The Way of the World

The Way of the World

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Foible is Lady Wishfort’s servant. She was apparently once a beggar and perhaps homeless before Wishfort saved her from the streets and gave her a job. She is a smart and eloquent woman and Mirabell is very pleased with her service, promising to reward her with land and money for her help in his scheme. She has recently gotten married to Mirabell’s servant, Waitwell, in a secret ceremony. She is very much in love with her new husband and teases him often. She deeply respects Mrs. Fainall and is the only character who recognizes and is sensitive to the poor woman’s suffering and heartbreak in helping Mirabell marry Millamant.

Foible Quotes in The Way of the World

The The Way of the World quotes below are all either spoken by Foible or refer to Foible. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Way of the World published in 1993.
Act 3, Scene 5 Quotes

Poison him? Poisoning’s too good for him. Starve him, madam, starve him; marry Sir Rowland, and get him disinherited.

Related Characters: Foible (speaker), Mirabell, Lady Wishfort
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Foible has told Lady Wishfort that she has given Wishfort's portrait to Sir Rowland, who has fallen in love with her. However, Foible has also pretended that Mirabell claimed that Wishfort is planning to marry for money. Wishfort, infuriated, declares that she will poison Mirabell. In this passage, Foible suggests that instead of poisoning him, Wishfort should "starve him" by marrying Sir Rowland and depriving Mirabell of his inheritance. Foible's words show the many kinds of violence to which the characters subject one another, some more literal and vicious than others. Of course, Foible needs to make sure that Wishfort doesn't actually poison Mirabell; her way of doing this, by claiming that "poisoning's too good for him," is humorous given her duplicity.

This passage also shows the extremes to which the characters take their manipulation and deceit. Ordinarily, it might seem rather absurd to marry someone simply in order to seek revenge on someone else––yet in the world of the play, the suggestion is not implausible.

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Let me see the glass. Cracks, say’st thou? Why, I am arrantly flayed: I look like an old peeled wall. Thou must repair me, Foible, before Sir Rowland comes, or I shall never keep up to my picture.

Related Characters: Lady Wishfort (speaker), Foible
Related Symbols: Masks
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

Lady Wishfort has been tricked by Foible into seeking engagement to Sir Rowland that night, so she can marry him the next day and prevent Mirabell from receiving his inheritance. Thinking that Sir Rowland has fallen in love with her from her portrait, Wishfort looks in the mirror only to find that, in her excitement, she's spoiled her makeup and now looks "like an old peeled wall." She asks Foible to help fix her face so she resembles her picture. The fact that Wishfort frets over her likeness to her own picture highlights the absurdity of the false pretenses that dominate the social world of the play. Indeed, Wishfort's makeup becomes a kind of mask, representing her duplicitous and manipulative personality. 

The humor in this scene is further increased by the fact that Wishfort's makeup is not a very good mask, and in her excitement ends up "arrantly flayed." Furthermore, Wishfort is foolish in her shortsightedness and denial of the passing of time; it is inevitable, of course, that she would grow old and come not to resemble her younger self, just as it is inevitable that no amount of makeup will convince people that she retains her former youthful appearance. 

Act 4, Scene 15 Quotes

Oh, what luck it is, Sir Rowland, that you were present at this juncture! This was the business that brought Mr. Mirabell disguised to Madam Millamant this afternoon. I thought something was contriving, when he stole by me and would have hid his face.

Related Characters: Foible (speaker), Lady Wishfort, Sir Rowland
Related Symbols: Masks
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

Lady Wishfort has begun to read the letter aloud, thereby almost discovering that Sir Rowland is in fact not a real person. However, at the last minute Waitwell (still pretending to be Sir Rowland) starts reading the letter himself and manages to convince Wishfort that it is from Mirabell. In this passage, Foible remarks that it is lucky that Sir Rowland is present, reinforcing the notion that the letter is all some elaborate plot of Mirabell's. Although only seconds previously everything seemed to be on the brink of disaster, it has in fact been comically simple to persuade Wishfort that the letter was a false scheme concocted by Mirabell. This simplicity emphasizes the extent to which people are blinded by their prejudices against others. 

