British and Irish Literature William Congreve
by
Paul Baines
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0111

Introduction

William Congreve (b. 1670–d. 1729) represents for many the refined culmination of the tradition of Restoration drama. Congreve’s short novella, Incognita: or, Love and Duty Reconciled appeared in 1692, and his poems brought him to the attention of John Dryden who, with Thomas Southerne, assisted him in completing his first comedy, The Old Batchelour. After a less successful second comedy, The Double Dealer (1693), Congreve’s Love for Love (1695), established him as one of the principle comic dramatists of his time. He published an essay “Concerning Humour in Comedy” in 1696, and a sentimental tragedy, The Mourning Bride, strikingly popular in its day but regarded as unperformably wordy and statuesque in modern times. He responded tetchily, like many of the dramatists attacked, to the clergyman Jeremy Collier’s A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698), complaining that Collier had pruriently misinterpreted much of the text that he cited as bawdy. In his final comedy, The Way of the World (1700), however, he produced a comedy that was less exceptionable in the changing moral climate; though slow to gain approval, this is now regarded as his most interesting work. After this Congreve wrote little for the commercial theatre, and his sight began to fail. In 1710 he edited a three-volume collection of his own Works with the leading publisher Jacob Tonson, retouching the plays toward a more literary audience. He enjoyed cross-party literary acquaintance, including Swift, Pope, Addison, and Steele, and he contributed to a many-handed translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, edited by Sir Samuel Garth, in 1717. His last significant poem, the verse epistle, A Letter from Mr. Congreve to the Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Cobham (1728), on his genial literary retirement, was reprinted immediately after his death by the scavenging publisher Edmund Curll. The same publisher also produced, under a pseudonym, the first biography of Congreve, which, together with his will, attracted interest partly for its foregrounding of the women in Congreve’s life, which seemed to mirror the domesticated libertinage of his major plays. Congreve’s plays held the stage for much of the 18th century but declined under the Victorian moralistic censure that lingered over Restoration writing in general well into the 20th century. They began to be revived in the 20th century, as audiences became interested once more in style and wit. Academic criticism has found in the plays variously a deep moral seriousness, conflicted dramatization of social issues, and exemplary witness to changes in print culture.

General Overviews

Through the 20th century various attempts were made to establish a praxis of Restoration comedy, a grammar of conventions developed and used by individual dramatists: the comedy of manners, the comedy of intrigue, the comedy of wit. In part this was an attempt to establish a serious aesthetic ground for the enjoyment and study of this literature, in defense against post-Victorian critique of the supposed cynicism or depravity of the genre, often deemed merely representative of its degenerate time. This work tended to celebrate wit and structure, with an increasing attention to social critique and moral seriousness later in the century. The items listed here serve as key witnesses to the work of Congreve as a whole from different perspectives, accessible to new students and in some cases reference points for more developed research. Knights 1937 was in some ways essentially a latter-day attack on all of Restoration comedy from the point of view of F. R. Leavis’s doctrinaire Scrutiny group. At more or less the same time the novelist Virginia Woolf (Woolf 1947) was finding a proto-modernist energy of gesture and attention to the moment in Congreve. Knights’s assault provoked a series of critical responses, direct and otherwise, defending Congreve in particular on the grounds of the dramatist’s implied moral interest in realistic relationships and humane anxieties within and beyond the corruptions of wit, social gloss and artifice. Van Voris 1965 found a personal ethical stance (appropriate to a Whig hierarchy) in the aesthetics of the plays. Muir 1965 is a short, representative defense of the humanity and intelligence of the plays. Novak 1971, Love 1974, and Thomas 1992 all produced serious, sympathetic introductory studies to the plays in their milieu, still helpful places to start for new students of Congreve. More recently Hoffman 1993 offers a traditional single-author study showing the growth and development of dramatic technique and moral vision in Congreve’s career. Most of these studies are relatively untouched by theoretical positioning, but the growth of socio-historical approaches is also reflected in overviews, not least as a means of understanding literary work through its context. Modern accounts seek in the plays a dynamic sense of interaction between text and world rather than timeless and transcendent values.

