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The Way of 17th Century in the Way of the World

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Introduction

The Way of 17th Century Society in The Way of the World The Way of the World is a popular English play written by William Congreve in 17th century. Like most plays in the Restoration period, The Way of the World is regarded as a satire on the lives of the idle-classes in 1700s. Ironically, it has been reported that in his later life, Congreve, never been married, had good friendships with several actresses and noblewomen, especially, Henrietta Godolphin II, Duchess of Marlborough whom he had a daughter with.1 Apart from this considerable contrast, his work, the Way of the World reflects many aspects of aristocracy's society in 17th century, which worth discussing. Firstly, according to the conversation between Mirabell and Millamant, readers could obviously see how marriage customs and gender roles performed in the Restoration period. ...read more.

Middle

On the other hand, a man would marry to an obedient lady to pursue neither love nor happiness but a rising in social hierarchy and her dowry because every woman was considered, together with her properties, a possession of the husband. Secondly, social hierarchy is another point critiqued in the play. For instance, when Mirabell asked Millamant to marry him and she replied "O, I should think I was poor and had nothing to bestow...," these couple of lines, although Millamant finally agreed to marry Mirabell, state that marriage between a noble and a peasant was unacceptable because the difference of social class. In the Restoration period, the medieval sense of rank and degree was still persistent and even became more rigid. On one hand, aristocrats were on the top of social order and played a dominating role in the country. ...read more.

Conclusion

We could see in the play that the favorite activities of these "idle-creatures" were going out to the Hyde Park, the theater and the mask party. Moreover, in order to be attractive or to provoke people's attention in the party, the 17th century ladies would dress in fancy dresses and it was common for them to wear a body-lace. Since 16th century, tight-lacing was the popular fashion in an attempt to support body, enhance breasts and make the waist appears smaller than it was naturally.3 Fortunately, the fair Millamant considered this a fulsome behavior. In conclusion, due to the fact that Congreve encountered with many noble women in his later life; therefore, it is possible to say that although often regarded as a satire on the idle-class life, it is worth considering that the play itself might simply constructed from what it criticized. 1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Congreve_(playwright) 2 http://www.socialpc.com/SocialIssues/Love-And-Marriage-In-The-18th-Century.html 3 http://www.history.org/history/teaching/enewsletter/volume6/may08/extreme_fashion.cfm ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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