The Way of the World

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Bloomsbury Academic, Jul 21, 2009 - Drama - 176 pages

If seventeenth- and eighteenth-century comedy differ in that the former
is about sex (and adultery actually happens) while the latter is about
love (and adultery is merely threatened), then Congreve - writing at
the turn of the century - occupies a phase of transition. Mirabell is
no saint, but he deserves the title of 'hero' for masterminding the
action with the same wit and humanity with which the dramatist designed
the play. Mirabell is both financially and amorously interested in the
skittish Millamant, who declares that she might, with certain provisos,
'dwindle into a wife'. The introduction to this edition clarifies the
playwright's and his characters' highly intricate plotting and argues
that the key metaphor of the play is card-playing, in which fortune,
cunning, concealment and a high trump drawn from the sleeve at the
right moment will win the game - and the heiress.

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