  • Hoffman, Arthur W. Congreve’s Comedies. English Literary Studies 58. Victoria, BC: University of Victoria, 1993.

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    A defense of the moral vision developed by Congreve through the four comedies, particularly in the mature use of a Shakespearean sense of design in Love for Love and The Double Dealer; The Way of the World is seen here (as often) as Congreve’s answer to a changing moral sensibility after the Jeremy Collier onslaught.

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    • Knights, L. C. “Restoration Comedy: The Reality and the Myth.” Scrutiny 6 (1937): 122–143.

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      A classic diatribe, reminiscent in its way of Collier’s pamphlet, A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698), on the moral failings and lack of sincerity endemic in restoration comedy, seen as trivial, gross, and dull. Much of the subsequent history of Congreve criticism was devoted to rebutting this position.

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      • Love, Harold. Congreve. Plays and Playwrights Series. Oxford: Blackwell, 1974.

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        High-quality overview from an outstanding scholar of the period, describing the theatre for which Congreve wrote, then working through the four comedies. Love meets the objections of those who denigrate Congreve’s status as a dramatist, on both artistic and moral grounds, finding subtlety, generosity, and authenticity where others find banality, limitation, and evasion.

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        • Muir, Kenneth. “The Comedies of William Congreve.” In Stratford-upon-Avon Studies 6: Restoration Theatre. Edited by John Russell Brown and Bernard Harris, 221–237. London: Edward Arnold, 1965.

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          A lively chapter contributed to a set of essays on restoration drama at one of the key periods of interest in Congreve, defending his intelligence, wit, and relevance.

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          • Novak, Maximilian E. William Congreve. New York: Twayne, 1971.

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            Somewhat limited in scope but still a useful introduction that shows how the serious import of Congreve’s work is balanced with elements of comic play. Sees the plays more in the context of post-1688 culture than in the broad category of Restoration theatre.

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            • Thomas, David. William Congreve. English Dramatists. New York: St Martin’s, 1992.

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              Straightforward and accessible account of the plays and their literary, philosophical, and political implications, with useful material on performance issues and critical responses. Explains the plots of the plays in a way designed to be helpful to new students; overall sees Congreve using drama to explore contemporary social concerns with appetite and desire.

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              • Van Voris, W. The Cultivated Stance: The Designs of Congreve’s Plays. London: Oxford University Press, 1965.

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                One of the first really substantial monographs on the works, which are seen as embodying Congreve’s personal sense of values, which is that of an Epicurean (rather than simply Libertine or Libertarian) Whig gentleman. Shows how the plays delineate multifaceted characters in action, critiquing rather than reflecting social mores but offering the possibility of genuine ethical practice.

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                • Woolf, Virginia. “Congreve’s Comedies: Speed, Stillness and Meaning.” In The Moment and Other Essays. By Virginia Woolf, 30–38. London: Hogarth, 1947.

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                  Originally published in the Times Literary Supplement, 25 September 1937. Lively modernist appreciation, exploring Congreve’s ability to catch large movements in tiny slivers of action, gesture, and speech; stands against hostile judgments based on fixed moral principles, such as those of Samuel Johnson and L. C. Knights.

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                  Reference Works

                  As a major author, Congreve has attracted a certain amount of technical attention, as in the thorough concordance to the plays (Mann 1973). Scholarship on Congreve was analyzed and listed in the two well-researched volumes by Bartlett 1979 and Bartlett 1996. Beal 1987 provides an overview of the relatively scant manuscript material, now updated in online, open-access form, in the Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts (cited under Catalogues and Databases) Hodges 1955 lists what was then known of Congreve’s personal library, while Hodges 1964 gives readers access to core documents relating to Congreve, both biographical and literary, essential for serious scholarly research but of some interest to undergraduate students. Lyles and Dobson 1970 lists Hodges’s own collection of Congreve materials.

                  • Bartlett, Laurence. William Congreve: A Reference Guide. Boston: Hall, 1979.

