Characters of Millenium Hall (1762)

M Hall 1

Sir George Ellison: Sir George Ellison is the writer of the letter that comprises the novel. Though he remains anonymous as he writes, his name is revealed in the novel’s sequel. He is an aging man from England’s north country, and he is in need of travel (to the “west” towards Cornwall) to help with the “ill effects” of a prolonged commercial venture in Jamaica. He is cousins with Mrs. Maynard.

Mr. Lamont: As a twenty-five year old young man, he is Sir George’s traveling companion. Having a “very generous father” has allowed him to live the life of a coxcomb. Though this appellation is not entirely respectable, he has redeemable attributes to his character that allow for Sir George to take him as a companion.

Mrs. Maynard: A woman who is between “forty and fifty years of age,” Mrs. Maynard is a black-haired, black-eyed woman who comes off as vivacious and serene. A reunion of sorts reveals that Mrs. Maynard is Sir George’s cousin. When her husband died, he had left her a “small jointure,” and in her immediate widowhood, it was through Miss Trentham that she was introduced to the society of the Hall. Mrs. Maynard is the one who initiates the storytelling aspect of the novel, and is subsequently the one who recites the eleven “principle articles” governing the Hall.

Miss Louisa Mancel: A tall beauty with brown hair and blue eyes, as a child Louisa had been the ward of her father’s sister. Upon her aunt’s death during her adolescence, she was by chance taken into custody by Mr. Hintman, a wealthy landowner. Here she was placed into a “French boarding school,” where she was partnered with Miss Melvyn as a roommate, and the two become best friends. Ultimately, Mr. Hintman had plans to make Louisa his mistress as soon as she came of age, but his sudden death saves her from debauchery. The situation is still tragic because he leaves her nothing in his will. She finishes school and moves to Miss Melvyn’s neighborhood into the lodgings of a “reputable farmer’s.” After Miss Melvyn becomes Mrs. Morgan, Louisa is taken in by Lady Lambton, where she becomes acquainted with the woman’s grandson, Sir Edward Lambton. After rejecting his hand in marriage, she goes to work for Mrs. Thornby, who turns out to be her real mother. Unfortunately, Mrs. Thornby dies; in the process, Louisa reunites with her old best friend, Miss Melvyn/Mrs. Morgan. Because Mrs. Morgan’s husband dies as well, they make the house he left her into the foundation of Millenium Hall, where they “now live.”

Mrs. Morgan (Miss Melvyn): A plump woman who is “upwards of fifty,” Mrs. Morgan is the kind who emits “universal and tender benevolence.” Her biological mother instilled in her the greatest of piety, and was a sound parent until her death when Mrs. Morgan, then Miss Melvyn, was fourteen years old. Miss Melvyn’s father, Sir Charles Melvyn, remarried to a wicked woman and thus, the girl became subject to something of a Cinderella story. The new Lady Melvyn sent her to boarding school where she met Miss Mancel. Shortly after Miss Mancel’s move, Miss Melvyn returned home, happy to know that her best friend was living close by. Lady Melvyn, not being pleased with their relationship, stages a fixed marriage between Miss Melvyn and the wealthy Mr. Morgan: the plan succeeded, for it was to vindicate the poor girl from a framed love affair with a boy named Simon that would have ruined her reputation. Miss Melvyn becomes Mrs. Morgan on very unhappy terms, additionally because her new husband refuses to allow her to associate with Miss Mancel. Life at home is troubling for her until, ultimately, Mr. Morgan dies, leaving her the estate.

Lady Mary Jones: A woman who is described as genteel and pleasing with a “pair of the finest black eyes,” because of a history that denotes ill-health, she is also described as “thin and pale.” She was the daughter of the Earl of Brumpton and his second wife, who died at childbirth. At age ten, the earl died as well; he did not provide for her in a will and was taken by her father’s sister, Lady Sheerness. In this carefree and patrician setting the fifteen-year-old Lady Mary drew attention within fashionable circles, prompting an encounter with gentleman Mr. Lenman. Though the two were nearly able to connect, she finds that he is married. Back in London, in continuance of her fashionable lifestyle, she then meets Lord Robert St. George; he makes a sexual advance on her, and from this encounter she begins to think about her life. When Lady Sheerness dies, leaving Lady Mary with nothing, she hears from her dead half-brother’s widow, Lady Brumpton, a woman who’s inherited the Brumpton wealth. Lady Mary is invited to live with her, though she finds discomfort in the intellectual community of the woman’s lifestyle. When Lady Brumpton dies, Lady Mary inherits the wealth, and in seeking refuge from fashionable and intellectual scenes, she meets the best friends Mrs. Morgan and Miss Mancel at Tunbridge, where she joins her fortune to their cause at the Hall.