Foible's comment that Mirabell "stole by me and would have hid his face" alludes to the symbol of masks. Her words highlight how easy it is to accuse people of behaving duplicitously, while Wishfort's gullible reaction shows how difficult it is to know if someone is telling the truth. 

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Foible Character Timeline in The Way of the World

The timeline below shows where the character Foible appears in The Way of the World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2, Scene 4
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Love and Money Theme Icon
...his servant, will play the role. Mrs. Fainall suggests that he get Waitwell to persuade Foible to also help with the plot, at which point Mirabell informs her that he has... (full context)
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Love and Money Theme Icon
...Wishfort in order to gain access to her wealth. But with Waitwell already married to Foible a marriage to Wishfort would be invalid. (full context)
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Love and Money Theme Icon
...marrying Millamant to Mirabell’s uncle. Mirabell responds that this, too, is part of his plan. Foible suggested the idea to Wishfort, under his instruction. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 6
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Female (In)dependence Theme Icon
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...asks him whether he wants her to be serious so he can tell her about Foible’s marriage and his own plot to marry Millamant. Mirabell is shocked, and asks how she... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 7
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Suddenly, he sees his “pair of turtles,” the newly married Foible and Waitwell. He calls out, teasing them by asking if they are still celebrating Valentine’s... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 8
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It is now one o’ clock and Waitwell and Foible have arrived at Rosamond’s pond to meet Mirabell. Mirabell jokes that Waitwell seems to think... (full context)
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
...“eye to business” and are ready to follow his orders. He tells Mirabell that if Foible can follow Mirabell’s directions as well as she follows his own instructions when they have... (full context)
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Mirabell congratulates Foible on her marriage. Foible, though, is worried: she is “ashamed” because she left her lady,... (full context)
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Female (In)dependence Theme Icon
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Foible changes the topic back to the issue at hand: Mirabell’s plan to marry Millamant. She... (full context)
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
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Then, Foible asks Mirabell if he has seen Millamant. She tells him that she decided to tell... (full context)
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Mirabell steps in and tells Waitwell to back off. The money is only for Foible, he warns. He tells her to prosper and promises to reward her with a lease... (full context)
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Foible thanks him and assures him that they will succeed. She asks if he has any... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 9
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Mirabell and Waitwell are left standing near the pond. Waitwell jokes that Foible forgot to call him by his new name, Sir Rowland. Mirabell encourages him to transform... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
...and sitting at her dressing table, Wishfort asks her servant, Peg, if she’s heard from Foible yet. When Pegs says no, Wishfort complains that her constant worrying is ruining her complexion... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
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...and says she’s surprised to see her still wearing her morning clothes. Wishfort replies that Foible has been away since morning and left no note as to her whereabouts or when... (full context)
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Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...just the sound of his name brings blood to her face. Then Wishfort worries that Foible might have told Mirabell about an important errand Wishfort had sent Foible on, an errand... (full context)
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Marwood reassures Wishfort of Foible’s integrity. But Wishfort replies that integrity is no match for Mirabell’s cunning. She says that... (full context)
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While talking to Marwood, Wishfort hears Foible approaching. She urges Marwood to hide in a closet while she, Wishfort, interrogates Foible about... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 5
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When Foible enters, Wishfort rushes to question her about what kept her away so long and whether... (full context)
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Wishfort vows to murder Mirabell by poisoning his wine. Foible proposes that Wishfort instead “starve him” by marrying Sir Rowland, which will disinherit Mirabell. Foible... (full context)
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Foible also informs Wishfort that Rowland longs to see her, but Wishfort can’t stop talking about... (full context)
...skill she has to intrigue men, one that her niece, Millamant, only “affects.” She begs Foible to tell her more about Rowland, particularly whether he is handsome. She is happy to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 6
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Love and Money Theme Icon
After Wishfort leaves the room, Mrs. Fainall enters to warn Foible that Marwood saw her with Mirabell in the park and will tell Wishfort. Foible plays... (full context)
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Foible explains that she wasn’t sure whether Mirabell told Mrs. Fainall the entirety of his plan... (full context)
