent place in the history of English Restoration drama. He lost court favor by his marriage (c.1680) to the countess of Drogheda, and after her death he spent several years in prison for debt. With the accession of James II he was released from prison and given a pension. The publication of his Miscellany Poems in 1704 led to a friendship with young Pope, who revised many of the elder poet's verses.
See his complete plays, ed. by G. Weales (1966); biography by W. Connely (1930, repr. 1969); studies by R. Zimbardo (1965), U. Santz (1978), and E. McCarthy (1985).