Act 1 The Way of the World William Congreve

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  • Created on: 24-04-13 15:22

Characters - Stock Characters

Rakes - are opportunistic young men, attractive to women and looking for women, intelligent but selfish, users of people, initators of action

Fops - Fools; would be rakes with particular penchant for fashion and aping their social betters, lacking the self - awareness to understand their own silliness, the source of most of ther humour

Country bumpkin - also fools, representing the backwardness of the countryside although they have solid hearts/decent values. The **** of many jokes

Servants - faithful and clevel, aware of personalitieis and events beneath the surface, helpful to their masters and adept at moving the plot and providing humour

Widows - figures of fun, usually wealthy, silly in their desperation to appear young and participate in the marriage game, aware of their own social status and power but oblivious to own silliness like the fops

The young women - usually object of the games being played - beautiful, intelligent but naive and powerless in society and striving for happiness with a man. Usually a fortune accompanies the hand of a young woman

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The Rakes

Mirabell 'admirable' - protagonist. Clever handsome young and fundamentally decent who's in love with Millamant. He's arrogant in his exploitation of people - not an archetypal protagonist; shows how he's affected by the way of the world. Former lover of Mrs Fainall and Mrs Marwood likes him too. No one, except Fainall and Marwood, whom he exposes at the end as dishonest traitors, minds being manipulated. Nearly everyone benefits from his scheme. Orchestrates the main plot. Views himself as above servants etc. Views Millamant as on the same level as him; shown through his language. Uses money as a source of power. Witty, intellectual discourse. 

Fainall 'feigns all' - antagonist, foil to Mirabell a faithless husband who depends on his wife's inheritance for his living. His 'Wit and outward fair Behaviour' have allowed him to enjoy a good reputation with the town. In reality, he is ruthless about winning, but only likes to win if it will hurt others to lose. At the end he is despicably vindicative, selfish and cruel and violent too, as he attempts to rush at his wife with his sword. While he is carrying on an affair with Marwood, his wife's friend, he is plotting to take full control of both his wife's and mother - in - law's estates. He dislikes his wife, although no- one realises this. 

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The Young Women

Millamant 'a thousand admirers' - protagnoist. Intelligent, young and fashionable. Heir to a fortune if she marries with Lady Wishfort's approval. Behaves coyly, affecting a fashionable disdain for the opposite sex.Wilful, witty and confident; enjoys Witwoud and Petulant who make her laugh and share the fashions of the moment with her. Happy in her independence. Realises through the course of the play that she loves Mirabell. Independent; ahead of her time. No make up - not false. Wants to get away from the way of the world. Aware of her own charm and power over Mirabell

Mrs Fainall - daughter to Lady Wishfort, heir to her fortune. Her mother raised her to hate men. She's clever, cautious and generous. After she was widowed she married to keep her then love affair with Mirabell safe. Still loves Mirabell. Loyal and generous friend to her cousin Millamant. Intimate friend fo Marwood's until she learns she's her husband's lover

Mrs Marwood - antagonist, secretly mistress of Fainall's. Greedy and hypocritical. deliberately sets out to destroy the happiness of others and is duplicitous in her friendships; a traitor. Although she pretends to hate him, she likes Mirabell and is jealous of Millamant. Even the trusting LW, who believes Marwood's loyal friendship has saved her from the disgrace and villainy of others plots against her comes to see her as a 'wicked accomplice'

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The Widow

Lady Wishfort - funny endearing figure blind to her own inconsistencies. Desperate to get a husband and quite unaware of the plans afoot to rob her of her fortune and good name. Holds the key to the money and marriages and the source of the greatest humour in the play. She's the dupe of nearly everyone close to her, including her own daughter and while she's in danger of losing her fortune she is more worried about damaging her reputation. She fancies herself attractive to men. She is at great pains to keep up appearances and suffers humiliation but recovers with good grace and forgives all. Despises Mirabell who insincerly courted her. In the last 3 Acts, Congreve devotes more attention to her character development and gives her more lines than any other character. She is eager to be wooed, but would not seem to pursue. She is concerned about appearance and is a hypocrite (claims to hate men). She consistantly puts her trust in people who betray her. 

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The Fools

Witwoud - fop, slave to fashion both in appearance and behaviour. Prides himself on his wit and charm and is a favourite of the ladies. Chief usefulness is entertaining with his drole wit and he's taken into the cabal nights as they gossip. His superficial and careless rmedy of jokes similies and puns relievevs tension and unwittingly exposes the foolishness of contemporary fashion and manners. Half brother to Wilful. Highlights the insular isolated world and introduces juxtaposition between attitudes of people in the town and of the country. Changing opinion of Witwoud from Act 4. 

Petulant (childish, sulky) - affected dandy and follower of Millamant and is often rude/ill humoured. Illiterate, proud and vain. Thinks it's wit to loudly insult ladies in the park. To give the impression he's popular, pays ladies of questionable virtue to call on him in public places and also disguises himself to call upon himself in public. Witwould is alone in finding him funny. 

Sir Wilful Witwoud - half brother by marriage to Witwoud. Come to London before setting out on his travels and finds he doesn't understand the lingo of the fashionable world and sneers at the fashions he finds. Country bumpkin with a good nature and will to please. Serves as a foil to the 'well - bred.' Simple and matter -of- fact in contrast to their stuided rudeness and affection. He gladly agrees to marry Millamant a a last resort to save her fortune. Another actor in Mirabell's plan to catch Fainall and Marwood in deception and lure LW into his trap. Exposes Witwoud's falseness.

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The Servants

Foible - Lady Wishfort's quick witted dissembling waiting woman. Helps dupe the lady a a willing participant in Mirabell's plit. Since her betrayal is in the cause of love and since no one is injured she's forgiven in the end. LW uses her as a messenger to procure a husband for herself and Foible ends up with her own husband Waitwell. As a servant, she's aware of what the characters would like to hide. Through Foible's assistance, Fainall and Marwood's adulturous affair and their designs to steal her lady's fortunes are found out. Different from the typical comedy lady's maid, represented more perhaps by Mincing. Knows all the intrigues in the Wishfort household; the key to all matters.

Mincing - loyal waiting woman to Millamant. With her friend Foible she witnesses and corrobates Fainall and Marwood's affair and so helps expose the deception. Their testimony leads to LW's blessing of the marriage between Mirabell and Millamant. She lisps that she won't move her lips and crack her make up

Waitwell (wishes to wait well) - loyal and quickwitted. Instrumental in Mirabell's marriage plot. Eager to please he agrees to marry Foible to better secure Mirabell's plan and to impersonate Mirabell's uncle to woo LW. As Sir Rowland, LW is soon convinced he has a desire for her. This places her in the position of being fooled once again by a suitor. By helping the place her at the mercy of her enemies, Waitwell clears the way for Mirabell to extricate her, gain her gratitude and marry Millamant. 

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