Mirabell and Millament Relationship

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In The Way of the World, his last comedy, Congreve seems to come to realise the importance for providing an ideal pair of man and woman, ideal in the sense that the pair could be taken for models in the life-style of the period. But this was almost impossible task, where the stage was occupied by men and women, sophisticated, immoral, regardless of the larger world around them, and preoccupied with the self-conceited rhetoric as an weapon to justify their immoral activities within a small and restricted area of social operation. Congreve could not avoid this, and for this, he had to pave his way through the society by presenting a plot which, though complicated enough for a resolution, aims at the ideal union between the hero and heroine—Mirabell and Millament. They emerge as the triumphant culmination of the representative characters of the whole period, of course not types, for they are real enough to be human. Congreve endowed his hero and heroine with all the qualities typical of the society, but towards the end the qualities, if negative, are employed as guards against the venoms of the society. At the beginning of the play, we find Mirabell shaping up a situation so that he can win the hands of Millament and her estate as well from Lady Wishfort who has the rein of power over them. In this Mirabell is perfect Machiavellian: conscious of his surroundings. He is not at all a man from chivalric romance. That he is a past master in the game of love, of course, in the sense of the period, that is, sexual relationship—is evident from his past affairs with Mrs. Fainall, from Mrs. Marwood’s fascination towards him and, one many suspect, from Lady Wishfort’s unconscious longing for him. Moreover, Mirabell has mastered rhetoric to encounter men and women around them. Consistent with the irresistible charm of Mirabell, Congreve built the character of Millament. She is the perfect model of the accomplished fine lady of high life, who arrives at the height of...
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