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                    Very useful annotated guide to editions and criticism of Congreve from his death in 1729 up to 1978, with an introduction on critical tendencies and directions. Over 1,300 references, capturing much information not easily available elsewhere, including discussions of Congreve embedded within more general studies. Neutral and brief annotation.

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                    • Bartlett, Laurence. William Congreve: An Annotated Bibliography, 1978–1994. Scarecrow Author Bibliographies 97. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 1996.

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                      An extension of Bartlett 1979, offering commentary on a wide range of the scholarship published on Congreve during a period of high (and more highly theorized) activity. The main coverage is, as before, chronological, but includes minor items missed in the earlier publication. Introduction gives a useful account of recent critical trends.

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                      • Beal, Peter. “William Congreve.” In Index of English Literary Manuscripts. Vol. 2, 1625–1700 Part I Behn–King. Edited by Peter Beal, 137–151. London: Mansell, 1987.

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                        Descriptive catalogue of the manuscript traces of some of the more important English writers. In Congreve’s case largely a description of letters, documents, and post-publication manuscript copies of the writings, rather than literary autographs.

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                        • Hodges, John. The Library of William Congreve. New York: New York Public Library, 1955.

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                          Lists what was known of Congreve’s relatively substantial library and book subscriptions, based on a manuscript catalogue held by the Yorkshire Archaeological Society at Leeds. In its time a major scholarly resource. A revised view is available in McKenzie 2011 (cited under Collected Editions); see also Widmayer 2010 (cited under Biographical Approaches).

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                          • Hodges, John C., ed. William Congreve: Letters and Documents. London: Macmillan, 1964.

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                            Meticulously reproduces a full range of over 150 edited and annotated documents on which biographical narratives are based, affording the reader relatively unmediated access to the raw materials of Congreve’s life and world. Divided into personal, business, literary, and posthumous sections.

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                            • Lyles, Albert M., and John Dobson. The John C. Hodges Collection of William Congreve in the University of Tennessee Library: A Bibliographical Catalog. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Libraries, 1970.

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                              Bibliography of John Hodges’ own collection of 120 early Congreve editions and other items, forming the nucleus of a study of the author’s history in print.

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                              • Mann, David. A Concordance to the Plays of William Congreve. Cornell Concordances. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973.

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                                Facilitates simple keyword searching of the plays, using Davis 1967 (cited under Collected Editions) as source text. While keyword searching can now be done online through literary databases, this remains useful as an accurate prompt for thinking about individual word usage.

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                                Catalogues and Databases

                                While there is as yet no specific “Congreve” online resource, the study of Congreve, whether at undergraduate or more advanced level, has been recently much facilitated by the growth of text-based data sets, allowing not only access to texts for reading but also making keyword searching and textual comparison, inside and outside Congreve’s own productions, possible without entering the research library. Beal’s online version of Beal 1987 (cited under Reference Works), listing the somewhat sparse manuscript materials for the study of Congreve, can be viewed alongside ESTC’s record of publications up to 1800 involving Congreve. Images of early texts, from 1692 to 1800, can be accessed via Early English Books Online and Eighteenth-Century Collections Online. LION offers transcriptions from various sources of the plays and poems. Digital resources require careful use as in some case the optical character recognition systems do not deal perfectly with early printed texts.

                                Biographical Approaches

                                Congreve had in some ways a quiet and gentlemanly life in London once established there. He never married but was thought to have long-standing relationships with the actress Anne Bracegirdle and Henrietta, second Duchess of Marlborough, of whose daughter he was rumored to be the father. The first account of this decorously scandalous life, in itself typical of the refinement of manners over the period following a general clampdown on Restoration libertinage in the 1690s, was published under the pseudonym “Charles Wilson” by Edmund Curll in 1729 (dated 1730). Samuel Johnson’s short account (Johnson 2006), colored by moral prejudice about the theatre and Congreve’s perceived indolence, appeared in his series of biographical prefaces The Lives of the English Poets, 1779–1781. The first recognizably modern biography was published by Edmund Gosse in 1888 (Gosse 1924); it was reissued without much additional material in 1924, because of the revival of stage interest in Congreve attendant on several new editions. It was soon overtaken by Hodges 1941, which has not really been surpassed as a rounded study of Congreve as an individual. Reliable biographical overviews can be found in Holland 1989 and Ferdinand and McKenzie 2004, for students seeking a smaller scale introduction to the main features of Congreve’s working life.

