What is the significance of the barganing scene between Mirabell and Millamant in The Way of the World?

The significance of the bargaining scene in The Way of the World is that it presents the positive vision of relationships between men and women in Restoration comedy, in demonstrating how a marriage may be arranged as a rational partnership of equals.

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In The Later Stuarts, Sir George Clark notes that the best-known fact about Restoration comedy is that it is immoral. Husbands and wives are continually unfaithful to one another and indulge in whatever vices happen to tempt them. The cynical atmosphere of infidelity and selfish pursuit of pleasure makes it easy to conclude that Restoration comedy includes no positive vision of morality, order, or restraint. This is not the case, however, and the moral vision of Restoration comedy is nowhere better demonstrated than in the proviso or bargaining scene of The Way of the World.

It is clear that Millamant and Mirabell are in love, but as rational beings, they know that even if this love endures, it will not be equally constant and passionate all the time. This underlies Millamant's insistence that they must retain some distance between them. The two lovers arrange a way of living together and respecting one another's individuality that will prevent their marriage from becoming corrupt in the...

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