The Way of the World |William Congreve |Inclined Scorpio |Book Review
Cover Page of ‘The Way of the World’ by William Congreve

“Tis better to be left than never to have been loved”.

Mrs. Marwood|The Way of the World, Act 2, Scene 1

The Way of the World is a play written โœ๏ธ by William Congreve by late 1699 ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ and early 1700. The Way of the World is a five act play published in 1700. It was first enacted in the theatre ๐ŸŸ๏ธ in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The Way of the World is the one of the best play under the cateogory of Restoration comedy which satirises ๐Ÿคญ the social system of the period. No character is glorified โœ–๏ธ with virtues with so-called qualities of the heroine or hero in this play.

‘The Way of the World‘ – Prologue

‘The Way of the World‘ begins with a prologue ๐Ÿ“„ delivered by Fainall. He reveals that this play will be full of jokes ๐Ÿ˜… and apologises ๐Ÿ™ from the audience for not pleasing the high expectations ๐Ÿ™ƒ of the audience.

Epigraph of ‘The Way of the World

The epigraph ๐Ÿ“œ of the play, ‘The Way of the World‘ is taken from ‘Satires’ written by Horace. It is printed ๐Ÿ—ณ๏ธ in the 1700 ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ edition upon the title page. Both of the quotations warn the audience ๐ŸŸ๏ธ of the risks involved in infidelity and deception ๐Ÿ˜ต.

In the Chocolate House

Act I is set in the Chocolate House ๐Ÿš๏ธ where Mirabell and Fainall have finished playing cards โ™ฅ๏ธโ™ ๏ธ and is informed by a man that Waitwell – the servant of Mirabell and Foible – the servant of Lady Wishfort has got ๐Ÿ‘ฐ ๐Ÿคต. Mirabell shares his love ๐Ÿ˜ for Millamant and his desire to marry ๐Ÿ’her. Fainwall encourages ๐Ÿ‘ him to marry ๐Ÿ’’ with the permission of Lady Wishfort as Millamant will lose an inheritance amount ยฃ6,000 ๐Ÿ’ต if Millamant marries against the wish of Lady Wishfort. Millamant already has ยฃ6,000 with her and another ยฃ6,000 under the control of Lady Wishfort.

At St. James Park

“And for a discerning man somewhat too passionate a lover, for I like her with all her faults; nay, like her for her faults. Her follies are so natural, or so artful, that they become her, and those affectations which in another woman would be odious serve but to make her more agreeable”.

Mirabell|The Way of the World
The Way of the World |William Congreve |Inclined Scorpio |Book Review
Millamant and Mrs. Fainall of the play ‘The Way of the World’

Mrs. Fainall, the daughter ๐Ÿ‘ฑโ€โ™€๏ธ of Lady Wishfort is having a conversation ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿฆฐ with Mrs. Marwood at St. James park ๐ŸŽก. They speak of how they hate ๐Ÿ˜ men. Fainall then comes to meet Mrs. Marwood with whom Fainall has an affair ๐Ÿคซ. Later Mirabel and Mrs Fainall meet.

“While I only hated my husband, I could bear to see him; but since I have despised him, heโ€™s too offensive” .

Mrs. Fainall |The Way of the World

Why does Mirabel and Mrs. Fainall meet? ๐Ÿค” Do they share something in common?

Mirabell and Arabella

“Love will resume his empire in our breasts, and every heart, or soon or late, receive and readmit him as its lawful tyrant”.

Marwood|The Way of the World

Mirabel had an affair ๐Ÿฅฐ with Mrs. Fainall before her marriage, that is when she was Arabel. Later, Mirabel himself found Fainall and encouraged โ˜บ๏ธ to marry Arabel to Fainall. But Mirabel and Mrs. Fainall remains good friends ๐Ÿค and shares to him that she hates ๐Ÿ˜ฌ her husband. While Mirabel reveals his suspicion ๐Ÿค” that Fainall and Mrs. Marwood are in an affair.

“Men are ever in extremes; either doting or averse. While they are lovers, if they have fire and sense, their jealousies are insupportable: and when they cease to loveโ€ฆthey loathe, they look upon us with horror and distaste, they meet us like the ghosts of what we were, and as from such, fly from us”.

Mrs. Fainall |The Way of the World

Here Comes Millamant

The Way of the World |William Congreve |Inclined Scorpio |Book Review
Mirabell and Millamant of ‘The Way of the World’

Millamant comes to meet ๐Ÿค Mirabell and Mrs. Fainall. Millamant knows that they have had an affair. But now, she has come to meet Mirabel and warns him not to upset ๐Ÿ˜” Lady Wishfort as she will lose her inheritance ๐Ÿ’ธ. She knows that Mirabell has plotted ๐Ÿคจ something but she has no perfect idea ๐Ÿ’ก of his plan. The newly wed couple ๐Ÿ‘ฐ๐Ÿคต comes to meet Mirabell and Mirabell instructs them to execute his plan.