Miss Harriot Selvyn: Described as sensible, delicate and elegant, there is something about her, alternatively, that renders her too irregular to be handsome. Harriot’s adoptive mother died when she was three and her father cared for her in the country after a failed tradesman venture. Her father being a “sceptical,” she was educated by him in many matters including philosophy, though she eventually learns Christianity by age seventeen. After moving back to London, Mr. Selvyn dies and she is taken under the wing of Lady Emilia Reynolds. Here she encounters the London scene, with the inclusion of meeting Lady Mary Jones. After certain time period, Harriot and Lady Emilia move to the country, where they find that Lord Robert St. George lives close by, staging the scene of her rejection of his advances. Eventually she learns that Lady Emilia is her biological mother in a death bed confession. Having known Lady Mary Jones, she was able to connect with the women and their fledgling society.

Miss Harriot Trentham: Bearing the vestiges of beauty, she is a tall woman who has survived smallpox. Her mother died a month after child birth and her father died when she was eight, who left her with a considerable fortune in the care of her grandmother, Mrs. Alworth. Here she is raised with the woman’s other grandchildren and becomes good friends with one, Master Mr. Alworth. She is “traduced” by the other female grandchildren, making her bond with him stronger, yet when they are on the verge of marriage, his gaze strays to the coquette Miss Melman, whom he marries instead. Eventually he grew sad about his decision, and his lament causes Harriot to seek relief in the form of “many lovers” and general dissipation. Later, in the process of helping Mrs. Tonston, she acquires smallpox which nearly kills her, but ruins her beauty.  She ventures into the Cornwall area where she encounters the ladies of the Hall, who extend an invitation for her to join; from her fortune added, the society initiates the carpet and rug manufacturing business.

Mr. Hintman: An older man who owns land, he takes advantage of adopting Miss Mancel for the purposes of raising her to be his mistress, since his favorite vice is the “love of women.” This knowledge is hinted to her through Miss Melvyn acting on what Mr. d’Avora has learned, and thus makes her extremely uncomfortable because he is a father figure. Luckily for her, he dies before he can make his advances.

Mr. d’Avora: A traveled man who has seen misfortune, he is the Italian master to the best friends Miss Mancel and Miss Melvyn during their stay at boarding school. He becomes better acquainted with Miss Melvyn, though he helps Miss Mancel on more than one occasion: warning about Mr. Hintman, and helping Miss Mancel find a place when she finishes school. Eventually he becomes a part of the society as “a valuable friend and a useful assistant in the management of their affairs.”

Sir Charles Melvyn: Miss Melvyn’s father, he is a man who allows himself to be controlled, because he is an “easy-tempered, weak man who gave no proof of good sense but the secret deference he had to his wife’s judgement.” When Miss Melvyn’s mother dies, he remarries a woman who takes advantage of this defect of character to the extreme.

Lady Melvyn (mother): Miss Melvyn’s biological mother, she was a good woman who united with Sir Charles as the result of a planned marriage. Though she was not happy about the matter, she went on to teach her daughter the principles of “true religion” before her untimely death.

Lady Melvyn (step-mother): The second wife of Sir Charles. She was the kind who excited the “admiration of some, but pleased none”; a confident woman with traits of coquetry, she schemes against Miss Melvyn primarily out of jealousy, for the young woman is very pretty and smart, which threatens to lessen Lady Melvin’s panache. When Miss Melvyn returns home from school, Lady Melvyn seizes the opportunity to ruin her through a plot of a fixed marriage: she induces the rumor that Miss Melvyn has been in liaison with a young farmer named Simon; to prevent the possibility of scandal, the poor girl is coerced into marrying the old man Mr. Morgan. After the Hall has been formed and Lady Melvyn is widowed by the death of Sir Charles, she pays a visit to the society, only to be off-put by the dynamic of their endeavor. This does not keep the now Mrs. Morgan from helping the two daughters and son Lady Melvyn had with her father, since naturally, they are her half-siblings.