                                • De Bruyn, Frans. “William Congreve.” In British Novelists, 1660–1800, Part 1: A–L. Dictionary of Literary Biography 39. Edited by Martin C. Battestin, 117–124. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985.

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                                  Judicious introduction but in this context naturally concentrates on Incognita at the expense of the subsequent developed career; another entry in the series, Holland 1989, is stronger overall.

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                                  • Ferdinand, C. Y., and D. F. McKenzie. “Congreve, William (1670–1729).” In The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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                                    Online edition, January 2008. Informed scholarly account by the editors of the most extensive edition of Congreve; an enormous improvement on the censorious account by Sir Leslie Stephen in the first Dictionary of National Biography (1885–1900). Accented more toward Congreve as self-editing refiner of literary works than to the dramatist engaged with theatrical life.

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                                    • Gosse, Edmund. The Life of William Congreve. New rev. enlarged ed. London: Heinemann, 1924.

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                                      In truth not very much enlarged from its original publication in 1888. Of interest as the first substantial and “modern” biography, relatively free from prurience and with some effort at reconstructing Congreve’s social context in a sympathetic way, but nonetheless in respect of documented biographical facts completely superseded by Hodges 1941.

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                                      • Hodges, John C. William Congreve, The Man: A Biography from New Sources. New York: Modern Language Association; London: Oxford University Press, 1941.

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                                        Indispensable guide to the life. Adds considerable archival material from Trinity College, Dublin, where Congreve was educated, and from the Public Record Office (now the National Archives) for details of his government posts and bank records. Seeks a sense of Congreve as a complex and sophisticated individual. Well-illustrated.

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                                        • Holland, Peter. “William Congreve.” In Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Dramatists: Second Series. Dictionary of Literary Biography 84. Edited by Paula R. Backscheider, 61–90. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989.

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                                          Substantial, accessible, well-informed, and incisive overview from a respected historian of Restoration drama, stressing the theatrical engagement. More comprehensive than De Bruyn 1985 in a different part of the series.

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                                          • Johnson, Samuel. “Congreve.” In Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets. Vol. 3. Edited by Roger Lonsdale, 65–74. Oxford: Clarendon, 2006.

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                                            Originally attached to an edition of the poetry, for which Johnson had little regard, but comments on the range of Congreve’s career, respecting his wit and quickness but mildly deploring the moral tendencies of the work. A storehouse of provocative quotations from a prominent 18th-century critic. Widely available in modern editions.

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                                            • Lynch, Kathleen M. A Congreve Gallery. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1951.

                                              DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674332676Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              Provides thoughtful insight into Congreve as an individual by offering biographical essays on several of his friends, particularly those of his youth in Ireland such as Joseph Keally, but also of figures such as Henrietta, Duchess of Marlborough, and Mary, Duchess of Leeds.

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                                              • Widmayer, Anne F. “Scandalous Will; or, Congreve’s Library and Female Power.” 1650–1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era 17 (2010): 37–55.

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                                                Studies the significance of Congreve’s bequest of his 620-volume library to Henrietta, Second Duchess of Marlborough (see Hodges 1955, cited under Reference Works) and the scandal concerning her life after his death; biographical focus with interesting ramifications about the status of women at the time.

