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The Way of the World. a Comedy

3.36  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,337 Ratings  ·  89 Reviews
The 18th century was a wealth of knowledge, exploration and rapidly growing technology and expanding record-keeping made possible by advances in the printing press. In its determination to preserve the century of revolution, Gale initiated a revolution of its own: digitization of epic proportions to preserve these invaluable works in the largest archive of its kind. Now fo ...more
Paperback, 92 pages
Published May 29th 2010 by Gale Ecco, Print Editions (first published 1700)
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Buck
Jan 15, 2011 Buck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: histrionics
William Congreve wrote this unspeakably brilliant play at the age of twenty-nine. Then he frittered away the rest of his life on politics, mistresses and gout. At least Orson Welles kept at it and got Touch of Evil made before drifting onto the talk-show circuit and into Carslberg commercials.

For sheer verbal exuberance, no playwright in English even comes close to Congreve (well, okay, there’s that one guy from Stratford ). Just listen to this:

Out of my house, out of my house, thou viper, thou
...more
Rakhi Dalal
May 16, 2013 Rakhi Dalal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
What a piece of writing!!Comedy at best! Reminded me of Importance of Being Earnest , but definitely better than that.

Highly recommended for a light reading! Couldn't keep myself from smiling all the time :)
Andreea
Mar 06, 2012 Andreea rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama, eng-lit-2b
Tedious posh people being tedious and posh.
Janice
Jan 08, 2010 Janice rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2007
Confusing and poisonously cynical. I laughed only a once or twice. This is probably something that one must see staged in order to appreciate.
SofiaSevero
Dec 26, 2015 SofiaSevero rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one witty, funny comedy I didn't actually expect to like, with characters that would best live in our times than theirs, and demands far more reasonable now than when they were demanded.
It is a shame that the play wasn't well received at the time, but it makes it all the more enjoyable for us to read now. The fierce criticism to puritanism through the mocking of characters in particular is fitting to the post-democracy mood of when it was written, and the romance of course, it's particu
...more
Leslie
Apr 12, 2016 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leslie by: LauraT
Shelves: plays, humor, british
This Restoration comedy didn't tickle my funny bone as much as either Sheridan or Goldsmith. Perhaps if I saw it performed, I would like it more... That said, it did have some funny moments and I liked the satire about Mr. and Mrs. Fainall both being unfaithful.

I read my print copy (included in "Four Great Comedies of the Restoration and 18th century") as I listened to this full cast recording by LibriVox. Mil Nicholson was marvelous as Lady Wishfort but not all of the cast were of comparable qu
...more
Lotz
May 21, 2015 Lotz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
What, Tony, i’faith! What, dost thou not know me? By’r lady, nor I thee, thou art so becravated and so beperiwigged.

Aside from the conspicuous distinction of containing the most English of English words I’ve ever read (beperiwigged!), this Restoration comedy is also an excellent piece of work. I don’t think I’ve ever read a play with such an intricate story. We go from plot to counter plot, to counter-counter plot, as the rather grasping and cunning cast of characters scheme to marry, to elope
...more
Scott
Plays are intended by the author to be acted, not read. This is why reading a play can be such an imaginative challenge, and incredibly satisfying. You have to compose the scenes, the characters, and the settings for yourself. You have to read deeply, carefully, and assign emotions and meanings to the words the characters speak. Novels typically give you all of this. The novelist fills his characters' lives with direction. When you read a play, you must be the director of the story. The degree t ...more
Muhammad Moneib
Light Comedy of Good Old Taste

In a pretentiously conservative society, satire may be the most dangerous form of writing. For once, there's plenty of hypocrisy to pinpoint and make fun of, but as soon as one does this, the satirized will put on their priesthood disguise, hold their weapons, and attack collectively. That's why, perhaps, subtleness is usually the satirical's companion in such a case, one which allows him to convey his message of attacking hypocrisy without explicitly exposing the h
...more
Mutmainna
Feb 28, 2013 Mutmainna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
*You can read this review at my website too.*

