The Way Of The World
If seventeenth- and eighteenth-century comedy differ in that the formeris about sex (and adultery actually happens) while the latter is aboutlove (and adultery is merely threatened), then Congreve - writing atthe turn of the century - occupies a phase of transition. Mirabell isno saint, but he deserves the title of 'hero' for masterminding theaction with the same wit and humanity with which the dramatist designedthe play. Mirabell is both financially and amorously interested in theskittish Millamant, who declares that she might, with certain provisos, 'dwindle into a wife'. The introduction to this edition clarifies theplaywright's and his characters' highly intricate plotting and arguesthat the key metaphor of the play is card-playing, in which fortune, cunning, concealment and a high trump drawn from the sleeve at theright moment will win the game - and the heiress.
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