The Way of the World

The Way of the World

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Fainall’s lover and Lady Wishfort’s best friend, Marwood is cunning and manipulative. Likely in love with Mirabell, who doesn’t love her, she is able to convince Fainall that she only loves him, while making him feel incredibly guilty for doubting her. Marwood is an adept liar, particularly around her female friends, Mrs. Fainall and Lady Wishfort. But even despite having a questionable moral compass, Marwood also gives very candid advice to those who would rather follow fashion trends at the expense of following their hearts. In particular, she advises Millamant to stop pretending to be interested in other men and Witwoud to acknowledge his step-brother Wilfull, rather than treat him like a stranger.

Marwood Quotes in The Way of the World

The The Way of the World quotes below are all either spoken by Marwood or refer to Marwood. 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 1, Scene 1 Quotes

But for the discovery of this amour, I am indebted to your friend, or your wife’s friend, Mrs. Marwood.

Related Characters: Mirabell (speaker), Fainall, Marwood
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

Mirabell and Fainall are playing cards at a chocolate house in London. The two men have been engaging in playful, competitive banter as they discuss Mirabell's quest to win Millamant's hand in marriage. In this passage, Mirabell tells Fainall that it was thanks to Mrs. Marwood that he realized Lady Wishfort used to think Mirabell was in love with her, and that upon learning he wasn't, decided to sabotage his relationship with Millamant, her niece. The use of the term "armour" to describe these complex social interactions highlights the theme of duplicity and false identity. 

Furthermore, Mirabell's words also subtly taunt Fainall. Mirabell first calls Mrs. Marwood "your friend," indicating that he knows that Fainall is having an affair with Mrs. Marwood. By then correcting himself to "your wife's friend," Mirabell highlights the confusing entanglement of people in their social circle. Mirabell's words suggest that although technically forbidden, adulterous affairs within their circle are usually open secrets. 

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Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

…if we will be happy, we must find the means in ourselves, and among ourselves.

Related Characters: Mrs. Arabella Fainall (speaker), Marwood
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Marwood and Mrs. Fainall have been walking in St. James' park, discussing the topics of men and romance. Mrs. Fainall tells Mrs. Marwood that if women want a chance at happiness, they must find it within themselves and the company of other women. This claim reveals Mrs. Fainall's maturity and wisdom, especially in comparison to the rest of the characters in the play (except Millamant), who are all obsessed with love, marriage, and infidelity. Indeed, although the play does conclude with the classical happy ending of an engagement between Mirabell and Millamant, the play's presentation of marriage is hardly idyllic. Judging from the character's actions, it indeed seems that most married people are not satisfied by their marriages, and seek relationships with other people.

Mrs. Fainall's words are also a remarkable statement on female independence. Feminists argue that the problem of women being taught to wait for a man to make them happy is still relevant within contemporary culture; it is thus extraordinary that Mrs. Fainall would make such a statement in 1700. Note how the play demonstrates the truth of her words as well. Women are often depicted socializing with one another, including the groups at Lady Wishfort's house and the scene from which this quotation itself is taken. Furthermore, despite being married to an unpleasant man whom she doesn't seem to get along with, Mrs. Fainall seems fairly content.

Men are ever in extremes; either doting or averse. While they are lovers, if they have fire and sense, their jealousies are insupportable: and when they cease to love…they loathe, they look upon us with horror and distaste, they meet us like the ghosts of what we were, and as from such, fly from us.

Related Characters: Mrs. Arabella Fainall (speaker), Marwood
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Fainall and Mrs. Marwood are walking in St. James' Park, discussing men and love. Mrs. Fainall has stated that it is better for women to find happiness within themselves than wait to be made happy by a man. In this passage she further explains this view, claiming that men's treatment of women is always in one of two extremes; either they are so "doting" that they become paranoid with jealousy, or they "loathe" women, looking on them "with horror and distaste," and abandon them. This statement, though strikingly cynical, does reflect the behavior of many men in the play. It perhaps less accurately describes the fools, who seem to treat women with a combination of sexual interest and disrespect, but this attitude is of course hardly desirable either.