What was the plan of Mirabel which he wants to execute with the help of Waitwell? Will this work out?

The Plan of Mirabell

“Bring what you will; but come alive, pray come alive”.

Lady Wishfort|The Way of the World, Act 4, Scene 15
The Way of the World |William Congreve |Inclined Scorpio |Book Review
Lady Wishfort and Sir Rowland (Waitwell) in ‘The Way of the World’

The next acts are set in the house of Lady Wishfort ๐Ÿฌ, the aunt and guardian of Millamant. Lady Wishfort is encouraged ๐Ÿค— to marry Sir Rowland, the disguised ๐ŸŽญ Waitwell by Foible. Mirabell has planned to trap ๐Ÿ˜‰ Lady Wishfort in a marriage that would ruin her ๐Ÿ˜– status in the society as she is an aristocrat ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€โš–๏ธ and Sir Rowland (Waitwell) is a servant ๐Ÿง”. Mirabell plans to act as the saviour ๐Ÿ‘ผ of Lady Wishfort if she permits him to marry ๐Ÿ’— Millamant.

The Way of the World |William Congreve |Inclined Scorpio |Book Review | Restoration Comedy
Lady Wishfort and Foible of ‘The Way of the World’

“I look like an old peeled wall. Thou must repair me, Foible”.

Lady Wishfort|The Way of the World, Act 3, Scene 5

The Plan is no Longer a Secret ๐Ÿฅถ

“Poisoning’s too good for him. Starve him, madam, starve him; marry Sir Rowland”.

Mrs. Marwood|The Way of the World, Act 3, Scene 5
The Way of the World |William Congreve |Inclined Scorpio |Book Review
Mrs. Marwood of ‘The Way of the World’

The plan is overheard ๐Ÿ˜ฒ by Mrs. Marwood when Mrs. Fainall and Foible discuss ๐Ÿ’ค it. Mrs. Marwood shares it to his lover Fainall and they plot a plan ๐Ÿคจ against Lady Wishfort to capture the inheritance money ๐Ÿ’ถ of Mrs. Fainall and leave the place with Mrs. Marwood. Fainall also comes to know ๐Ÿ˜ฌ about the affair between Mirabell and Mrs. Fainall. He now wants to take revenge ๐Ÿ˜ก. Moreover, he wants money ๐Ÿ’ท.

“You married her to keep you; and if you can contrive to have her keep you better than you expected, why should you not keep her longer than you intended?

Marwood|The Way of the World

Mirabell Proposes Millament ๐Ÿ’

“โ€ฆfor we shall be sick of one another. I shanโ€™t endure to be reprimanded nor instructed; โ€™tis so dull to act always by advice, and so tedious to be told of oneโ€™s faults, I canโ€™t bear it. Well, I wonโ€™t have you, Mirabellโ€”Iโ€™m resolvedโ€ฆ”

Millamant|The Way of the World
The Way of the World |William Congreve |Inclined Scorpio | Restoration Comedy| Book Review
Mirabell proposing Millamant in the play ‘The Way of the World’

“One’s cruelty is one’s power”.

Millamant|The Way of the World, Act 2, Scene 5

Mirabell and Millamant express ๐Ÿ˜ their feelings for each other at the same time Millamant puts forward certain conditions ๐Ÿ’โ€โ™€๏ธ under which they should proceed with the process of marriage ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€โค๏ธโ€๐Ÿ’‹โ€๐Ÿ‘จ. A prenuptial agreement ๐Ÿ“œ is detailed which is accepted by Mirabell. He then proposes ๐Ÿ’ Millamant is accepted by her with the support ๐Ÿ˜Š of Mrs. Fainall.

“Have you any more conditions to offer? Hitherto your demands are pretty reasonable” .

Mirabell|The Way of the World, Act 4, Scene 5

Sir Wilfull Witwoud – Lady Wishfort’s Candidate

Lady Wishfort returns to her house ๐Ÿฌ and reveals that she wants her niece cum ward Millamant to marry ๐Ÿ’’ Sir Wilfull Witwoud, her nephew. Millamant rejects ๐Ÿ™…โ€โ™€๏ธ it. Lady Wishfort then receives a letter โœ‰๏ธ unmasking ๐ŸŽญ Sir Rowland. He convinces Lady Wishfort to get the marriage contract ๐Ÿ“œ by saying ๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ that it is Mirabell trying to ruin their relationship ๐Ÿฅฐ.

Fainall Bursts Out the Secret ๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ

“โ€™Twas for my ease to oversee and wilfully neglect the gross advances made him by my wife, that by permitting her to be engaged, I might continue unsuspected in my pleasures, and take you oftener to my arms in full security. But could you think, because the nodding husband would not wake, that eโ€™er the watchful lover slept?”

