The Way of the World

The Way of the World

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Sir Wilfull Witwoud Character Analysis

Sir Wilfull is Lady Wishfort’s forty-year-old nephew from the countryside. He is unrefined and ignorant but also very sweet and good-humored. Sir Wilfull wants to better himself by travelling to France. He has come to England to learn French but is easily corrupted by the debauchery that life in London offers. He gets drunk at Wishfort’s house and makes a bad impression on his cousin, Millamant, who his aunt wants him to marry. He doesn’t get along with his half-brother Witwoud, who is ashamed of him, or Witwoud’s best friend, Petulant. They often insult him and he patiently bears their slights. Intensely loyal to Mirabell, he helps him win over Lady Wishfort by pretending to accept being married to Millamant. He is also protective of his cousin Arabella Fainall and almost fights Fainall. By the end of the play, he has made friends with Witwoud and Petulant, who agree to be his travel companions to France.

Sir Wilfull Witwoud Quotes in The Way of the World

The The Way of the World quotes below are all either spoken by Sir Wilfull Witwoud or refer to Sir Wilfull Witwoud. 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 16 Quotes

Sheart, I was afraid you would have been in the fashion too, and have remembered to have forgot your relations.

Related Characters: Sir Wilfull Witwoud (speaker), Lady Wishfort, Witwoud
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

Wishfort and Mrs. Fainall have joined the group of Sir Wilfull, Witwoud, and the others, and Wishfort has introduced the other men to Sir Wilfull. Wilfull remarks that he was afraid Wishfort would have followed the fashion of pretending to forget one's relations, just as Witwoud did in the previous scene. Wilfull's words emphasize the absurdity of this trend, particularly his use of the oxymoronic phrase "remembered to have forgot." This phrase highlights the complete illogicality behind many social customs, and the foolishness of people who follow such trends even when they contradict common sense knowledge about decency and reason.

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Sir Wilfull Witwoud Character Timeline in The Way of the World

