William Congreve

Congreve was born in Bardsey, West Yorkshire, England (near Leeds). His parents were William Congreve (1637–1708) and his wife, Mary (née Browning; 1636?–1715); a sister was buried in London in 1672. He spent his childhood in Ireland, where his father, a Cavalier, had settled during the reign of Charles II. Congreve was educated at Trinity College in Dublin; there he met Jonathan Swift, who would be his friend for the remainder of his life. Upon graduation, he matriculated in the Middle Temple in London to study law, but felt himself pulled toward literature, drama, and the fashionable life. Artistically, he became a disciple of John Dryden. 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 April 30, 1695) and The Way of the World (premiered 1700), and one tragedy, The Mourning Bride (1697) Unfortunately, his career ended almost as soon as it began. After writing five plays from his first in 1693 until 1700, he produced no more as public tastes turned against the sort of high-brow sexual comedy of manners in which he specialized. He reportedly was particularly stung by a critique written by Jeremy Collier (A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage), to the point that he wrote a long reply, "Amendments of Mr. Collier's False and Imperfect Citations." A member of the Whig Kit-Kat Club, Congreve's career shifted to the political sector, where he held various minor political positions despite his stance as a Whig among Tories. Congreve withdrew from the theatre and lived the rest of his life on residuals from his early work. His output from 1700 was restricted to the occasional poem and some translation (notably Molière's Monsieur de Pourceaugnac). Congreve never married; in his own era and through subsequent generations, he was famous for his friendships with prominent actresses and noblewomen, including Anne Bracegirdle, for whom he wrote major parts in all his plays, and Henrietta Godolphin, 2nd Duchess of Marlborough, daughter of the famous general, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, whom he had probably met by 1703 and with whom he had a daughter, Mary (1723–1764). As early as 1710, he suffered both from gout and from cataracts on his eyes. Congreve suffered a carriage accident in late September 1728, from which he never recovered (having probably received an internal injury); he died in London in January 1729, and was buried in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.

The Way of the World is a play written by British playwright William Congreve. It premiered in 1700 in the theatre in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, England. It is widely regarded as being one of the best Restoration comedies written and is still performed sporadically to this day. The play is based around the two lovers Mirabell and Millamant (originally famously played by John Verbruggen and Anne Bracegirdle). In order for the two to get married and receive Millamant's full dowry, Mirabell must receive Millamant's aunt, Lady Wishfort's blessing. Unfortunately, she is a bitter lady who hates Mirabell and wants her own nephew, Sir Witwoud, to marry Millamant. Other characters include Fainall who is having a secret affair with Mrs. Marwood, a friend of Mrs. Fainall's, who in turn once had an affair with Mirabell. Waitwell is Mirabell's servant and is married to Foible, Lady Wishfort's servant. Waitwell pretends to be Sir Rowland and on Mirabell's command, tries to trick Lady Wishfort into a false engagement. Act 1 is set in a chocolate house where Mirabell and Fainall have just finished playing cards. A footman comes and tells Mirabell that Waitwell (Mirabell's male servant) and Foible (Lady Wishfort’s female servant) were married that morning. Mirabell tells Fainall about his love of Millamant and is encouraged to marry her. Witwoud and Petulant appear and Mirabell is informed that should Lady Wishfort marry, he will lose £6000 of Millamant’s inheritance. He will only get this money if he can make Lady Wishfort consent to his and Millamant’s marriage. Act 2 is set in St. James’ Park. Mrs. Fainall and Mrs. Marwood are discussing their hatred of men. Fainall appears and accuses Mrs. Marwood (with whom he is having an affair) of loving Mirabell. Meanwhile, Mrs. Fainall tells Mirabell that she hates her husband, and they begin to plot about tricking Lady Wishfort to give her consent to the marriage. Millamant appears in the park, and angry about the previous night (where Mirabell was confronted by Lady Wishfort) she lets him know her displeasure in Mirabell’s plan, which she only has a vague idea about. After she leaves, the newly wed servants appear and Mirabell reminds them of their roles in the plan. Act 3, 4 and 5 are all set in the home of Lady Wishfort. We are introduced to Lady Wishfort who is encouraged to marry ‘Sir Rowland’ – Mirabell’s supposed uncle – by Foible so that Mirabell will lose his inheritance. Sir Rowland is however Waitwell in disguise, the plan being to arrange a marriage with Lady Wishfort, which cannot go ahead because it would be bigamy, and Mirabell will offer to help her out of the embarrassing situation if she consents to her marriage. Later, Mrs. Fainall discusses this plan with Foible, but this is overheard