Mr. Morgan: The aged man of wealth who participates in the fixed marriage to Miss Melvyn. “Such a lover could excite no emotion in his mistress’s heart but disgust.” In his fear of being talked about behind his back, he insists that the now Mrs. Morgan cease her associations with her best friend, Miss Mancel. He lives with his sister Susanna Morgan, he always “drank hard,” and he eventually dies from complications of a “paralytic disorder,” leaving his wife with much wealth and estate which becomes the Hall.

Susanna Morgan: Sister to Mr. Morgan, she is fifty-five and cares for the home of her brother. She had many lovers in her youth, because her aunt had endowed her with wealth, but she eventually came to possess a penchant for being mean, so that “horrid grin then distorted her features, and her before lifeless eyes glistened with malice and rancorous joy.” When Mrs. Morgan moves in with her new husband, Susanna despises her. After many years of difficult living, Susanna bestows herself on a “young ensign” since she has wealth of her own, where the young man essentially sees no other option for life.

Simon: “The farmer where Miss Mancel lodged had a son”; this is the young man Simon of whom Lady Melvyn stages her deceit against Miss Melvyn. Much to Miss Melvyn’s dismay, Simon participates in the scheme under the offer of a type of bribery (“promising the farm”).

Lady Lambton: When Miss Mancel decides to move away from the now Mrs. Morgan, she is discovered by Lady Lambton, a woman who “piqued herself upon the opulence of her family and a distinguished birth, but her good sense, and many virtues, so qualified this one blemish, that it did not prevent her being a very amiable woman.” She gives affection to Miss Mancel, but the arrival of her grandson, Sir Edward, causes discomfort for the situation. He can only marry a woman of rank, a requirement that Lady Lambton will not let slide. Her persistence in the matter causes great distress for this couple who has fallen in love, where the tension forces Miss Mancel to move without him knowing.

Sir Edward Lambton: The twenty-three year old grandson of Lady Lambton, he comes home after Miss Mancel had been living with the woman for a year. Because his estate is burdened with debt (for reasons unstated), Lady Lambton requires that he marry a woman of substantial fortune; her real reason for not consenting to his desire to marry Louisa, however, is due to the “obscurity of her birth.” In this situation Lady Lambton stages a plan for Louisa to depart while Edward is away for a day on business. Upon his return he is filled with “rage and grief,” prompting him dramatically to join the military, where he ultimately dies in battle. The scene is tragic, for Louisa’s newly found biological mother had offered the money needed to situate Louisa as worthy of the match.

Mrs. Thornby: Taken by her beauty, Mrs. Thornby takes Miss Mancel as an employee, who disguises herself under the name of “Menil.” Mrs. Thornby digs for information about her until the conversations reveal, that Mrs. Thornby is Louisa’s real mother. Mrs. Thorby gained wealth from a second marriage (Louisa’s father died in America), and this wealth is transferred to Louisa upon a sudden illness and death.

Earl of Brumpton: The father to Lady Mary Jones with his second wife, who died of this childbirth. He himself died when Lady Mary was ten years old, leaving her with nothing because of financial complications with his first marriage.

Lady Sheerness: Sister to the Earl of Brumpton, she takes Lady Mary in to raise as her own. She was a widow with money who became engaged in the fashionable life and was possessed of a considerable sense of wit. Long after instilling her lifestyle into her niece, in London she becomes sick with “incurable disorders,” dying and leaving Lady Mary with nothing.

Mr. Lenman: During Lady Mary’s venture into the fashionable life, she develops an intrigue with Mr. Lenman. On a trip to Berwick she is injured in a horse riding accident; in this condition she learns that Mr. Lenman is a married man, his attempt at seducing her founded in the prospect of a “private marriage.”

Lord Robert St. George: After learning the truth about Mr. Lenman, back in London, Lady Mary meets Lord Robert amid the fashionable society. During a gambling adventure, he makes a sexual advance on her, claiming that her manners provoked his behavior. Later, he falls for Miss Selvyn, who rejects him for his general demeanor and his past with Lady Mary.

Lady Brumpton: Lady Mary’s step-half-sister, she helps Lady Mary when Lady Sheerness dies. Lady Brumpton cultivated a lifestyle of part repartee and wit, and part high intellect and education, a scene that becomes too extravagant for Lady Mary. Because she inherited the Brumpton wealth, Lady Mary becomes the next inheritor when she dies.

