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MonkeyNotes-The Way of the World by William Congreve
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Act III opens with Lady Wishfortís frantic efforts to disguise
her age as she prepares to receive Sir Rowland. Mrs. Marwood
tells her that she saw Foible talking to Mirabell in the park.
Foible avoids the early detection of Mirabellís plot by inventing
a story. She says that Mirabell stopped her in the park only to
insult Lady Wishfort. This disclosure results in Lady Wishfortís
determination to accept Sir Rowlandís proposal, with the
understanding that Sir Rowland will disinherit his unworthy
nephew, Mirabell. The dramatic tension increases when Mrs.
Marwood overhears the conversation between Mrs. Fainall and
Foible, who discuss the details of Mirabellís scheme. Foible
expresses surprise that Mrs. Fainall should be privy to
Mirabellís plot since she was formerly his mistress. Foible also
comments that although Mrs. Marwood loves Mirabell, he finds
her unattractive.

In the meanwhile, Sir Wilfull Witwoud, Witwoudís half-brother
and Millamantís suitor, arrives. He literally does not recognize
the foppish Witwoud, and Witwoud refuses to acknowledge his
relative from the country. Mrs. Marwood vows revenge for her
wounded vanity. She confirms Fainallís suspicion that his wife
is having an affair with Mirabell. As proof of her hatred of
Mirabell, she reveals the details of his plot to Fainall. Both of
them devise a counter plot to thwart Mirabell. Mrs. Marwood
plans to send an anonymous letter revealing Sir Rowlandís true
identity. Fainall says that he will get Sir Wilfull drunk so that he
cannot woo Millamant. He resolves to threaten to divorce his
wife on charges of adultery unless her entire fortune is handed
over to him. Mrs. Marwood is certain that Lady Wishfort, who
loves her daughter very much, will agree to Fainallís conditions.

Act IV opens as Lady Wishfort receives Sir Rowland. An
inebriated Sir Wilfull meets Millamant but is unable to propose
to her. Millamant and Mirabell discuss the conditions under
which they will marry in the famous "proviso" scene. Millamant
finally decides to accept Mirabell. In the meantime, Sir
Rowlandís wooing of Lady Wishfort is rudely interrupted by the
arrival of an anonymous letter revealing his true identity. Sir
Rowland (Waitwell) convinces Lady Wishfort that the
handwriting is that of Mirabell, who wants to prevent this
marriage since he will be disinherited. Foible adds credibility to
the story by saying that Mirabell had come to meet Millamant
earlier that afternoon. Lady Wishfort agrees to marry Sir
Rowland ostensibly on humanitarian grounds. Sir Rowland tells
her that he will come back with a black box containing the
documents of his estate to prove his identity. He says that he
will also bring a marriage contract for them to sign that night.

The concluding act is highly eventful. Fainall has exposed
Mirabellís plot. He has Waitwell arrested when he goes out to
get the papers. Furthermore, Fainall threatens to divorce his
wife on the charge of adultery unless her entire fortune is
transferred over to him. He also demands that Lady Wishfort
never re-marry so that he may be the sole heir of her estate.
Moreover, he demands the money that Millamant forfeited by
refusing to marry Sir Wilfull Witwoud, Lady Wishfortís choice
for her. Millamant decides to accept Sir Wilfull as her husband
to save her fortune. Mirabell is prepared to resign his contract
with her; but Fainall still insists on the fulfillment of the rest of
his conditions. He threatens to disgrace Mrs. Fainallís
reputation by dragging the matter through a public trial.

Mirabell offers to help Lady Wishfort, and she promises him
Millamantís hand as a reward. He calls in Foible and Mincing,
who attest to Fainallís adulterous affair with Mrs. Marwood.
Fainall still insists that he will blacken Mrs. Fainallís reputation
if they do not comply with his conditions. Mirabell then
produces his ultimate trump card. He produces a deed by which
Mrs. Fainall, as a young widow, had placed her property in trust
with him since she did not trust Fainall. Witwoud and Petulant
testify to the authenticity of the document. Thus, Fainall and
Mrs. Marwood are defeated by Mirabell. Sir Wilfull gracefully
relinquishes his claim over Millamant, and the two lovers are
finally united.

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MonkeyNotes-The Way of the World by William Congreve

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