This passage suggests that perhaps Mrs. Fainall's cynical view of love has emerged from her mistreatment by the men with whom she has had relationships, including Mirabell and her husband, Fainall. Although Mirabell and Mrs. Fainall remain on friendly terms, and although Mirabell appears to have developed a more mature, committed attitude towards love in his quest to marry Millamant, Mrs. Fainall's words indicate that perhaps this will only be a temporary phase, and that once Mirabell's infatuation is over he will begin to treat even Millamant "with horror and distaste." 

Love will resume his empire in our breasts, and every heart, or soon or late, receive and readmit him as its lawful tyrant.

Related Characters: Marwood (speaker), Mrs. Arabella Fainall
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

While they are walking together in St. James' Park, Mrs. Fainall has told Mrs. Marwood that she believes that men love women to the point of suffocation and jealousy, before eventually growing to hate and abandon them, and that for this reason women should just learn to be happy by themselves. Mrs. Marwood, however, disagrees; she has admitted that it is a shame when love ends, but that "'tis better to be left, than never to have been loved." She adds that women can try to focus on their friendships with other women as replacements for relationships with men, but says this is doomed to fail, and in this passage claims it is inevitable that "love [of men] will resume his empire in our breasts." 

While Mrs. Fainall's words about the fleeting nature of love appeared cynical, Mrs. Marwood's views are arguably even more so. She claims that, try as they might, women can never be truly happy without men––even if men don't make them happy either. Her characterization of love as an "empire" and a "tyrant" depicts love as a brutal, masculine, even violent force, which exerts a ruthless power over women. Note the contrast of this depiction of love and traditional conceptualizations that construct love as a pleasant, gentle, feminine phenomenon. 

Act 2, Scene 3 Quotes

’Twas for my ease to oversee and wilfully neglect the gross advances made him by my wife, that by permitting her to be engaged, I might continue unsuspected in my pleasures, and take you oftener to my arms in full security. But could you think, because the nodding husband would not wake, that e’er the watchful lover slept?

Related Characters: Fainall (speaker), Mirabell, Marwood, Mrs. Arabella Fainall
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

The lovers Fainall and Mrs. Marwood have been discussing Mirabell and Mrs. Fainall. Mrs. Marwood has expressed concerns that Mirabell and Mrs. Fainall may still be conducting an affair, but Fainall has turned this around in order to accuse Mrs. Marwood, his own lover, of being unfaithful to him with Mirabell. He claims that Mrs. Marwood assumed he would not notice her supposed affair with Mirabell because Fainall's wife was also making "gross advances" on him. This passage reveals the comically complex web of attachments within the social circle the characters inhabit. It also proves correct Mrs. Fainall's earlier point about men's obsessive jealousy. Fainall seems to think that both his wife and his lover are secretly in love with Mirabell, a fact that conveys his possessive (and hypocritical) paranoia. 

And have you the baseness to charge me with the guilt, unmindful of the merit? To you it should be meritorious that I have been vicious. And do you reflect that guilt upon me which should lie buried in your bosom?

Related Characters: Marwood (speaker), Fainall
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Marwood and Fainall have continued to argue over Fainall's accusation that Mrs. Marwood is secretly in love with Mirabell. Every point Mrs. Marwood makes aiming to demonstrate her innocence has received a rude and dismissive response from Fainall, who accuses Mrs. Marwood of being both a flighty friend and lover. In this passage, Mrs. Marwood concedes that she is duplicitous to Mrs. Fainall, but only in service of her devotion to Fainall himself––a fact that Fainall should consider "meritorious." Mrs. Marwood's words highlight the flimsy and hypocritical moral compass of most of the characters in the play, although especially Fainall. As Marwood points out, Fainall himself should feel just as much "guilt" as she does, and seems to be projecting this guilt onto her. 

Act 3, Scene 18 Quotes

I, it seems, am a husband, a rank husband, and my wife a very errant, rank wife,—all in the way of the world.