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                                                Bibliographic and Textual Studies

                                                Little of Congreve’s literary work survives in autograph form, though much other material (letters and documents) is preserved in various repositories around the world. McKenzie’s scholarship on the few literary autographs known and on the bibliography of the Congreve canon, which as with most authors of the period has a certain amount of ascription problems, has been mostly incorporated in his edition (see McKenzie 2011, cited under Collected Editions), though some key articles are separately listed here as an example of the kind of evidence-based debate on which textual decisions are founded. Similarly, Frushell 1978 shows in detail the kind of significant textual change Congreve made between early printings of his plays and the considered text of 1710. Barnard 1964 is an example of how unattributed works are dealt with in this period, while Barnard 2007 studies the ways in which print culture and the business interests of publishers were instrumental in forming what came to be thought of as a “canon” of literature. Peters 1990 has had a lot of influence on readings of Congreve’s literary position, between the theatre and the printing press, and on studies of print culture more generally. This is probably the most accessible literary-critical account of Congreve deriving from book trade history, other work being more for use by research scholars.

                                                • Barnard, John. “Did Congreve Write ‘A Satyr Against Love’?” Bulletin of the New York Public Library 68 (1964): 308–322.

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                                                  Almost certainly not, given the lack of any real internal evidence and the presence of external evidence against the attribution. A model of bibliographical scholarship in the determination of questions of authorship.

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                                                  • Barnard, John. “Creating an English Literary Canon, 1679–1720: Jacob Tonson, Dryden and Congreve.” In Literary Cultures and the Material Book. Edited by Simon Eliot, Andrew Nash, and Ian Willison, 307–321. British Library Studies in the History of the Book. London: British Library, 2007.

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                                                    Finds Congreve in the company of the leading poet and the leading publisher of the day, a partnership that went some way toward engineering a literary canon through commercial manipulation and endeavor.

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                                                    • Frushell, Richard C. “Congreve’s Zara as ‘Off’ring to the Sex design’d’.” Analytical and Enumerative Bibliography 2 (1978): 116–123.

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                                                      Learned exploration of the significance of the many differences between early quarto printings and the 1710 revision of The Mourning Bride, concentrating especially on Zara’s speech in Act V, Scene 2.

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                                                      • McKenzie, D. F. “Typography and Meaning: The Case of William Congreve.” In Buch und Buchhandel in Europa in achtzehnten Jahrhundert. Wolfentutteler Schriften zur Geschichte des Buchwesens, Band 4. Edited by Giles Barber and Barnhard Fabian, 81–125. Hamburg, Germany: Ernst Hadswedell, 1981.

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                                                        Readable but controversial instance of the “sociology of the text” pioneered by McKenzie, looking at the way books were put together in their time, and the original mise-en-page of literary texts: in this case focusing particularly on the differences between the early quarto printings of the plays and Congreve’s revisions for Tonson’s edition of 1710. McKenzie’s theory of scene division has not commanded assent among theatre historians.

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                                                        • McKenzie, D. F. “A New Congreve Literary Autograph.” Bodleian Library Record 15 (1996): 292–299.

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                                                          Recording one of the few handwritten poems by Congreve, “Faded Delia moves compassion.”

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                                                          • McKenzie, D. F. “Another Congreve Autograph Poem for the Bodleian.” Bodleian Library Record 16 (1999): 399–410.

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                                                            Supplementing McKenzie 1996 with an account of “False though she be to me and love,” a handwritten revision of an early poem, after it had been published. Facsimiles of this and one other autograph poem provided.

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                                                            • Peters, Julie Stone. Congreve, the Drama, and the Printed Word. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990.

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                                                              Sophisticated and stimulating study of Congreve’s oral-theatrical medium in relation to what is now called print culture, with Congreve as a pivotal figure, both working dramatist and prominent print author, as interested in the appearance, design, purchase, and marketing of print objects as in the practice of the stage.

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                                                              Collected Editions

