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The Way of the World (New Mermaids)

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  3,331 ratings  ·  149 reviews
LADY. With Mirabell? You call my blood into my face with mentioning that traitor. She durst not have the confidence. I sent her to negotiate an affair, in which if I'm detected I'm undone. If that wheedling villain has wrought upon Foible to detect me, I'm ruined. O my dear friend, I'm a wretch of wretches if I'm detected.
Paperback, 160 pages
Published January 3rd 1995 by A & C Black Publishers Ltd (first published 1700)
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Mina Yes, it's in the public domain. You can find it on Wikisource and probably on Gutenberg, too.
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Jan 03, 2011 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
An extract from the recently discovered Carry on Congreve (1969), soon to be released on DVD and Blu-ray:

SIR WILLFULL (Kenneth Connor)
S’heart, aunt, I have no mind to marry. My cousin’s a fine lady, and the gentleman loves her, and she loves him, and they deserve one another; my resolution is to see foreign parts- I have set on’t- and when I’m set on’t I must do’t. And if these two gentlemen would travel too, I think they may be spared.

PETULANT (Charles Hawtrey)
For my part, I say little- I think
Rakhi Dalal
Apr 22, 2013 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 :)
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama, eng-lit-2b
Tedious posh people being tedious and posh.
Jan 08, 2010 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.
David Sarkies
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comedy
The Shadow of Shakespeare
24 June 2017

Here I am sitting in the beer garden of a pub that may not be around for much longer due to the construction of a subway station, and having seen a wonderful production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead on the big screen (and it starred none other than Daniel Radcliffe of the Harry Potter fame who seems to be doing his best to distance himself from that fame, and I have to admit that he is doing a rather good job at that). You may wonder why I am brin
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Roy Lotz
Jan 11, 2014 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 elo
It was hard not to have at the back of my mind whilst watching this, the National Theatre's performance of The Beaux' Strategem by George Farquar. But how unfair. That vast auditorium at Southbank, the huge budget, a set that was enormous in all directions - how could a play reading with $20 of props and a notional idea of costume in a 200 seat theatre compare?

Being a reading, this production of The Way of the World at the Little Theatre at Adelaide Uni, was far more uncertain than a fullblown p
Czarny Pies
Sep 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one. For all its considerable wit, it is quite unremarkable.
Shelves: english-lit
First performed 15 years after the death of Charles II, this play still is nonetheless considered to be one of the Restoration Comedies. It will meet the approval of any reader who feels that depravity is to be enjoyed and cultivated.

This vile little comedy represents well enough a low period in English literature. I agree however with the professor of an undergraduate course that I took 45 years ago who chose Sheridan's "School for Scandal" to represent the Restoration.
Perry Whitford
Apr 25, 2015 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
A Restoration comedy that's a) still funny, and b) shows that not a lot has changed since 1700 with respect to the love of money and being willing to do almost anything to get it.

And also, some of the satire - especially when Lady Wishfort is talking about how she trained her daughter in "virtue", as well as various other things - links to some of the opinions in Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which I was reading around the same time
Nov 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 26, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the weakest of 4 restoration-style comedies anthologized in one book. Ben Jonson, who wrote the first play in my collection, apparently accused Congreve of being born Irish, not English, Trump-style, but given that the 3 other plays in this collection are by men who lived in Ireland, this may have been a rapid way to reduce competition. Like Becket, Wilde, and Bram Stoker, none of these "Irish" writers appear to be ethnically Irish or even Catholic, but given that the native Irish were n ...more
Jan 19, 2013 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'
Stephen Kelly
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
Aaron Thomas
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I think this play just sparkles. Every single time I assign it to a group of students, they find it difficult – the characters are unlikable, the morality is suspect. So much for them. I think it's a delight. Congreve was writing as something of a throwback to the outrageous Restoration comedies of the 1670s and so this play is self-consciously referential and nostalgic, but it's also laugh-out-loud funny, it's filled with plenty of farcical business in addition to its comedy-of-manners style, a ...more
Dec 26, 2015 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
Apr 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leslie by: LauraT
Shelves: british, humor, plays
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
Nov 28, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Very confusing plot and not at all reader friendly = a common Restoration comedy. The characters have names that start with the same sounds and it makes for a very unpleasant experience. For the first two acts you have no idea what is going on but then the last act ties everything together. If you have time to re-read it is worth it, but I would not experience torture over.
Jun 18, 2008 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.
Mohit Sharma
Mar 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama, 2017
Not sure if 3 or 3.5.
Clever book, but not a fan of Restoration comedies.
Aceber Anilom
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“If there’s delight in love, ‘tis when I see
That heart which other bleed for, bleed for me.”

I love the double meaning of everything, maybe if I had read it in a calmly manner I would have enjoyed it the double. But the way it critics love and life. The female characters, the rebel ones, made it less tedious and I was more interstellar in how they were going to react. How is it possible that somethings are still like that?

“What would you give that you could help loving me?”
susan haris
Sep 20, 2015 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, ’
Pretty Bibliophile
I needed to read this play for a class in my university and even after reading it more than once, I am quite confused as to what I feel about this book. On the one hand, it is truly funny – the entanglements that all these characters get stuck in, but on the other hand, it is morally degrading – to see the reasons as to why these people get stuck in these dilemmas, more specifically, because of all the deceit, trickery, lying and cheating that they indulge in. So perhaps it is better to consider ...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
Simon Mcleish
Feb 25, 2012 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
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
I think this play proves to me that the love of money is something that is the same in 2019 as it was in the 1700s.

William Congreve wrote this Restoration comedy in his early 20s! It is is a most excellent piece of work. Smart. Sarcastic. Witty. The story is complex and intricate and sometimes confusing. The characters scheme and plot to do the things they want (marriage and divorce, in particular) and to foil the plots of the others. These characters are cunning. They fill their time with negot
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Never too Late to...: 2019 July: The Way of the World 7 14 Jul 20, 2019 05:40PM  

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"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

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