Let me be honest. When I had started reading the book, it seemed so DAAAMN confusing! I mean all the characters seem to have the same kind of surname! I mean, how am I not supposed to get confused between Mirabell and Millamant? But once I had started to blend in with the storyline I found it to be quite interesting. The title is kind of a complete summary of the play itself. The play shows the 'way' of thought of the people of that society, the 'way'
...more
Elizabeth
I have to admit, this was a tough one for me. I think I generally got the gist of everything, but I could probably use the cliffs notes for act 5. I did laugh out loud (literally, on the quiet floor too) while reading this play. The sarcasm, backhanded compliments, and wittiness are pervasive in every snippet of dialogue. The character relationships are complex (you should see my attempt at a chart) and a lot of the names look similar so it's hard to differentiate. Overall I really enjoyed the ...more
Ananya Ghosh
I just finished the book and thought it'd be best to write down my thoughts on it. This isn't going to be much of a review, I'm sorry!

So, I have this habit of reading goodreads reviews of other readers of books that I finish reading and in this book's reviews, I saw people call it as 'light comedy'. Well, truth be told, it is NOT a light comedy! The book is filled with heavy dialogues that are mostly fillers and have no real purpose of being there, except to demonstrate the wit or false wit, in
...more
dredinol
Sep 27, 2015 dredinol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best to read when you are feeling silly. The names are the best- Fainall, Mincing, Foible, Marwood, and the ridiculous pair of lovers: Millamant and Mirabell.

Millamant's demands before she agrees to marriage are relevant:

MILLA. Ah, don’t be impertinent. My dear liberty, shall I leave thee? My faithful solitude, my darling contemplation, must I bid you then adieu? Ay-h, adieu. My morning thoughts, agreeable wakings, indolent slumbers, all ye douceurs, ye sommeils du matin, adieu. I can’t do’t, ’
...more
Teresa
Jun 18, 2008 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps my favorite Restoration comedy because of the strange way Millamant can take nothing seriously and be so sad at the same time.
Perry Whitford
Jun 11, 2015 Perry Whitford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beneath all the perriwigs and face paint they were rather a wicked rabble, those Restoration period aristocrats.

At least if this popular play from the period - still occasionally performed today - is anything to go by. Pretty much all the characters are either deceiving or being deceived, or both. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Mirabel loves Mrs. Millamant ("Her follies are so natural, or so artful, that they become her") and would quite like to get his hands on her dowry too, but h
...more
Greg Kerestan
Feb 01, 2016 Greg Kerestan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Way of the World" reads like "The Importance of Being Earnest" on steroids. The wit is wittier, the bitching is bitchier, the characters kiss and quip and scheme and backstab and fall in and out of love like it was going out of style. Congreve was ahead of his time, writing in the Restoration era with a stronger Contemporary Modern English influence than Shakespeare had. The language is still dense, as literature from this era tends to be, but it's the denseness of a rich dark rum cake- ple ...more
Simon Mcleish
Jun 20, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in February 2000.

Congreve's play has the theme of hypocrisy and deceit in society, as even some of the characters' names indicate (Fainall, for example). Even Mirabell, the hero (his name indicating that he is admirable), uses a deceitful scheme to bring about the happy ending. Only Millamant, the object of his desire, does not pretend to be anything other than what she really is, though her capriciousness towards Mirabell infuriates him.

Millamant is unable t
...more
Tiffany
I actually read an online version of this text provided by my teacher as part of my Introduction to Drama course, so this is not the same version I'm writing about, but is the same work. While it is a great example of Restoration Comedy, I personally didn't care for it much. The version we were provided with didn't include any notes or summaries, which I ended up looking up online to help me follow the events, since the language is rather hard to follow even when read slowly and carefully. Fortu ...more
Lizzy
Aug 06, 2013 Lizzy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wem, plays
Why can't books have the dialogue and wit like they use to. It takes talent and cleverness along with mastery of the language to write such a witty satire. I laughed many a time and wish we could use some of these expressions now a days! I find in reading modern literature, most writers have no imagination and will just use profanity and such to convey moods and thoughts.

I did find this play hard to follow as the names were all so similar and there were many characters.

Here are some of my favo
...more
Jessica
One day I'm going to call someone a 'tatterdemalion ragamuffin'.