Lady Emilia Reynolds: When Miss Selvyn’s father dies in London, Lady Emilia gives her a home. A series of events and conversations reveal that she is Miss Selvyn’s biological mother. She had met Lord Peyton and they were destined to marry, but because his military service forced him into a hasty departure to Ireland, he desired to marry with undue expedience. Lady Emilia’s father would not consent to such a departure from tradition. In Lord Peyton’s endeavor to solve the problem by desiring an unorthodox private marriage, she felt shameful and declined for her father’s sake. Her pregnancy with him became an obvious illegitimacy, in which she had the baby at the Selvyn’s home; and since Mrs. Selvyn’s own baby had died, she gave her baby to Lady Emilia to raise as her own.

Lord Peyton: Miss Selvyn’s biological father. He was an army officer having to deal with being stationed in Ireland.

Mrs. Alworth: Harriot Trentham’s grandmother, she experiences some melancholy “having outlived all her children.” She takes care of her other grandchildren, who often give Harriot a hard time. She notices the trouble Harriot goes through in this and therefore takes particular notice of her. Eventually she dies leaving Harriot a fortune, and she also dies as a great-grandmother.

Master Alworth: Cousin to Miss Trentham, they are like brother and sister, for he is one of the grandchildren who does not taunt her. Later they become enamored of each other, but his attention becomes diverted by the coquettish Miss Melman. He marries this woman, only to regret having lost Miss Selvyn.

Miss Alworth (Mrs. Parnel): Another of Mrs. Alworth’s grandchildren, she gives Miss Trentham trouble because she, like the Denham sisters, suffers from a bit of jealousy. Her marriage to Mr. Parnel produces two children, the great-grandchildren of Mrs. Alworth, significant because they were born before she died.

Miss Melman: A “complete coquet, capricious and fantastical.” She singles out Master Alworth for his looks and money, and eventually they marry. She goes on to make him miserable with her coquettish ways, much to the extent that he has to venture to Bath, to gain a hold on his mental health.

Mr. Parnel: A man who falls for Miss Trentham, she rejects him while suggesting he turn his attention to her cousin Miss Alworth. Though he never truly loved her, through the marriage counseling of Miss Trentham, he eventually finds “peace and amity” in his marriage to Miss Alworth.

The Denham Sisters: Also Mrs. Alworth’s grandchildren, one becomes Mrs. Tonston, the other gets married as a result of being forgiven by Miss Trentham. Mrs. Alworth had denied Miss Denham the money she needed to fulfill her marriage plans, but when Harriot offers to pay, Mrs. Alworth is surprised by her spirit of generosity and forgiveness, and decides to provide the funds after all.

Neighbors Susan, Rachel and Jane: Women who have benefited from the philanthropy of the society of the Hall.

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The Way of the World by William Congreve

Act I

The young London man Mirabell and his friend Fainall have just finished playing cards in a chocolate house. Mirabell appears to have lost the game, but is not interested in continuing. Fainall notices something in him, but Mirabell passes it off for mood differences; the subject turns to Mirabell’s love interest, Millamant, and the nature of her flirtatious behavior occurring the night before. Mirabell mentions two jester friends involved, Petulant & Witwoud, but his thoughts truly turn sour at the thought of Millamant’s aunt, the endearing Lady Wishfort. 

A party seems to have occurred to which Mirabell’s presence was deemed unnecessary. Fainall’s wife–who is also Lady Wishfort’s daughter–and her friend, Mrs. Marwood, had attended the party as well. Fainall discloses that Millamant cannot marry with dowry unless her Lady Wishfort approves.

After describing the nature and name of the “cabal” group, a group consisting of the immediate women known to them, Fainall also discloses how Mirabell had once made advances toward Lady Wishfort, if only to procure his love for Millamant. Mirabell cannot help but to describe the old Lady in his own, less than generous way, though they admit denying the woman’s return advances was a mean, dangerous thing to do.

What becomes known is that Mrs. Marwood had exposed Mirabell’s behavior, and in this light, Fainall gets slightly pushy with Mirabell, accusing him of acting then experiencing a sense of “negligence.” Mirabell observes how Fainfall pursues the “argument with a distrust,” and their conversation ends. Mirabell then learns of his servant Waitwell’s wedding; he’s married Lady Wishfort’s servant, Foible. Upon gaining this knowledge, he’s presented with their marriage certificate. Fainall returns and Mirabell admits to being slightly jealous of Millamant’s flirtatious behavior sometimes, though he accounts for other times in which he’s outdone her intellectually.

