Throughout much of the Restoration period, masks
were often considered part of a fashionable ensemble for ladies and gentlemen attending evening theatre performances. In many early Restoration plays, masks symbolize flirtatious behavior and covert love affairs. In Congreve’s late Restoration play, however, the mask no longer seems to be quite the fashion statement it once was. Mirabell
from wearing a mask to the theatre in their marriage contract and she is outraged that he thinks she would ever wear such an unfashionable article. According to Witwoud, the foolish Petulant wears a mask to disguise his true identity when he goes around and tries to make himself look popular by asking people about Petulant’s whereabouts. But during the play, only Marwood
actually wears a mask, wearing it at the park in full daylight to hide her tears from those who might see her with Fainall
and begin to speculate. But the mask doesn’t do what typical Restoration masks are supposed to do, like make her seem more fashionable or prevent her from being recognized by Mrs. Fainall
Finally, it does not even provide cover for what Marwood really wants to hide: her affair with Fainall. If anything, wearing a mask, particularly in daylight, suggests to other characters her lack of innocence and, throughout the course of the play, comes to symbolize her role as betrayer and adulteress, someone whose own face is a kind of mask for her double-dealing behavior.