Fainall|The Way of the World

Fainall reveals the secret plan ๐Ÿ˜• of Mirabell and the entire effort is wasted. Now, Fainall starts bargaining ๐Ÿ’ฐ. Fainall threatens to disgrace ๐Ÿ˜” her daughter, Mrs. Fainall of her previous affair ๐Ÿ˜’ with Mirabell and asks her to transfer the management rights ๐Ÿ’ผ of her properties as well as the inheritance money ๐Ÿ’ด of Millamant to shut his mouth ๐Ÿคซ. He also asks Lady not to remarry ๐Ÿฅด to ensure there is no other heir than Mrs. Fainall for her properties ๐Ÿ˜ˆ.

“I, it seems, am a husband, a rank husband, and my wife a very errant, rank wife,โ€”all in the way of the world”.

Fainall|The Way of the World

Millamant to Marry Sir Wilfull Witwoud ๐Ÿคจ

Millamant, on hearing ๐Ÿ‘‚ the demands of Fainall agrees to marry ๐Ÿ‘ฐ Sir Wilfull Witwoud ๐Ÿคต, the selected candidate of Lady Wishfort to get her inheritance. She is not ready ๐Ÿ˜‘ to give nor share her money ๐Ÿ’ท with anybody. She gives consent ๐Ÿ™‚ for the marriage to get her right.

Lady Wishfort in Trouble ๐Ÿ˜ฉ

The Way of the World |William Congreve |Inclined Scorpio | Book Review
Lady Wishfort of the play ‘The Way of the World’

As Millamant has agreed ๐Ÿค for the marriage as suggested by Lady Wishfort, Fainall realises ๐Ÿ˜ฆ that he won’t be able to get the amount ๐Ÿ˜ฌ of Millamant. There, Fainall asks for the sudden transfer ๐Ÿ˜ of the properties of Lady Wishfort. Lady Wishfort in trouble ๐Ÿ˜ฉ seeks the help ๐Ÿ™ of Mirabell ๐Ÿ˜ฃ giving consent for the marriage ๐Ÿ‘ of Mirabell and Millamant if she is saved out of this ๐Ÿ™‚.

The Twist ๐Ÿ”€

“Let husbands be jealous, but let the lover still believe: or if he doubt, let it be only to endear his pleasure, and prepare the joy that follows, when he proves his mistress true. But let husbandsโ€™ doubts convert to endless jealousy; or if they have belief, let it corrupt to superstition and blind credulity”.

Mrs. Fainall |The Way of the World
The Way of the World |William Congreve |Inclined Scorpio |Book Review | Restoration Comedy
One of the final scenes of the play ‘The Way of the World’

Mirabell gets back with Waitwell who brings a contract ๐Ÿ“œ with the agreement that Mrs. Fainall has transferred ๐Ÿ”„ properties to Mirabell. Fainall is shocked ๐Ÿคฏ. Mirabell says that he and Mrs. Fainall had done this before the marriage โšญ as they were unsure of his character ๐Ÿ˜ถ. Lady Wishfort gives consent ๐Ÿ™‚ for the marriage and the couple ๐Ÿ‘ซ is ready to receive the whole inheritance amount ๐Ÿ’ถ of ยฃ12,000. Mirabell then gives back the property ๐Ÿ”„ of Mrs. Fainall and everything is set neutral โ†”๏ธ.

“Female frailty! We must all come to it, if we live to be old, and feel the craving of a false appetite when the true is decayed.” 

Mrs. Fainall |The Way of the World

‘The Way of the World‘ – Structure

  • Act I – 9 Scenes
  • Act II – 9 Scenes
  • Act III – 18 Scenes
  • Act IV – 15 Scenes
  • Act V – 14 Scenes

“Tis the way of the world” .

Fainall |The Way of the World

‘The Way of the World’ is certainly mocking ๐Ÿคญ the culture of its time. It was also controversial as it deals with themes of sexual explicitness which was not favoured ๐Ÿ˜‘ by the audience of that era. The play details how money ๐Ÿ’ฐ plays a great role in the establishment ๐Ÿค of relationships like love โค๏ธ and marriage๐Ÿ’. Anne Bracegirdle was the actress ๐Ÿ’ƒ who played the role of Millamant in ‘The Way of the World’.

‘The Way of the World’: A Restoration Comedy

The Restoration period of was a historical time in England ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ฅ๓ ฎ๓ ง๓ ฟ, the period when England established as the colonial power ๐Ÿ’ช of the world. The only thing that mattered then was money ๐Ÿ’ต, sex ๐Ÿ˜‰ and pleasure ๐Ÿ˜Š. The Restoration comedies or the comedy is a perfect blend ๐Ÿ”„ of all these to mocks these values and systems of the society. Thus, ‘The Way of the World’ by William Congreve is regarded as the best ๐Ÿ‘ of restoration comedies as we see no spiritual love ๐Ÿ’– but intellectual love ๐Ÿ’. Mirabell nor Millamant is not ready to sacrifice the inheritance money ๐Ÿ’ฐ of ยฃ6,000 for love.

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Naeema Jaleel

Naeema Jaleel

Writer at Inclined Scorpio

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