The subject turns to the impending arrival of a one, Sir Wilfull Witwoud, half-brother to Witwoud. They discuss his age of 40 in relation to the man’s desire to travel abroad in Europe, and the connection between the two is evidently viewed as a national embarrassment. They speak of the rambunctiousness that rules him in spite of his natural inclination to be generally friendly; they consider his best quality to be his mastery over the understanding of “raillery.”

Witwoud enters the conversation and he holds his own in wit; he’s expecting his brother, and is also asked to procure his friend, Petulant. They describe Petulant with less emphasis on intelligence, and more on his “smattering”; the man lacks manners and possesses the continual urge to contradict people in conversation. Ultimately, Petulant’s primary trait is that he simply lies about everything.

Petulant is dropped off by three unseeming women. Petulant’s ranting is finally interpreted to reveal that if Lady Wishfort is to marry, that is, if she is to marry a man that is Mirabell’s uncle who is also on the way into town, then Mirabell cannot marry Millamant with the inclusion of her dowry. Mirabell demands to know the origin of this rumor, knowing full well that Petulant has stayed the night at Millamant’s house. Witwoud discloses how the “cabal” group speaks of the rumors. The conversation heads to a close, and Mirabell saves himself the displeasure of walking with the riotous two men, instead leaving with Fainall to the mall.  

Act II

Mrs. Fainall and Mrs. Marwood are carrying on about men. Mrs. Marwood feels women always revert to loving men, no matter the state of dread that their lives seem to encounter as a result of them. Mrs. Fainall, however, remains utterly misanthropic; she hates her husband. Turns out, Marwood was only joking. She claims she would like to marry for spite, only to behave in ways that would make her husband perpetually jealous. During this exchange, Mrs. Marwood claims to hate Mirabell.

Fainall and Mirabell enter, and Mirabell leaves with Mrs. Fainall. Fainall talks with Mrs. Marwood, speaking of his knowledge of both Mrs. Fainall’s and Mrs. Marwood’s love for Mirabell. He had allowed his wife to pursue Mirabell so that he could be with Mrs. Marwood, though he cannot help but notice how she interjects her interests into Mirabell’s affairs; this is to suggest that she must love him. Mrs. Marwood, to the contrary, insists she has no attraction for Mirabell. He pushes her to admit the truth, but she threatens to expose their own affair. The conversation reveals how Mrs. Marwood exposed Mirabell and Millamant near secret marriage, which would have deprived Fainall’s wife, Millamant’s cousin, of big money. Fainall expresses frustration at having married Mrs. Fainall for what money she already had, only to spend it on his love, Mrs. Marwood, but the talk of these types of trickeries upset her, and she begins to cry. Fainall pleads his sincere love for her, hoping to calm her down.

Mirabell and Mrs. Fainall speak of love, and she speaks of her love for him. They talk of her disdain for her husband; she can’t figure out why she married him. Mirabell provides the answer: it was the most economic source of reputation to be had in light of her presumed pregnancy. Fainall had the type of character to serve the immediate marital need, and for this explanation, Mrs. Fainall comes to understand. As a token of their friendship, he informs her of his “design” to fool Lady Wishfort so he can marry Millamant with the inclusion of the dowry. He will have his servant Waitwell act as his fake uncle, “Sir Rowland,” to marry Lady Wishfort. After this contract is signed, Mirabell will disclose the hoax and provide the document that will “release her,” the one that shows Waitwell is, in fact, already married; yet he will do so only upon the condition that she consent to his wishes. Mirabell adds to his world of trickery by invoking the suggestion–through Lady Wishfort’s servant, Foible–that Lady Wishfort should endeavor to have Millamant marry her 40yr old nephew, Sir Wilfull Witwoud.

Mirabell and Mrs. Fainfall spot Millamant approaching with Witwoud & Mincing. Mirabell comments on the lack of men tailing the vivacious Millamant about. She’s denied herself the privilege, she claims. Witwoud is in a witty mood and Millamant graces the group with her own, a round of remarks that result in Mirabell’s subtle comment about Fainfall’s infidelity. At any rate, Mrs. Fainfall desires to know what took her so long. Millamant complains of letters, and speaks of using them for hairpins–verse letters only. Mirabell & Millamant then follow their logic on cruelty and power, and the punishing of a lover. Mirabell feigns a sincere viewpoint on relationships and aging; Millamant assumes the cynical in disagreement, espousing the ideal of acquiring as many lovers as one needs. The conversation turns to the act of talking, and Witwoud speaks of a woman he knows who never stops talking.