Related Characters: Fainall (speaker), Marwood
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

While the rest of the characters are having dinner together, Fainall and Mrs. Marwood have a private conversation in which Marwood reveals that Mirabell has been using Foible in his own scheme. She also tells Fainall about the affair between his wife and Mirabell. Fainall scornfully declares himself "a rank husband" and his wife "a very errant, rank wife" before concluding that this new information is "all in the way of the world." Consider the significance of the fact that the play's title is used by one of its most villainous characters. This fact emphasizes the rather cynical depiction of society and marriage contained within the play, but also an acceptance of this darker side of life and love as being all part of "the way of the world." 

You married her to keep you; and if you can contrive to have her keep you better than you expected, why should you not keep her longer than you intended?

Related Characters: Marwood (speaker), Fainall, Mrs. Arabella Fainall
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Marwood has confessed all that she knows about Mirabell's plotting, and Fainall has cursed the cause of events that inadvertently prevented him from receiving Millamant's fortune for himself. Although Fainall's knowledge of Arabella and Mirabell's affair could allow him to leave his wife he wanted, Mrs. Marwood urges him to stay with Arabella until they find another way for him to access the money. In this passage, Marwood schemingly tells Fainall that, considering he married Arabella for money in the first place, it shouldn't be difficult for him to stay married to her in order to get more money than he originally anticipated. 

Here Marwood emerges as a ruthless, calculating, Lady Macbeth-like character who encourages her husband to selfishly scheme even when he is reluctant to do so. Marwood's words highlight that, for many characters in the play, their relationships––whether marriages, friendships, or allegiances––are purely strategic and transactional. 

Let husbands be jealous, but let the lover still believe: or if he doubt, let it be only to endear his pleasure, and prepare the joy that follows, when he proves his mistress true. But let husbands’ doubts convert to endless jealousy; or if they have belief, let it corrupt to superstition and blind credulity.

Related Characters: Fainall (speaker), Marwood
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

Fainall and Mrs. Marwood have hatched a plan of their own, which involves blackmailing Lady Wishfort, disgracing Wilfull in front of Millamant, and exposing Foible's lies. Fainall has promised to share with Marwood the fortune he hopes to secure; when Marwood asks if he now feels confident of her fidelity to him and is no longer jealous of Mirabell, Fainall claims that he was never jealous. In this passage, he declares "Let husbands be jealous," as long as this leads to even greater joy when husbands find out that their women were faithful after all.

Although he is ostensibly reassuring Marwood of his love for her, Fainall's speech here is decidedly sinister in nature. He speaks approvingly of "endless jealousy" and "superstition," paying no regard to the destructive power of these emotions. He seems to take a perverse delight in the carnage that can arise from jealousy and duplicity, which in turn suggests that all of the characters may on some level enjoy the endless drama and intrigue that results in a world of deceit, plotting, and revenge. 

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Marwood Character Timeline in The Way of the World

