The Way of the World Summary
Mirabell, once a womanizer, seeks to marry a woman he loves, Ms. Millamant. Unfortunately, her aunt, Lady Wishfort, holds power over her 6,000-pound inheritance and despises Mirabell because he once pretended to like her. Mirabell and Ms. Millamant devise a plot during which his servant, Whitworth, will marry Lady Wishfort’s servant, Foible, then woo Lady Wishfort in disguise as Mirabell’s uncle, Sir Rowland.
The scheme proceeds as planned until Ms. Marwood, who unrequitedly desires Mirabell, overhears the plot when Foible fills in Lady Wishfort’s daughter, Mrs. Fainall. Ms. Marwood tells the person to whom she is mistress, Mr. Fainall, about the scheme and therefore the incontrovertible fact that Mirabell was also once romantically involved with his wife, Mrs. Fainall. Incensed by this example, the 2 decide to foil Mirabell’s scheme. Sir Wilfull, a nephew of Lady Wishfort’s, involves town before departing to travel abroad, and woman Wishfort desires for him, though a bumbling man, to marry Ms. Millamant. things involve ahead when Lady Wishfort while visiting with “Sir Rowland,” receives a letter from Ms. Marwood revealing Mirabell’s scheme.
Fainall attempts to use Lady Wishfort and her daughter’s precarious social situation as leverage to realize Ms. Millamant’s inheritance and every one of Lady Wishfort’s money through control of his wife’s inheritance. However, he’s foiled by Ms. Millamant announcing she is going to marry Sir Wilfull and Mirabell announcing that he has had a claim to Mrs. Fainall’s inheritance since before her marriage to Fainall. Once Fainall and Ms. Marwood leave, Ms. Millamant rescinds her offer to Sir Wilfull and she or he and Mirabell receive Lady Wishfort’s blessing for marriage, her reputation having been saved by the 2 lovers.
The Way of the World Analysis
London. The capital city of England that gives the planet during which the play is set—a world of coffeehouses, periwigs, and elaborately formal dress. it’s an upper-class world of gallants and fine ladies, as against would-be gallants and merely attractive ladies. the planet of trade and agriculture surrounds this world but isn’t a neighborhood of it except by way of contrast.
Chocolate-house. Setting for act 1. Such houses as Will’s near Covent Garden and White’s near St. James Park were the fashionable meeting places of young gallants and wits. Often gaming was related to them.
St. James Park
St. James Park. Large park in central London in whose fashionable Mall act 2 is about. The Mall was an extended tract in St. James that was formerly used for enjoying pall-mall. it’s often confused with Pall Mall, another park accessible to the north.
Country. Although no scene within the play occurs within the country, the country is usually within the background. Sir Wilful Witwoud may be a country bumpkin who is the butt of ridicule for all. His half brother, Witwoud, has done all he can to eradicate traces of the country from his manners, dress, and speech but without success. No character within the play is associated positively with the country. Millamant, perhaps the foremost regular character within the play, loathes the country.
The period in English history from 1670 to 1729, when Congreve lived and worked, was marked by a dramatic political event, which gave its name to the literary tradition referred to as Restoration drama. In 1660, Charles II came to the throne, and therefore the monarchy, which had been in exile, once more ruled England. Although that restoration period was shortlived (Parliament regained power in 1688), it had been important to Western culture therein it provided an ideal milieu for the comedy of manners.
The English comedies of this point, Congreve’s included, take the manners of society and therefore the aristocracy as material for satire, focusing their attention, as Henry T. E. Perry writes within the Comic Spirit in Restoration Drama ‘‘upon the surface of a highly polished and fundamentally insecure civilization.’’ The merry licentiousness that characterized the new court was itself a reaction against the war of the 1640s, which resulted in the dissolution of the monarchy and led to the next Puritanical mood that settled over the country.
As Joseph Wood Krutch observes in Comedy and Conscience After the Restoration, the court of Charles II wished to form the time to return in every way the reverse of the time that was past, and therefore the sin of the regicide of which the preceding generation had been guilty made it seem a kind of piety to reverse all that had been done; to tug down all that had been found out, and found out all that had been pulled down; to hate all that had been loved and love all that had been hated.
King Charles loved the theatre, and therefore the Restoration comedies that flourished during this period contain ample cultural evidence of the subtle decadence of the days during which he ruled. within the theatres, playgoers did their best to prove the purpose that the dramatic characters had indeed been modeled on them. society gentlemen were loud and lewd, more curious about the looks of their wigs than the play itself, keen to seem witty and cruel and willing to preserve their reputations as gallants by any means necessary, be they ever barbaric. Krutch notes that it’s no wonder that language and actions that might shock modern audiences would merely amuse a seventeenth-century audience. He writes,
‘‘Dramatists weren’t perverse creatures creating monsters to debase the auditors, but…were merely holding the mirror up to nature, or rather, thereto a part of nature which was best known to their fashionable auditors.’’
Of course, not all of England was peopled by creatures of fashion or society. many Puritans lived among the center and lower classes, and most of the literature written.
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