Mirabell then accosts Millamant directly, disapproving of the way she neglected him the previous night. She laughs, chalking it up to the foundation of her freedom. He implores her to be serious, but she persists, finalizing their moment by disclosing her knowledge of his “design.”

Mirabell is surprised, then talks to himself about the insanity of being in love. Here, the newlyweds Waitwell and Foible arrive to confirm the motion of plans. Foible carries a small picture of her lady for presenting in the fake arrangement. Everything is getting under way in the fooling of Lady Wishfort, and Waitwell feels overwhelmed by the impending transformation into “Sir Rowland.” The scene does not end without a three-way discussion on payment for deeds done.

Act III

The boisterous Lady Wishfort is heckling her servant for make-up to deal with her face that has an “errant ash color.” The “paint” can’t be found and cherry liquor is sought for drinking instead. Mrs. Marwood enters the room. Lady Wishfort has been waiting on Foible’s return, yet Mrs. Marwood informs her sighting of Foible with Mirabell, a thought which mortifies the Lady. Foible arrives, the Lady asks Mrs. Marwood for privacy, and Foible enters into a spiel of lies. Foible portrays Mirabell as slandering Lady Wishfort to shreds for being a schemer. She’s grows enraged as Foible feeds her anger with more lies. The stormy activity has the Lady ready to marry this “Sir Rowland” immediately, primarily to avenger herself of Mirabell. By contrast, she also begins to believe, via Foible’s craftiness, that “Sir Rowland” is something of a prime gentleman that she truly feels the desire to marry.

Mrs. Fainall enters in the absence of the Lady to notify Foible of her being seen with Mirabell, and to inform that she knows of the entire plan. Foible understands well enough, and boasts her of success at dealing with her being spotted.

During this time, Mrs. Marwood has been in soliloquy, thinking on the plot she has learned by eavesdropping on Foible and Mrs. Fainall. Lady Wishfort returns to her, and they come to agree that the 40yr old Sir Wilfull Witwoud is to be a fine match for the darling young Millamant. 

The Lady leaves to prepare for dinner, and Millamant enters to speak with Mrs. Marwood. She is complaining about Petulant, that he contradicts everything said, a fitting behavior in light of the man’s name. The conversation turns into a dictum on the situation of the “fools” they have to deal with, yet in the process, Mrs. Marwood reveals that everyone knows about Millamant and Mirabell. Millamant insists it is no secret; in fact, she’s unclear why he’s secretive. In spite of, thinking on his behavior makes her laugh rather excessively. Mrs. Marwood reflects differently on the matter, reiterating her disdain for Mirabell, a disdain that Millamant appears to share in. Here Millamant expresses an odd affinity for Mrs. Marwood; a bizarre change in mood calls for a song to be sung by some woman in the next room.

[The song is about love, viewed as sickly when experienced by a vain, helpless person, that someone who is receiving the aim of affection is the one enjoying the reward of what amorous love has to offer.]

Petulant and Witwoud enter, and a conversation unfolds concerning the pettiness of their behavior. Millamant uses the subject to expose her wish for a man who cannot read or write. When Sir Wilfull arrives, Millamant takes her leave. He barely recognizes his brother Witwoud, yet demands to speak with Lady Wishfort. While waiting, Petulant and Witwoud play games with introductions, where a joke is made about Sir Wilfull’s boots and his horse that’s an ass. Finally Mrs. Marwood feels the need to formally introduce him; the brothers seem hesitant to embrace each other, though they exchange a series of sarcastic greetings. Witwoud has to explain that London is not the place for genial salutations between brothers. Sir Wilfull declares this to be the behavior of a city-pansy, the kind of traits he recognizes from Witwoud’s letters to home, the gradual change he noticed in the wording. The discussion recalls Witwoud’s past, one that amuses Petulant, yet Witwoud is grateful for his move to London, especially in light of his previous fate as a felt-maker in the country. Mrs. Marwood has to end the exchange by inquiring of Sir Wilfull’s plans to travel. Lady Wishfort and Fainall then enter the room; Sir Wilfull is to stay for dinner.

