The Way of the World

The Way of the World

by

William Congreve

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The Way of the World: Act 1, Scene 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Witwoud 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 look more popular. He then adds that Petulant often goes to even greater lengths in order to be noticed.
The women were hired by Petulant to call on him at public places in order to make him seem promiscuous and desirable to eyewitnesses. Just as the contrast offered by Petulant the fool highlights Mirabell’s wit, Petulant’s silly schemes emphasize just how sophisticated Mirabell’s schemes are in comparison.
Themes
Wits and Fools Theme Icon
Witwoud explains Petulant’s trick of “calling on himself” to a baffled Mirabell and Fainall. Petulant used to slip out of the chocolate house, rush home, disguise his appearance, and return to ask the staff at the chocolate house about where he could find Petulant, sometimes even going so far as to leave a letter for himself.
As his antics suggest, Petulant is a ridiculous fellow who cares a lot about what other people think about him. He will go to great lengths to make himself popular and become the object of gossip, whether good or bad, because he wants to have a reputation as a flirt and wit, like Mirabell. Of course, he isn’t a wit, and so he can’t have that reputation.
Themes
Wits and Fools Theme Icon