                                                              As an author whose canonicity survived Victorian scruples into the curricula of newly established English Literature departments in the 20th century, Congreve has been reasonably well served by scholarly editors seeking to explore the full range of his work. Congreve himself oversaw the production of a three-volume edition of his own Works with the most eminent publisher (and copyright owner of much of the contents), Jacob Tonson, in 1710. This was reprinted many times in the 18th century and naturally formed the basis of editions into the early 20th century, though considerable standardizing of format and modernization of spelling was practiced over the centuries, along with a certain amount of bowdlerization beyond Congreve’s own self-censorship. Replacing a much-reprinted but antipathetic edition by Leigh Hunt in the 1840s, Ewald’s daringly “unexpurgated” text, first published in 1887, was reprinted for the best part of a century but serious editorial work really began with Summers 1923. A popular and affordable scholarly text was made available by Dobrée in two separate but complementary volumes for Oxford University Press’s World’s Classics series (Dobrée 1925; Dobrée 1928). For many years the standard edition of the plays was Davis 1967. Most recently Donald McKenzie’s painstaking and exact edition of all the works plausibly ascribed to Congreve, in three volumes to mirror Congreve’s own edition, was prepared for publication after McKenzie’s death by Christine Ferdinand. Based, with extensive and clear logic, on the 1710 text, this has an unparalleled sensitivity to Congreve’s own design priorities and textual practices and is likely to form the default reference edition for literary scholars over the next century, though those wishing to study performance issues will continue to use Davis 1967. However, students not making technical points about variants would not be seriously misled by any of the editions from Dobrée onwards.

                                                              • Bateson, F. W., ed. The Works of Congreve. Comedies, Incognita, Poems. London: Peter Davies 1930.

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                                                                Solid one-volume edition of the most important works, based on Congreve’s Works of 1710 by a reputable scholar. Useful as a reference text, though superseded by later scholarly editions.

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                                                                • Davis, Herbert, ed. The Complete Plays of William Congreve. Curtain Playwrights Series. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1967.

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                                                                  Presents the plays only, in original spelling, based on first quarto printings rather than the revised and slightly moralized texts of 1710. Light explanatory notes with fuller textual collation at the end. The default reference edition for decades, though some subsequent editors felt it reproduced too much of the printing house clutter of the early copies.

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                                                                  • Dobrée, Bonamy, ed. Congreve: Comedies. World’s Classics. London: Oxford University Press, 1925.

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                                                                    Also includes the text of Congreve’s essay “Concerning Humour in Comedy.” Based on the text of 1710, with an introductory essay on Congreve’s style in relation to Restoration comedy in which the editor values the aesthetic pleasure rather than the moral values of the plays.

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                                                                    • Dobrée, Bonamy, ed. Congreve: The Mourning Bride. Poems and Miscellanies. World’s Classics. London: Oxford University Press, 1928.

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                                                                      Like Dobrée 1925, based on 1710. Includes discourses, miscellany poems, Incognita, the response to Collier, and letters. Taken in conjunction with Dobrée 1925, this presents a relatively full, serious edition for a popular market (as opposed to the expensive Nonesuch Press edition by Summers 1923) and indeed is a better text than Summers’s.

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                                                                      • Ewald, Alexander Charles, ed. William Congreve: Complete Plays. The Best Plays of the Old Dramatists, “Unexpurgated Edition.” London: Vizetelley, 1887.

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                                                                        Much reprinted, into the 1960s, as the “Mermaid” edition. Includes all five plays, which it treats with a faint air of distaste proper to the late Victorian gentlemanly editor. Nonetheless, this edition marks the beginning of a revival of interest in the plays in a more or less accurate form.

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                                                                        • McKenzie, D. F., ed. The Works of William Congreve. Prepared for publication by C. Y. Ferdinand. 3 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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                                                                          An outstanding work of scholarly editing; its meticulous attention to Congreve’s practices disrupts the idea of a monumental final text, leading instead through a history of textual development, revision, and typographic issues. Capacious: includes extensive collation of variants, the music for the plays, and material on performance, attribution, portraits of Congreve, literary allusions to him, and work on Congreve’s library. Less useful for those studying performance aspects of the plays, as it is based on Congreve’s later “literary” reworking of the texts.

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                                                                          • Summers, Montague, ed. The Complete Works of William Congreve. 4 vols. London: Nonesuch, 1923.

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                                                                            This was the first edition to return to the first Quarto editions of the plays and early editions of other works, rather than using the 1710 edition as copytext. Handsomely produced, it contained much annotation, from which other editors have drawn freely. A document of its period in the revival of Restoration theatre.