Fainall and Mrs. Marwood discuss matters. Fainall is disgusted by his wife’s betrayal, that she would willingly assist Mirabell. Since Mrs. Marwood has gained knowledge of the plan, it makes him angry that Mirabell might inherit the dowry money, Fainall’s would be share. Since Lady Wishfort loves her daughter, Mrs. Marwood suggests exposing Mrs. Fainall’s infidel behavior; the Lady would have to make a sacrifice to save her daughter’s reputation, and that would mean readjusting the inheritance.

These two discuss the possible results of effecting a plan that would ruin Mirabell’s plan. They ultimately decide that Mrs. Marwood will compose an anonymous letter to be delivered when “Sir Rowland” engages Lady Wishfort.  Mrs. Marwood is also confident she can dispell the Lady’s plan to marry Millamant to Sir Wilfull. Fainall worries not about his reputation since he is the cuckold; he has a contract on some of Mrs. Fainall’s money already. Should they split, he will marry Mrs. Marwood into it, though for some reason, Mrs. Marwood still feels the need to clarify her disdain for Mirabell.

Act IV

Lady Wishfort is anxious to meet “Sir Rowland.” She also remarks that she has ordered her nephew Sir Wilfull to address Millamant. When Millamant is posed with the option to speak with either Mirabell or Sir Wilfull, she avoids Mirabell for the latter. Foible is persistent on Mirabell’s behalf, and Millamant finally agrees to see him, if only with a lukewarm attitude, referring to him as a “wretch.” Millamant asks Mrs. Fainall to keep Sir Wilfull occupied, but she declines the honor. Sir Wilfull approaches, and Mrs. Fainall insists that he address Millamant immediately, even though he had tried to skip out.

Millamant responds to Sir Wilfull’s presence by continuing in her sudden mood of reciting poetry. Sir Wilfull cannot make out the reason for this, nor does he understand the “lingo.” He proceeds, however, to court her. Millamant is marveled, practically mortified, desiring to know exactly what a “walk this evening” would mean; she reverts to her naturally cynical disposition. Millamant knows nothing of his intentions, and she laughs when he talks himself out of the room.

Mirabell arrives to play the love interest, in spite of the callous atmosphere lingering in Millamant’s room. He discloses his persistence, and they begin to discuss the nature of marriage in a cynical manner. The Proviso Exchange to their marriage begins with Millamant’s uncharacteristic request, among others, of not appearing like a couple in love, a request Mirabell finds perfectly reasonable. He completes the exchange by listing his own unreasonable and restrictive rules, items that appall Millamant offensively. Her reaction thus seals the deal. Millamant is beside herself with frustration, but Mrs. Fainall arrives to have Mirabell vacate as Lady Wishfort is approaching, and that Foible wishes to speak with him as well. At this point, and quite out of the blue, Millamant confesses her true love for Mirabell.

The drunken Petulant & Witwoud enter to inform that a quarrel may or may not have occurred that concerns Millamant, that some plot exists somewhere to dispose of a “knight” that they cannot define. Sir Wilfull, too, enters drunk, boasting he will marry Millamant on command; Millamant observes his drunkenness and becomes disgusted. The sight provokes her to depart instantly. Lady Wishfort agrees that his drunkenness is to be deplored, wishing him to depart as well, yet the toper enters into a lecture on religion and drinking. His brother Witwoud finally leads the drunken man away.

Lady Wishfort then carries on with the arrived “Sir Rowland” in a series of apologies. Waitwell’s “Sir Rowland” is impossibly gallant, encouraging of a quickened marriage. The Lady is only vaguely skeptical, worried of her own reputation of a rushed marriage–she doesn’t want to appear desperate nor driven by some ulterior motive. The dancers Lady Wishfort requested for her elegant first impression upon “Sir Rowland” arrive, one of which has Mrs. Marwood’s letter for delivery. She is appalled at the suggestion that “Sir Rowland” is a fake, yet Waitwell claims the letter is written by Mirabell to fool her.

Suspicions fly when Foible participates in more rhetoric about sightings between Mirabell and Millamant, and “Sir Rowland” vows to fight for Lady Wishfort if need be. His intention is to substantiate the hand of the mysterious letter by offering to return with a box full of Mirabell’s handwriting. In this offer, he also declares he will return with a marriage contract for Lady Wishfort to sign, a proposition she hastily accedes to, yet all the activity, in the same vein, has made her somewhat happy.

