The Way of the World "Dwindle Into A Wife"

William Congreve

"Dwindle Into A Wife"

Context: Millamant, a beautiful and witty young heiress, falls in love with Mirabell, a gentleman of fashion, who loves her equally. In talking about marriage, Millamant reveals what she expects in matrimony, and as she does, satirizes the views of marriage held by many courtiers at the time. She tells her lover that she could only hate a man who became too assured of her, and that she wants to be assured herself of both her will and pleasure in marriage. She says, too, that she does not want to be called by pet names, as she thinks they are hypocritical. Nor does she want to be openly affectionate or familiar; as she says, "Let us be as strange as if we had been married a great while; and as well bred as if we were not married at all." Mirabell then asks her if she has any other conditions to offer, observing that her demands up to this point seem reasonable. Millamant says more:

Trifles–as liberty to pay and receive visits to and from whom I please; to write and receive letters, without interrogatories or wry faces on your part. To wear what I please; and choose conversation with regard only to my own taste; to have no obligation upon me to converse with wits that I don't like, because they are your acquaintance; or to be intimate with fools, because they may be your relations. Come to dinner when I please, dine in my dressing-room when I'm out of humour, without giving a reason. To have my closet inviolate; to be sole empress of my tea-table, which you must never approach without first asking leave. And lastly, wherever I am, you shall always knock at the door before you come in. These articles subscribed, if I continue to endure you a little longer, I may by degrees dwindle into a wife.