The timeline below shows where the character Marwood appears in The Way of the World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
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...notes that Wishfort only discovered the truth because it was revealed to her by Mrs. Marwood, a close family friend to both Wishfort and her daughter, Mrs. Fainall (Fainall’s wife). Mirabell... (full context)
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Fainall ignores Mirabell’s insinuation that he’s having an affair with Marwood. Instead, Fainall asks Mirabell for details about why Marwood might have motives for ruining Mirabell’s... (full context)
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Mirabell admits that he’s confused by Marwood’s sudden animosity toward him, as he never paid much attention to her. This answer, however,... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
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Two friends Mrs. Fainall and Mrs. Marwood walk in St. James’s Park, discussing men and love. Mrs. Fainall remarks that because men... (full context)
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Mrs. Fainall is surprised by Marwood’s philosophy, as it stands in contrast to the anti-men ideology of Wishfort’s cabal. She accuses... (full context)
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Marwood switches her stance. She tells Mrs. Fainall that she, too, despises men and only lied... (full context)
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Mrs. Fainall replies that it’s too bad, then, that Marwood isn’t married to Mirabell. Marwood blushes, and wishes aloud if only she were. When Mrs.... (full context)
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Marwood insists that she hates Mirabell, because he’s so proud, but Mrs. Fainall insists Marwood is... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
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Mirabell and Fainall, also walking in the park, have just seen Mrs. Fainall and Marwood and head towards them. Before the men are within earshot, Marwood jokes that Fainall has... (full context)
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...walking with him she’d be avoiding a scandal. She and Mirabell walk off together, leaving Marwood and Fainall alone. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
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Once alone with Marwood, Fainall comments that if he lived long enough to be “rid” of his wife, he... (full context)
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Marwood asks Fainall if he wants to follow Mrs. Fainall and Mirabell. Fainall does not. Yet... (full context)
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Marwood responds that in fact she is trying to protect Fainall’s “honor.” Fainall realizes her insinuation,... (full context)
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Marwood is shocked. Fainall accuses her of loving Mirabell and “dissembling,” or hiding her love by... (full context)
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Marwood angrily denies Fainall’s accusations. But Fainall persists: he says that he recognized and ignored Mirabell’s... (full context)
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Marwood asks him to tell her what, exactly, he is accusing her of. Fainall responds that... (full context)
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Marwood again denies this, saying that her “obligations” as a friend to Wishfort, someone she could... (full context)
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Marwood retorts that female friendship is “more tender, more sincere, and more enduring” than the “vain”... (full context)
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Fainall, chastened, says that Marwood misinterpreted him. He meant only to remind her of how she used to place even... (full context)
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Marwood angrily says she’s going to reveal their affair to his wife and that she’d rather... (full context)
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Fainall adds that if Marwood hadn’t been untrue, he would have repaid her expenses. He explains that if Marwood hadn’t... (full context)
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Fainall replies that they must not part like this, and grabs her hands. Marwood tells him to let her go. Fainall apologizes, but Marwood doesn’t care. He refuses to... (full context)
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Shocked to hear Marwood speak to him like this, Fainall promises her that he would never hurt her, but... (full context)
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Suddenly, he sees Mirabell and his wife approaching. He urges Marwood to compose herself and hide her face behind a mask she has with her. Then,... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
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Mrs. Fainall and Mirabell watch Marwood and Fainall take another path in the park. Mrs. Fainall remarks that while she “only... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 8
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...waiting for help to get dressed for dinner. Just then, she thinks that she spots Marwood walk by wearing a mask. Foible worries that Marwood might have seen her with Mirabell... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
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...then calls her back to first hide the bottle before she answers the door. It’s Marwood. Wishfort tells Peg to invite her inside. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
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Marwood greets Wishfort and says she’s surprised to see her still wearing her morning clothes. Wishfort... (full context)
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Marwood reassures Wishfort of Foible’s integrity. But Wishfort replies that integrity is no match for Mirabell’s... (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,... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 6
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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 it coy... (full context)
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...asks Mrs. Fainall to give Mirabell an update about Wishfort’s interest in Rowland and that Marwood seems to be watching them. Mrs. Fainall exits with Foible, taking the servant’s staircase to... (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.... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 8
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Wishfort apologizes to Marwood for forgetting her in the closet. Marwood responds that she has been well entertained. Wishfort... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 9
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...the dressing room to announce the arrival of Witwoud and Petulant for dinner. Wishfort implores Marwood to entertain the men, while she finishes getting dressed. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 10
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Marwood leaves Foible and Wishfort to entertain the guests but finds, not Witwoud and Petulant, but... (full context)
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Millamant is annoyed with Marwood’s honesty and tells her so. She tells Mincing to invite Witwoud and Petulant up because... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 11
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
