The Way of the World

The Way of the World


William Congreve

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Way of the World can help.

The Way of the World Characters


The protagonist of the play, Edward Mirabell is a fashionable, intellectual, and clever man-about-town, popular with the ladies. He was Mrs. Fainall’s lover before her marriage to Fainall and has broken his fair share… (read full character analysis)


The antagonist of the play, Fainall is a sneaky, insecure, and traitorous fellow with a not so good reputation around town—basically, he has all the negative qualities that Mirabell does not. He is the second… (read full character analysis)


Fainall’s lover and Lady Wishfort’s best friend, Marwood is cunning and manipulative. Likely in love with Mirabell, who doesn’t love her, she is able to convince Fainall that she only loves him… (read full character analysis)

Mrs. Arabella Fainall

Known as Mrs. Fainall through much of the play, Arabella Fainall is Lady Wishfort’s daughter and Millamant, Witwoud, and Sir Wilfull’s cousin. She was once married to a rich man named… (read full character analysis)

Lady Wishfort

A wealthy, old widow, mother to Arabella Fainall, and aunt to Millamant, Witwoud, and Sir Wilfull, Lady Wishfort is a vain and silly woman who tries to act younger than she… (read full character analysis)
Get the entire The Way of the World LitChart as a printable PDF.


Foible is Lady Wishfort’s servant. She was apparently once a beggar and perhaps homeless before Wishfort saved her from the streets and gave her a job. She is a smart and eloquent woman and… (read full character analysis)


Spoiled, beautiful, and rich Millamant could have any man she wants and knows it too. She is very fashionable and popular in London. Though she can seem cruel and uncaring towards Mirabell, she does… (read full character analysis)

Sir Wilfull Witwoud

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… (read full character analysis)


Waitwell is Mirabell’s hardworking servant who Mirabell allows to marry Foible. Newly married, he is eager to sleep with his wife throughout the play. In fact, it is one of his many motivators… (read full character analysis)


Petulant’s best friend, Lady Wishfort’s nephew, Sir Wilfull’s half brother, Millamant and Arabella Fainall’s cousin, Witwoud is a “fop,” or fool who cares too much about being fashionable. He is often… (read full 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… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
Sir Rowland
Waitwell’s alter ego, concocted by Mirabell in his plan to blackmail Lady Wishfort into allowing him to marry Millamant.
Millamant’s loyal servant. She testifies against Marwood about her affair with Fainall.
The chocolate house waitress