The Way of the World

The Way of the World

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The Way of the World Act 3, Scene 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Witwoud and Petulant arrive, Millamant asks them whether they’re finished being hostile toward her and each other. They both make light of the disagreement they had, explaining that sometimes they just get in moods where they must disagree with one another, and then argue about who is the better arguer. But Marwood interrupts them by complimenting them both on being able to debate and handle issues very learnedly.
Witwoud and Petulant foolishly believe that their pointless argument demonstrates true wit and is a debate worth having. The play regularly highlights true wit by sometimes showing its opposite. Marwood shows her own intelligence through her ability to manipulate them.
Themes
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Petulant claims that learning hurts him and is his enemy. Millamant comments that she hates illiterate men and thinks them incapable of properly wooing a lady. She claims that she would never marry a man who could neither read nor write.
This is a very clear rejection of Petulant’s advances, which he, of course, doesn’t understand. Though Millamant may prefer Petulant’s company right now, he is clearly not the right man for her.
Themes
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Petulant jokes that being ignorant should not prevent a man from getting married because there are people in the ceremony who can do all the reading for him, such as the priest. Plus, he continues, a man doesn’t need a book for the night that follows the wedding. Millamant, disgusted, leaves the room.
Petulant is quite comfortable talking about delicate matters, like sex, in front of ladies. This would have been considered very impolite in Restoration society. Petulant is again demonstrating his lack of tact.
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