Love for Love, by the well-known Restoration dramatist William Congreve, is a racy, broad, farcical comedy, which relies on mistaken impressions, disguises, and deception for much of its humor. Yet it is not the kind of silly drawing-room drama of wit many people imagine Restoration comedies to be. Underlying its complicated plot and clever dialogue is a serious exploration of such themes as good government, sexual ethics, gender roles, the complications of sophisticated society, and the difference between being and seeming.
Love for Love is one of Congreve’s two bestknown plays, the other being The Way of the World (1700). In each play, Congreve uses sexual gamesmanship to explore and satirize the complexities and duplicities of his society. The play is also ‘‘metatheatre,’’ or theatre that is a comment on theatre itself. Many of the characters are playacting parts to each other, and the dialogue negotiates the arena of sexual conquest, gender relations, and the exchanges inherent when marriage is part of a play. Moreover, Congreve’s play enters into a conversation with the theatre of its time; Love for Love is a response to an earlier popular play, Love for Money. Arriving as a writer late in the Restoration period, Congreve uses the stage to comment upon an increasingly complex society and class structure that often seemed frivolous.