The timeline below shows where the character Sir Wilfull Witwoud appears in The Way of the World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 4
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...He tells her that he is there to deliver a letter to Witwoud from Sir Wilfull Witwoud, Witwoud’s older and unfashionable half-brother from the countryside. Betty instructs him to do so. (full context)
Act 1, Scene 5
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...witnessed the exchange between Betty and the messenger, Mirabell and Fainall begin gossiping about Sir Wilfull. In particular, they criticize his plan to better himself by traveling abroad. During this conversation,... (full context)
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Fainall describes Sir Wilfull as an altogether lovable and harmless fool, with a penchant for drunkenness. Mirabell calls him... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 6
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...men and immediately takes over the conversation, remarking that he’s not looking forward to Sir Wilfull’s visit and stresses the fact that they are only step-brothers. Witwoud then says he doesn’t... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 9
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...wonders aloud whether Witwoud should instead stay and wait for his half-brother. Witwoud responds that Wilfull is going to arrive at Wishfort’s house that evening, at which point Mirabell gets to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 8
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...Marwood responds that she has been well entertained. Wishfort informs Marwood that her nephew, Sir Wilfull, is coming to visit before going to travel across Europe to improve his mind. Marwood... (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. At first, Witwoud pretends not to... (full context)
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The footman delivers Wilfull to the company of friends and tells him that Wishfort is dressing. When Wilfull asks... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 15
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As the footman leaves, Wilfull complains that the man knows so little that he probably doesn’t even know his own... (full context)
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Wilfull greets the group first. Marwood admonishes Witwoud for not speaking to Wilfull. Witwoud, in an... (full context)
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Petulant begins to inspect Wilfull’s dress from top to bottom. He remarks that it looks like Wilfull has just come... (full context)
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...trip, then Petulant should go to the stable and ask his horse. Petulant exclaims that Wilfull’s “horse is an ass.” Wilfull heatedly asks him if he means to be offensive. (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... (full context)
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Furthermore, Wilfull complains, when Witwoud was new to London and a clerk at Furnival’s Inn, he would... (full context)
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Marwood interrupts the argument by asking Wilfull about his intention to travel. Wilfull, still mad at Petulant and Witwoud, addresses only Marwood.... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 16
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Wishfort and her daughter, Mrs. Fainall, join the group. Wishfort welcomes Wilfull and he greets his cousin, Mrs. Fainall. Wishfort introduces the other men to Wilfull. Willful... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 17
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Mincing enters, and tells Wishfort that dinner is “impatient.” Wilfull overhears her and asks if dinner can wait until he pulls off his boots and... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 18
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Fainall likes this plan. Marwood then apologizes for suggesting to Wishfort that Millamant should marry Wilfull, as that might pose an obstacle to this new plan. However, Fainall tells her that... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
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...Sir Rowland. Suddenly, Wishfort sees a coach approaching from her window. She asks Foible whether Wilfull has greeted Millamant as she ordered. Foible informs her that Wilfull is busy getting drunk... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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...half hour to talk with her alone but Wishfort has ordered her to talk with Wilfull. Millamant says to tell Mirabell that she’s busy and that he should come again another... (full context)
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Foible comes back to say that Wilfull is coming. She asks if she should send Mirabell away. Millamant changes her mind and... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
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As Mrs. Fainall is about to leave the house, Sir Wilfull arrives. Mrs. Fainall greets him, telling him he has come at the right moment, and... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
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Sir Wilfull begs Mrs. Fainall through the door to let him out because he’s forgotten to wear... (full context)
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Wilfull thinks that she is addressing him and is confused. He tells her that he can... (full context)
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...and anything related to the country. She also reveals that she hates the town, too. Wilfull, happy that she’s making conversation with him, laughs that she hates them both. She laughs... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 7
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Once they are alone, Mrs. Fainall tells Millamant that Wilfull has gotten so drunk and noisy that her mother had to leave Sir Rowland’s side... (full context)
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...is exasperated and tells her that if she ever doubts Mirabell, then she should marry Wilfull. Millamant is disgusted by this idea. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 8
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...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 laughing so... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 9
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Now it becomes clear that Wilfull and Petulant were arguing about Millamant. Petulant tells her that he was defending her beauty... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 10
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...Millamant, Mrs. Fainall, and Witwoud. She has dragged along a very drunk and, apparently, smelly Wilfull to propose to Millamant. Wishfort yells at Wilfull to behave himself, warning him that Millamant... (full context)
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Wishfort tries to smooth over Wilfull’s outrageous behavior, saying that he’s been drinking to her health. Wilfull affirms this and tells... (full context)
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Millamant is disgusted, and asks her aunt to be excused before she faints from Willful’s stench. She urges Mrs. Fainall to leave with her. The two women exit, leaving Wishfort... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 11
Wishfort, exasperated with Wilfull, tells him he stinks and to get out of her sight. Meanwhile, Foible has arrived.... (full context)
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Witwoud invites Wilfull to a cockfight. Wilfull agrees to this idea and asks whether there will be wenches... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 15
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...believes Foible and tells her that she remembers that her niece left rather quickly when Wilfull was proposing to her. Foible quickly lies that she didn’t give Wishfort the news earlier... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
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...fortune or get divorced. Mincing continues that Mirabell and Millamant have sent her to find Wilfull. She believes that Millamant will indeed marry Wilfull in order not to lose her dowry. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 6
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...Jonathan Wishfort, Wishfort’s late husband, by getting engaged without consent and refusing the match with Wilfull that Wishfort offered to her. (full context)
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...tries to object to this last stipulation by pointing out a loophole. She says that Wilfull was indisposed and did not properly propose to her niece. Fainall, however, tells her that... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 7
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...daughter’s late husband, a match that she herself made. Seeing her niece, Millamant, arriving with Wilfull, she is brought out of her reverie. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 8
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Wilfull, now sober, greets his aunt and apologizes for his unbecoming behavior. He promises to marry... (full context)
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Millamant promises that she will marry Wilful and furthermore, that she has had no role in plotting against her aunt. She tells... (full context)
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...as long as it’s the last time she sees him in her house. Millamant, addressing Wilfull, asks him if it’s true that Mirabell is to be his travel companion when he... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 9
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As Mirabell enters the room, Wilfull whispers that he will stand by him and support him in his efforts to win... (full context)
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...that he only wants her pity and then wants her to forget him, nothing else. Wilfull urges her to forgive Mirabell out of a Christian sense of mercy. (full context)
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Finally, Wishfort relents and forgives Mirabell, explaining that she does so because Wilfull wants her too. But, she adds, she wants Mirabell to release her niece from the... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 10
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...were ready to sign, she no longer needs to because Millamant has agreed to marry Wilfull, a move that legally prevents her from turning all her fortune over to Fainall. At... (full context)
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Wilfull, too, speaks out against Fainall, threatening to use his “instrument,” meaning his sword, to slice... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 13
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Enraged, Fainall charges at Mrs. Fainall and screams that he will get revenge. However, Wilfull steps in between them and blocks Fainall. Fainall shouts that Mirabell hasn’t heard the last... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 14
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...she tells Mirabell that it will be awkward to break the news to her nephew, Wilfull, that he will not be marrying Millamant. (full context)
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...to worry. He tells her that he only needs her consent to the marriage because Wilfull never actually intended on marrying Millamant but only said he did as a generous favor... (full context)
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Wilfull interrupts the lovers and tells them they’ll have time to make love later. He calls... (full context)