The Way of the World

The Way of the World

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Themes and Colors
Jealousy, Deceit, and Intrigue Theme Icon
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Female (In)dependence Theme Icon
Love and Money Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Way of the World, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Love and Money Theme Icon

Money is a distinct concern for several of the characters in Congreve’s play. Though greed does exist in the play—Fainall wants all of Wishfort’s fortune or as much as he can swindle—Congreve draws a more important connection between familial and romantic love and the desire for money as a means of financial security. This is an interesting coupling because it suggests that the sentiment of love itself is not enough to build a romantic relationship on or to protect family bonds. Money is actually an essential ingredient of love as money provides for a comfortable life, which then allows one to enjoy one’s love. For example, Fainall needs to acquire Wishfort’s fortune to support his mistress Mrs. Marwood. Meanwhile, Mirabell cannot simply elope with Millamant because then they would lose her £6,000 inheritance, a fact Fainall exploits in his scheme.

Even with the bonds of love that connect family members, money plays a central role. Lady Wishfort has control over the accounts of her daughter Mrs. Fainall and her niece Millamant, and is not above forcing their compliance by reminding them of this fact, especially Millamant. But in addition to using money to coerce her family members, Wishfort is also in charge of maintaining the family’s finances so these women have a nest egg when they come of age or marry.

Foible and Waitwell’s marriage itself is also a testament to this theme. Not only does their marriage benefit from Mirabell’s financial incentives (he gives Foible money for her help and promises to buy the couple land and stock their farm, if his plan succeeds), it is also occasioned as a type of insurance for Mirabell and a protection for Lady Wishfort. Waitwell’s marriage to Foible assures Mirabell that he can trust Waitwell to play the role of Sir Rowland and that Waitwell will reveal his true identity to Wishfort (because he’s already married) when Mirabell is ready to blackmail Lady Wishfort for Millamant’s hand in exchange for destroying the evidence of her false marriage to Sir Rowland.

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Love and Money ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Love and Money appears in each scene of The Way of the World. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Love and Money Quotes in The Way of the World

Below you will find the important quotes in The Way of the World related to the theme of Love and Money.
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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Act 3, Scene 18 Quotes

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. 

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. 

Act 5, Scene 6 Quotes

… I will be endowed, in right of my wife, with that six thousand pound, which is the moiety of Mrs. Millamant’s fortune in your possession, and which she has forfeited (…by the last will and testament of your deceased husband…) by her disobedience in contracting herself against your consent or knowledge, and by refusing the offered match with Sir Wilfull Witwoud

Related Characters: Fainall (speaker), Lady Wishfort
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

Fainall has entered the parlor in order to announce his demands to Lady Wishfort. In this passage, Fainall declares that he "will be endowed" with the full amount of Millamant's fortune, which Millamant has sacrificed by refusing the hand of Sir Wilfull and getting engaged without Wishfort's "consent and knowledge." Fainall is clearly in a rapture of triumph in this passage. After endlessly complicated manipulations, and having been thwarted in his scheme several times, Fainall clearly feels confident that everything will now turn out exactly how we wants, a sentiment conveyed by his use of the future tense ("I will be endowed"). Rather than bask in his joy graciously, however, Fainall behaves in a ruthless, domineering manner, evidently pleased by the opportunity to control and humiliate Lady Wishfort. 

Act 5, Scene 14 Quotes

From hence let those be warned, who mean to wed,
Lest mutual falsehood stain the bridal-bed:
For each deceiver to his cost may find
That marriage frauds too oft are paid in kind.

Related Characters: Mirabell (speaker)
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

In the last moments of the play, Lady Wishfort has pardoned "Sir Rowland" and Foible, and blessed Mirabell and Millamant's engagement. The happy couple kiss, and Wishfort exits. Just as a dance is about to begin, Mirabell delivers these rhyming couplets, a warning to future couples who are false and duplicitous. He claims that such couples ended up paying for their "marriage frauds" one way or another. It is of course somewhat ironic that a play filled with deceit, infidelity, secrecy, and disguise should end with a warning about "falsehood." On the other hand, Mirabell and Millamant are shown to exhibit a sincere and mature love for one another, suggesting that theirs might truly end up a happy marriage and thus a positive example to others.