The Way of the World

The Way of the World

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Petulant Character Analysis

Witwoud’s best friend, Petulant is a boisterous, foolish, and naughty fellow, who wants to be known as a ladies’ man but goes about it by hiring actors to help him gain a reputation. He likes to start arguments over trivial matters and usually has no real substantive points to make. He thinks Millamant is beautiful as one might think a vase is beautiful, but has no real interest in formally courting her. At first, Witwoud is the only one who really enjoys his company but by the play’s end, Sir Wilfull has warmed up to him, as well. Hardly responsible, he can only be relied on to pick arguments and follow Mirabell’s orders.

Petulant Quotes in The Way of the World

The The Way of the World quotes below are all either spoken by Petulant or refer to Petulant. 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 9 Quotes

Where modesty’s ill manners, ’tis but fit
That impudence and malice pass for wit.

Related Characters: Mirabell (speaker), Witwoud, Petulant
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Witwoud has told Mirabell about Lady Wishfort's plan to sabotage him by setting Millamant up with Mirabell's uncle. Dejected, Mirabell has asked Fainall to leave the chocolate house and take a walk on the Mall with him. Witwoud and Petulant have tried to invite themselves along, leading Mirabell to eventually tell them directly that he doesn't want them to come because he doesn't like the way they harass women in public. In the final lines of this scene, Mirabell denounces Witwoud and Petulant's "ill manners," "impudence," and "malice." He suggests that they are not even that witty, despite being the fools of the play. This statement confirms MIrabell's moral righteousness relative to the other characters, who are rude and disrespectful to women. 

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Petulant Character Timeline in The Way of the World

The timeline below shows where the character Petulant 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
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...and Fainall ends the conversation by suggesting they go and visit with their mutual friends, Petulant and Witwoud, who are lounging in an adjoining room. Mirabell declines, and Fainall exits. (full context)
Act 1, Scene 6
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
The conversation turns to Petulant, who has recently won quite a bit of Witwoud’s money in a game of cards.... (full context)
Witwoud refuses, though, to name the particular flaw of Petulant’s that most annoys him. This leads Mirabell and Fainall to suggest numerous defects in Petulant’s... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 7
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...in a coach just outside the chocolate house send a coachman in to inquire whether Petulant is there. Betty responds that he is indeed. The coachman, then, asks for refreshments for... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 8
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
...observes the exchange between Betty and the coachman and comments to Mirabell and Fainall that Petulant actually hired the women outside to pretend to be his lovers and thereby make him... (full context)
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
Witwoud explains Petulant’s trick of “calling on himself” to a baffled Mirabell and Fainall. Petulant used to slip... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 9
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
When Petulant arrives he tells Betty to send the coach away, even if the women inside snivel... (full context)
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Love and Money Theme Icon
Mirabell, however, half-jokingly, warns Petulant to stay away from Millamant. In response, Petulant suggests that he’s not the biggest threat... (full context)
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
Mirabell wants even more details, and tells Petulant that he will regard him as wittier than Witwoud, if Petulant reveals what he knows.... (full context)
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
...with him and go for a walk in the Mall. When Witwoud invites himself and Petulant along, Mirabell wonders aloud whether Witwoud should instead stay and wait for his half-brother. Witwoud... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 9
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
Foible reenters 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
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Marwood leaves Foible and Wishfort to entertain the guests but finds, not Witwoud and Petulant, but rather a very angry Millamant and her servant Mincing. Millamant greets Marwood and complains... (full context)
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
...annoyed with Marwood’s honesty and tells her so. She tells Mincing to invite Witwoud and Petulant up because she would rather be in their company than lectured by Marwood. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 13
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
When Witwoud and Petulant arrive, Millamant asks them whether they’re finished being hostile toward her and each other. They... (full context)
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
Petulant claims that learning hurts him and is his enemy. Millamant comments that she hates illiterate... (full context)
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
Petulant jokes that being ignorant should not prevent a man from getting married because there are... (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... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 15
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...group first. Marwood admonishes Witwoud for not speaking to Wilfull. Witwoud, in an aside, instructs Petulant to speak on his behalf. Petulant greets Wilfull. Witwoud remarks to himself that Wilfull seems... (full context)
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Petulant begins to inspect Wilfull’s dress from top to bottom. He remarks that it looks like... (full context)
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Witwoud retorts that if the boots aren’t enough evidence of his trip, then Petulant should go to the stable and ask his horse. Petulant exclaims that Wilfull’s “horse is... (full context)
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Marwood quickly tells Wilfull that Petulant is just trying to be funny and that he is amongst friends, even if he... (full context)
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
...would write tender letters, asking his brother to send his regards to old country friends. Petulant interrupts to laugh at the news that Witwoud used to work for the Furnivals as... (full context)
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
...interrupts the argument by asking Wilfull about his intention to travel. Wilfull, still mad at Petulant and Witwoud, addresses only Marwood. He tells her that he wants to see other countries... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 7
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...Rowland’s side to go out and quiet him. She adds that Wilfull was quarreling with Petulant the last time she saw him. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 8
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A drunken Witwoud joins the women in the parlor. When Mrs. Fainall asks him if Petulant and Wilfull, have made up, Witwoud responds that he had to leave because he was... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 9
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Petulant, also drunk, joins the women and Witwoud in the parlor. He has just made up... (full context)
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Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Now it becomes clear that Wilfull and Petulant were arguing about Millamant. Petulant tells her that he was defending her beauty to Wilfull.... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 11
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Men vs. Women Theme Icon
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...Mirabell assures her that there are more surprises for her and asks permission for Waitwell, Petulant, and Witwoud to enter. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 12
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Wits and Fools Theme Icon
Love and Money Theme Icon
...Mirabell accepts the box, he tells Wishfort to remember her promise. Then, he asks for Petulant and Witwoud, who are slow to arrive because they have just woken up from their... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 13
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Wits and Fools Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
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Petulant and Witwoud finally show up with no clue about what’s going on, as usual. Mirabell... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 14
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...to his friend Mirabell. Wilfull reaffirms his desire travel and asks if she can spare Petulant and Witwoud to serve as his travel companions. Wishfort is delighted by this turn of... (full context)