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Before leaving the room, Foible asks Mrs. Fainall to give Mirabell an update about Wishfort’s interest in Rowland and that... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 7
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Marwood comes out of her hiding place in the closet, having heard everything Foible and Mrs. Fainall said. She vows to watch Foible more closely and reflecting that her... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 9
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Foible reenters the dressing room to announce the arrival of Witwoud and Petulant for dinner. Wishfort... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 10
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
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Marwood leaves Foible and Wishfort to entertain the guests but finds, not Witwoud and Petulant, but rather a... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 18
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...alone in Wishfort’s house. She has just finished telling Fainall everything she has learned, from Foible’s involvement with Mirabell’s plot to his wife’s affair with Mirabell. Fainall complains that the problems... (full context)
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
...is with Sir Rowland. The letter will reveal the truth of Sir Rowland’s identity and Foible’s betrayal. Marwood cautions that they try to avoid provoking Foible, who is quite clever and... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Female (In)dependence Theme Icon
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At Wishfort’s house, Wishfort and Foible are waiting for Sir Rowland. Suddenly, Wishfort sees a coach approaching from her window. She... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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Foible finds Millamant pacing about the living room, reciting poetry. Mrs. Fainall is there, too, watching... (full context)
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Foible comes back to say that Wilfull is coming. She asks if she should send Mirabell... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 6
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
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...and Wishfort. She urges Mirabell to slip out the back and wait for news from Foible. He departs. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 11
...exasperated with Wilfull, tells him he stinks and to get out of her sight. Meanwhile, Foible has arrived. She whispers in Wishfort’s ear that Sir Rowland is growing impatient waiting for... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 13
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Suddenly, Foible arrives in the dressing room and interrupts the exchange between Sir Rowland and Wishfort. She... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 14
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Alone with his wife, Waitwell turns to Foible and complains about his job playing Sir Rowland. He begs her for a drink. Foible... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 15
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Foible instantly recognizes the penmanship as Marwood’s and knows that it can contain nothing good. She... (full context)
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Female (In)dependence Theme Icon
Love and Money Theme Icon
...to Rowland. She reads that Rowland is not a real person and is shocked. Though Foible exclaims to herself that the plan is ruined, Waitwell intervenes. Still pretending to be Sir... (full context)
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Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Wishfort believes Foible and tells her that she remembers that her niece left rather quickly when Wilfull was... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
...the day in which all the events up to now have taken place. Wishfort and Foible are still in the dressing room. However, Wishfort is yelling angrily at Foible to get... (full context)
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Foible begs her forgiveness but Wishfort is unmoved. She tells Foible that she will end up... (full context)
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Wishfort doesn’t care. She is beyond furious that Foible would have destroyed her honor by marrying her to Mirabell’s servant. Foible tries to explain... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Love and Money Theme Icon
Mrs. Fainall enters the dressing room. Seeing Foible distressed, she tries to comfort her and find out what has happened. Foible tells her... (full context)
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Female (In)dependence Theme Icon
...mother knows everything, then she also knows of her own affair with Mirabell. She tells Foible that her comfort is knowing that today is the last day she will have to... (full context)
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
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Foible says that she can prove it. She tells her that Mincing also knows about the... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
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Mrs. Fainall orders Foible to tell Mincing that she must reveal what she knows about Marwood’s affair with Fainall... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 10
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Female (In)dependence Theme Icon
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...if she will allow two criminals to come forward. Wishfort readily agrees and Mirabell calls Foible and Mincing into the room. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 11
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Meanwhile, under questioning, Foible and Mincing both swear that Marwood was having an affair with Fainall. Wishfort, angrily, turns... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 14
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...and tells him that she will keep her promises. First, she pardons “Sir Rowland” and Foible. But she tells Mirabell that it will be awkward to break the news to her... (full context)