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                                                                            Editions of Individual Works

                                                                            The separate early quarto printings of the plays were republished in separate facsimile reprints by the Scolar press in the 1970s, without annotation or any other editorial intervention. Digitized versions of these original early texts can now be seen in online databases such as Early English Books Online and Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (see Early English Books Online and Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, both cited under Catalogues and Databases. Congreve being a relatively well-known and (until fairly recently) much-performed dramatist, individual plays have become enshrined in various series of drama reprints (New Mermaids, Regents Drama), particularly in the case of The Way of the World, where the number of editions reflects its modern standing in the theatre and in the academy. The Old Batchelour, however, has received no separate editions in modern times, apart from a Scolar Press facsimile of the 1693 Quarto published in 1972 and is thus excluded. The facsimile musical edition of The Judgment of Paris (Platt 1984) is an indication of a shift in attention toward details of performance previously considered as “background,” also mirrored in McKenzie 2011 (cited under Collected Editions). Separate individual editions of the plays are particularly useful for undergraduate students and general readers requiring some contextual guidance in Congreve’s now rather unfamiliar idiom and some elucidation of phrases, vocabulary, and conventions, as most have annotation and critical introductions.

                                                                            Incognita

                                                                            Congreve’s novella Incognita is often included in anthologies of early fiction or prose, of no textual interest, but there are two separate editions worth mentioning: Brett-Smith 1922 was an attempt to reproduce something close to an early urtext of the novella, while Jeffares 1966 usefully placed the novella in the context of Congreve’s dramatic career.

                                                                            • Brett-Smith, H. F. B., ed. Incognita: or, Love and Duty Reconcil’d. Percy Reprints. Oxford: Blackwell, 1922.

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                                                                              Close textual reprint of the first edition of 1692 with a brief contextual and good textual statement. Few explanatory notes, but gives a good sense of the feel of the text in “old spelling.”

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                                                                              • Jeffares, A. Norman, ed. Incognita and the Way of the World. London: Edward Arnold, 1966.

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                                                                                Critical introduction setting out the connections between the early novelistic and the late dramatic work. Some explanatory notes on page and textual notes at end; text of Incognita based on Brett-Smith 1922 but with some different decisions on punctuation; Way of the World based on the second quarto edition of 1706.

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                                                                                The Double-Dealer

                                                                                The Double-Dealer is the only one of Congreve’s earlier plays to be accorded the honor of a separate edition (Ross 1981).

                                                                                • Ross, J. C., ed. The Double Dealer. New Mermaids Series. London: Ernest Benn, 1981.

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                                                                                  Modernized text and incisive critical introduction, including a section on stage history. Useful textual and explanatory notes, with an appendix on the music of the play.

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                                                                                  Love for Love

                                                                                  Love for Love is the play that really established Congreve as a leading literary figure and held by some to be a more satisfactory stage play than The Way of the World. These editions all date originally from a period of intense activity in Congreve studies and were published in academically reputable series of classic plays. Jeffares 1967 presents the play in the spelling of Congreve’s era, whereas Avery 1966 modernized spelling and punctuation. Kelsall 1999 provides a good modern introduction to the play.

                                                                                  • Avery, Emmett L., ed. Love for Love. Regents Restoration Drama Series. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

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                                                                                    Modernized text based on first Quarto edition; brief textual and explanatory notes. Includes a chronology of Congreve and his times. With a critical introduction commending the play as highly readable, a good stage vehicle, and endowed with a clear moral design.

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                                                                                    • Jeffares, A. Norman, ed. Love for Love. Macmillan’s English Classics, New Series. London: Macmillan, 1967.

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                                                                                      Old-spelling edition. In the introduction the editor regards the play as Congreve’s best in purely dramatic terms, because of its relatively straightforward and accessible plot structure.

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                                                                                      • Kelsall, Malcolm, ed. Love for Love. London: New Mermaids, 1999.

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                                                                                        A revision of the edition published in London by Ernest Benn in 1969. Includes summaries of each act and commentary throughout, with a lively critical introduction.