by Mrs. Marwood. She later tells the plan to Fainall, who decides that he will take his wife’s money and go away with Mrs. Marwood. Mirabell proposes to Millamant and with Mrs. Fainall’s encouragement, Millamant accepts. Mirabell leaves as Lady Wishfort arrives, and she lets it be known that she wants Millamant to marry her nephew, Sir Wilful, who has just arrived from the countryside. Lady Wishfort later gets a letter telling her about the Sir Rowland plot. Sir Rowland takes the letter and blames Mirabell of trying to sabotage their wedding. Lady Wishfort agrees to let Sir Rowland bring a marriage contract that night. By Act 5, Lady Wishfort has found out the plot, and Fainall has had Waitwell arrested. Mrs. Fainall tells Foible that her previous affair with Mirabell is now public knowledge. Lady Wishfort appears with Mrs. Marwood, whom she’s thanking for unveiling the plot. Fainall then appears and uses the information of Mrs. Fainall’s previous affair with Mirabell and Millamant's contract to marry him to [blackmail]] Lady Wishfort, telling that she should never marry and that she is to transfer all the money over to him. Lady Wishfort tells Mirabell that she will offer consent to the marriage if he can save her fortune and honour. Mirabell calls on Waitwell who brings a contract from the time before the marriage of the Fainalls in which Mrs. Fainall gives all her property to Millamant. This neutralises the blackmail attempts, after which Mirabell restores Mrs. Fainall’s property to her possession and then is free to marry Millamant with the full £6000 inheritance. Several aspects of the play give rise to critical discussion: 1. The love expressed in the play tends to be centered around material gain rather than the love of the partner. For example, with Mirabell and Millamant, the couple could go ahead and marry without Lady Wishfort's consent, only this will mean losing £6000, which is obviously of the utmost importance to them. This can also be seen in the scene where Millamant and Mirabell effectively carry out a pre-nuptial agreement, Millamant insisting on having all manner of liberties and powers, quite unusual for the time. 2. None of the characters in the play can really be seen as 'good' and as such it is difficult to find a hero or heroine, or indeed anybody you find yourself able to have sympathy for. 3. Although often regarded as a satire on the lives of the idle-classes in 1700, it is worth considering that the play itself might simply be a construction from this.

Cromwell, our chief of men, who through a cloud Not of war only, but detractions rude, Guided by faith and matchless fortitude, To peace and truth thy glorious way hast plowed And on the neck of crownéd Fortune proud Hast reared God's trophies, and his work pursued. While Darwen stream, with blood of Scots imbrued, And Dunbar field, resounds thy praises loud, And Worchester's laureate wreath: yet much remains To conquer still; Peace hath her victories No less renowned than War: new foes arise, Threatening to bind our souls with secular chains. Help us to save free conscience from the paw Of hireling wolves, whose Gospel is their maw.

"To the Lord General Cromwell" resembles Marvell's "Horatian Ode" (1430) only in its subject--Milton is a whole-hearted supporter of Cromwell's imperialist warfare against the Scots, and hopes the returning conqueror will have a similarly direct approach to handling the proposed law to license preachers (1652) which would offend against Milton's radical defense of free speech. The sonnet was composed in May, 1652, as the Cambridge MS. states, and on the occasion of the proposals of certain ministers at the Committee for Propagation of the Gospel (of which Cromwell was a member). The Committee was set up by the Rump Parliament to bring some order into the Church by licensing preachers and to examine methods of supporting a ministry other than by tithes, which, however, were to be maintained until the Committee reported. The proposals referred to were offered by a group of moderate Congregational ministers and recommended state support for the Church. Milton by this time was an advocate of the complete separation of Church and State, and relied on Cromwell's agreement, since he had long supported religious toleration. 5-6] The allusion to the overthrow of the monarchy and beheading of Charles I is obvious. God's trophies are memorials of victories in God's cause. 7] Darwen stream: referring to the battle of Preston. 8] Dunbar field: The Scots had acknowledged Charles II, on his father's execution. Cromwell invaded their country and defeated them, September 3, 1650.

9] Worcester: Cromwell's last great victory (1651); his "crowning mercy'' he called it; hence laureate wreath. 13-14] Milton had condemned the Roman Catholic priesthood under the image of the wolf (Lycidas 128-29) and the Episcopal clergy as mere hirelings (ibid. 11422), then the greed of the Presbyterian ministers (New Forcers of Conscience), and now he couples wolf and hireling in a similar condemnation of the ministers of the Committee.