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...Mirabell’s love for her is no more a secret than it is a secret that Marwood revealed his love for her to Wishfort because Marwood is in love with Mirabell herself.... (full context)
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Millamant laughs in Marwood’s face, and claims that Mirabell’s love for her, which she seems not to care about,... (full context)
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Again, Millamant laughs at Marwood, commenting that she’s surprised that Mirabell loves her, Millamant, when Marwood is as beautiful and... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 13
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...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... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 14
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Witwoud, Petulant, and Marwood remain behind, and spot Sir Wilfull Witwoud being led to the house by a footman.... (full context)
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...Wishfort that he has arrived and also asks the names of the men standing with Marwood. Again, the footman says he cannot help because he doesn’t know who they are, so... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 15
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...that the man knows so little that he probably doesn’t even know his own name. Marwood, observing all this, remarks to Witwoud that his half-brother also seems to have forgotten him. (full context)
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Wilfull greets the group first. Marwood admonishes Witwoud for not speaking to Wilfull. Witwoud, in an aside, instructs Petulant to speak... (full context)
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Marwood quickly tells Wilfull that Petulant is just trying to be funny and that he is... (full context)
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Marwood interrupts the argument by asking Wilfull about his intention to travel. Wilfull, still mad at... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 18
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While everyone else is at dinner, Marwood and Fainall meet alone in Wishfort’s house. She has just finished telling Fainall everything she... (full context)
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Marwood advises him to consider the bright side: he now has a reason to leave his... (full context)
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Fainall curses and then complains that the fortune would easily have been his if Marwood had not told Wishfort that Mirabell was using her. For, if Mirabell had married Millamant... (full context)
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Marwood urges him to hold on to his wife, then, until the money can come to... (full context)
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Fainall likes this plan. Marwood then apologizes for suggesting to Wishfort that Millamant should marry Wilfull, as that might pose... (full context)
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The adulterers plan the next steps to ruin Mirabell’s plot. Marwood suggests that she could write an anonymous letter that will be delivered when Wishfort is... (full context)
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...to transfer the deed for her estate to him. This he promises to share with Marwood. (full context)
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Marwood asks him if he believes that she hates Mirabell now and if he’ll be jealous... (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 whispers to Waitwell to take it... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
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...Fainall informs her that Mirabell has gone to post bond for Waitwell’s release. She recognizes Marwood and Fainall’s hand in this turn of events. Foible tells Mrs. Fainall how Marwood came... (full context)
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...to give Mrs. Fainall more comfort and so informs her of her husband’s affair with Marwood, which she knew nothing about. Mrs. Fainall is excited and asks Foible if she can... (full context)
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...Mincing also knows about the affair, too, but that they were bound to secrecy by Marwood, who made them swear not to tell. However, Foible says that she has no qualms... (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 when called on. Mincing promises to help no matter what happens to... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
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In the parlor, Wishfort praises Marwood as a true and good friend for all her help in revealing Mirabell’s falsehoods and... (full context)
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...her affair, she must now part with her wealth. Mrs. Fainall tells her mother that Marwood is lying to her and that she is innocent. Wishfort doesn’t believe her daughter, while... (full context)
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Wishfort apologizes to Marwood and scolds her daughter for her ungratefulness. Mrs. Fainall, however, sticks to her story and... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
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With her daughter gone, Wishfort reveals to Marwood her doubts about her daughter’s guilt. After considering how carefully she raised her daughter to... (full context)
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Marwood tries to convince her that a trial would be a very bad thing because it... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 6
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Fainall has joined the women in the parlor to make his demands known to Wishfort. Marwood acts as the go-between and tries to make each concession seem more appealing to Wishfort... (full context)
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...draw up the contract. He exits the room to arrange the document, leaving Wishfort in Marwood’s company. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 7
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Once Fainall leaves, Wishfort again complains to Marwood. She asks whether she should agree to Fainall’s terms. Marwood insists that it is a... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 8
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Marwood observes all of this quietly and says to herself that Mirabell is up to something.... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 10
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Marwood returns to the living room, with Fainall following. Fainall addresses Wishfort and tells her that... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 11
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Seeing the two servants enter together with Mrs. Fainall, Marwood instantly realizes that they are going to expose her affair with Fainall to Wishfort. She... (full context)
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Meanwhile, under questioning, Foible and Mincing both swear that Marwood was having an affair with Fainall. Wishfort, angrily, turns to Marwood and asks her whether... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 13
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...and blocks Fainall. Fainall shouts that Mirabell hasn’t heard the last of this. Arabella addresses Marwood and tells her that she looks so upset that she better vent her anger. Marwood,... (full context)