The Way of the World Questions and Answers
by William Congreve

The Way of the World book cover
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In The Way of the World, what characters display the best "wit"?

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William Congreve’s quick-paced The Way of the World is a comic masterpiece, though curiously it was such a failure when first presented in 1700 that Congreve resolved to never write for the stage again. But it is a play filled with sparkling wit and irreverent characters who happily blackmail one another at the drop of a hat. The wittiest duo in the play is, without a doubt, the sparking would-be lovers, Millamant and Mirabell, who spend the play (which takes place in a single breathless day) plotting to unite with each other in marriage.

To understand this type of comedy in social context, The Way of the World is a Restoration comedy. After public theater had been banned by the Puritans for almost twenty years, theaters re-opened in 1660,and “immoral” comedies of manner, bustling with busy plots and clever characters, were incredibly popular. Also, the first professional actresses were now playing the female parts in plays, and they and their famous male counterparts reveled in...

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