In William Congreve's "The Way of the World”, what is a reformed rake?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The character of the reformed rake is a Regency typical portrait of the man who has learned to be street-wise, promiscuous, and now is willing to be a good husband. The reformed rake is also the main part of the paradigm that suggests that "bad men make the best husbands" assuming that women have a tendency to look for the primal, instinctive, and dominating male. The paradigm also offers that the reason behind this tendency is the woman's natural need to feel loved, wanted, and also protected.

In The Way of the World, the reformed rake is characterized by Fainall and Mirabell. They have scheming ways, love to sneak around, and run around with whoever they please. Yet, they are the archetypal men (at least Mirabell is) whom women would be most attracted to.  Contrastingly, Witwould and Petulant would not qualify as "rakes" because they are too into themselves to care about anyone else, and because half of the time their behavior and tendencies renders them less than qualified to pose as "ladies' men".

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