Unfortunately the brilliant, exuberant language is eclipsed on the first few readings by the incomprehensible plot. You need to know what's being plotted by who and why before you can understand what's going on, but that isn't revealed until the end. By which time you've probably forgotten what happened in the beginning because four acts of confusion aren't really atttention-grabbing. So then you have to go back and read the whole
...more
Claire
Read for Restoration module.
I wasn't as enamored with THE WAY OF THE WORLD as I have been with the previous plays we have looked at. I think that's primarily because it feels like everyone is involved with everyone and it's quite confusing. Fainall stood out to me as a character but there wasn't as strong characters as in THE MAN OF MODE and THE COUNTRY WIFE.
Kadbury
It's a little hard to get into this but one you get into it ,it gets over pretty quickly. Has some great one liners.
"I love her and her faults" (might be a miss-quote but it basically says this)

Fainall, Millament and Mirabell are some amazing characters.
Penny Landon
Although I was a little apprehensive about reading this play because it was written in 1700, after keeping a summary close by for reference I really enjoyed this play. Not only were the situations that the character get themselves into funny, but their names were as well. How more descriptive of a character can you get than naming them names like Witwoud (would be a wit if he could). The insults thrown between characters are always veiled with complex sentences, which I appreciate more than the ...more
Stephen
Apr 14, 2012 Stephen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england, 18th-century
This is probably very good on the stage, but on the page it is a chore. Did Congreve really need to give every character a name beginning with an M or a W? The character's love affairs are already crisscrossed in bizarre overlaps; trying to distinguish the names only makes a difficult puzzle impossible. As far as I could tell, the conclusion seemed improbable, the character relationships unnatural, and the humor not exactly funny (with the exception of Petulant, who hires empty coaches to call f ...more
Jay
Jun 05, 2016 Jay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first Restoration era play, I think. It was funny and also had some really good lines, but u had trouble keeping track of the characters. Partly because I'm out of practice reading plays, but partly because too many characters have names starting with the letter M.
Jordan
I'm not sure how to rate this. Execution wise, I felt like it was TOO confusing. Plot wise, it's brilliant. Congreve was such a revolutionary. Millamont's provisions and Mar.'s counters were too great.
Chris Schaben
Mar 10, 2014 Chris Schaben rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe if I saw this performed I would like it. However, I had to read it and did not understand any of it. The language and plot are both extremely confusing.
Luke
Apr 04, 2016 Luke rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Somehow Congreve's absolute cynicism didn't work for me. The play was almost paradoxically able to be wholly boring while being overly complicated.
Danny
Mar 04, 2015 Danny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"The Way of the World" is the most tedious play I've ever read in my life. It's more "overwrought" than "witty." Maybe I'm not the best person to ask, though, because I dislike English Restoration comedy in general. I hate its artificial complexity and its contrived story lines. It's basically sh*t when compared to the French theatre of the same period. No offense, Restoration-comedy-lovers. But, ya, this is NOT an easy play to read. It takes tons of effort to understand, and one's efforts (I da ...more
Courtney
Who knew this book would actually be interesting?
The many deceptions and affairs give this play a comedic feel. I didn't like the shakespearean dialects of the characters but of course since this is from the late 1600s it would be in that dialect. I found it hard to follow though. I wish there was a No Fear edition to this book then I could have understood it more. I had to look the plot up on Wikipedia to get what was going on. Otherwise the way that the characters deceive one another creates a
...more
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98646
"William Congreve was an English playwright and poet.... William Congreve wrote some of the most popular English plays of the Restoration period of the late 17th century. By the age of thirty, he had written four comedies, including Love for Love (premiered 30 April 1695) and The Way of the World (premiered 1700), and one tragedy, The Mourning Bride (1697).

Unfortunately, his career ended almost as
...more
More about William Congreve...

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“But say what you will, 'tis better to be left than never to have been loved. To pass our youth in dull indifference, to refuse the sweets of life because they once must leave us, is as preposterous as to wish to have been born old, because we one day must be old.” 18 likes
“One no more owes one's beauty to a lover than one's wit to an echo” 7 likes
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