Act V

Lady Wishfort is chastising Foible for her treachery. The Lady, it seems, had taken the girl in as a transient child and made something of her, thus her rage is all the more. Foible tries to explain Mirabell’s craft over her, and that she knew the intended plan would never work; she’s checked the law. Lady Wishfort remains unconvinced, and after declaring how her “turtle” is already locked up, declares Foible will be locked up as well.

Mrs. Fainall eases some of Foible’s discomfort, telling how Mrs. Marwood lay behind the mysterious letter, how Mirabell posted bail for Waitwell, who was caught during his feigned effort to retrieve letters, and how all is revealed about Mirabell and Mrs. Fainall. Foible, however, knows interesting facts about Mrs. Marwood and Fainall.

Mincing enters to tell Mrs. Fainall that Fainall has threatened divorce if he does not receive this money that Mirabell and Millamant are to marry for. Lady Wishfort prepares to marry her nephew, Sir Wilfull Witwoud, before she agrees to such a proposition.

Lady Wishfort then thanks Mrs. Marwood for all that the mysterious letter has done. Mrs. Fainall, on the contrary, is accused by her mother. She is forced to explain that she has pertinent information that concerns the honor of Mrs. Marwood. The Lady carries on to inform Mrs. Marwood how she had raised her daughter “catechised” to represent the very model of virtue, to loathe men for as long as youth would allow, and to be repellent to the opulence of London life. To think her daughter has been adulterous is beyond her imagination. Lady Wishfort pleas for an open acquittal, but Mrs. Marwood warns of the long string of public slander that would unfold should such an acquittal actually occur.

Fainall enters to iterate his contractual threats against Lady Wishfort, that she’ll marry no one unless he decides who, and that the Millamant share be endowed unto his wife. He leaves her with time to think on the matter.

Sir Wilfull Witwoud enters with Millamant to announce their engagement, all with Mirabell’s approval. Mirabell awaits to see Lady Wishfort in person to affirm this account, yet she cannot bear the thought of him being in her presence. Sir Wilfull, however, reaffirms everything, and adds that Mirabell intends to travel with him; yet at the insistence that Mirabell be allowed to enter, Mrs. Marwood grows suspicious.

Mirabell professes his need for Lady Wishfort’s pity, albeit with an extemely minute sense of pride in his failed attempt to fool her. Sir Wilfull, too, is very desirous to have the Lady bestow a measure of pity. She finally gives, upon the condition that Mirabell’s nulled intentions come with a signed document, to which the seemingly sad Mirabell willfully presents. The Lady, however, still doesn’t trust him.

Fainall returns to pressure Lady Wishfort. Sir Wilfull, Mirabell, Millamant, and Lady Wishfort all confront him with the news of Millamant’s impeding marriage to Sir Wilfull, that no deal can now exist with him. Sir Wilfull backs his own insistence with a gun, yet Fainall remains undaunted; he threatens to shame the Lady’s daughter. Mirabell, in spite of the animosity between him and Lady Wishfort, offers up his services genuinely, to which the Lady becomes willing to accept. Her surprise by his sudden, selfless generosity, that he knows he’s lost Mirabell and is yet willing to help, inspires her to approve of his love for Mirabell.

Foible and Mincing are brought in to testify to the Fainall/Marwood affair. Their testimony fills Mrs. Marwood with disgust. Fainall, disgruntled, threatens his wife with shame, and she retaliates by disclosing her utter contempt for the man. Here, Waitwell appears with the box full of letters, though Lady Wishfort jokingly addresses him as “Sir Rowland.” Mirabell inquires of the arrived Petulant & Witwoud; they are to recall notarizing one of Mirabell’s documents with their signatures. Before moving any further, Mirabell insists that Lady Wishfort not forget her promise to allow his union to Millamant, to which she now pleasingly consents. 

The result of this activity is a document produced, drawn up at an earlier date than the Fainall marriage at the warning of his questionably abusive reputation. The document places the once widowed Mrs. Fainall’s estate into the care of Edward Mirabell himself. Fainall is astonished; he flings himself at his wife. Sir Wilfull interferes, and Fainall threatens Mirabell with revenge. Mrs. Marwood expresses a prediction of future feelings of discomfort.

The group shares in mutual feelings of goodness, and Mirabell gets his girl. Lady Wishfort feels fatigued, and the men, Petulant & Witwoud, appear either indifferent or simply ignorant to the matter. Mrs. Fainall receives her document for protection, and the girl Millamant remains silent while Mirabell warns the audience, that those who marry in falsehood will somehow, in some way, ultimately pay a price.