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                                                                                        The Way of the World

                                                                                        The Way of the World is by far the most popular play of Congreve in the modern theatre and in academic criticism because of its accomplished witty exchanges, tense stand-off between female and male leads, and complex depiction of social mores. Jeffares 1966 gives readers the benefit of seeing Congreve’s last play alongside his early “theatrical” novella. Barnard 1972 retains the spelling of Congreve’s own time, whereas Lynch 1965 modernizes. The updated modern-spelling edition Gibbons 1994 in the New Mermaids series would probably now be the most useful for students, especially those studying performance aspects, but all of the others listed here, again deriving again from the period of most activity in Congreve studies, have points to commend them and are accessible to general readers.

                                                                                        • Barnard, John, ed. The Way of the World. Fountainwell Drama Series 17. Edinburgh, UK: Oliver and Boyd, 1972.

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                                                                                          Old spelling text. Introduction concentrates on moral qualities of judgment and analysis displayed by the characters in the face of the requirement to play money and calculation against human feeling.

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                                                                                          • Gibbons, Brian, ed. The Way of the World. New Mermaids. London: Black, 1994.

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                                                                                            A revision of Gibbons’s earlier text in the series, published in 1971. Based on the first quarto (1700) with collation from other early editions. Modernized spelling. Introduction explores the play’s stage history, with photographic illustrations; holds that the play values human affection and moral conciliation beneath highly coded social exchanges.

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                                                                                            • Jeffares, A. Norman, ed. Incognita and the Way of the World. London: Edward Arnold, 1966.

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                                                                                              (See also Editions of Individual Works: Incognita) The play fulfills a kind of promise in the early “dramatic” novella with which it is paired by probing into the possibilities of genuine human relationships within the coded social façade.

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                                                                                              • Lynch, Kathleen M., ed. The Way of the World. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965.

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                                                                                                Modernized text based on first quarto of 1700, with textual variants and some explanatory notes. Short critical introduction showing how the play explores and exploits its artificial world with critical insight, elegance, and wit. Includes a chronology.

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                                                                                                The Judgement of Paris

                                                                                                There is only one separate edition of this masque to note, Platt 1984, which reproduces a facsimile text of The Judgement of Paris in a series of music-theatre editions.

                                                                                                • Platt, Richard. “Introduction.” In The Judgment of Paris. Music for London Entertainment 1660–1800. Volume 1, Series C. Edited by Curtis Price and Stanley Sadie. Tunbridge Wells, UK: Richard Macnutt, 1984.

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                                                                                                  Facsimile edition with sensible introduction, issued as part of a series designed to recover a fuller sense of theatrical life in the restoration and 18th-century capital by focusing on the musical presence on stage.

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                                                                                                  Contextual Histories

                                                                                                  The 20th century saw a huge revival in the critical fortunes of restoration drama: there were many historical and chronological studies, almost all of which allotted Congreve a prominent role, normally as some sort of culmination of a tradition, which then gave way to newer forms of sentimental or domestic comedy in the 18th century. Many early writers appeared almost embarrassed to be writing seriously about a genre that was regarded as artificial or immodest, but from Dobrée 1924 and Lynch 1926 onward there is a noticeable urgency and confidence about the study of Congreve and his contemporaries. Fujimura 1952 argues that Dobrée 1924 and Lynch 1926 had made the comedy too reliant on artifice and illusion and that book and Holland 1959 were for a generation of scholars and students the key works outlining a redefined, intelligent genre of restoration comedy. Birdsall 1970 followed, for example, by celebrating the development of witty heroes. Hume 1976 and Hughes 1996 give comprehensive accounts of the development of stage writing over the period, allowing Congreve to stand as less of an isolated literary monument and more of an engaged working dramatist amongst many others. Burns 1987 detects a more fragile and elegiac note in Congreve’s end-of-era sensibility.

                                                                                                  • Birdsall, Virginia Ogden. Wild Civility: The English Comic Spirit on the Restoration Stage. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970.

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                                                                                                    Charts the development of the successful witty rake-hero as a kind of ideological center for drama, culminating in three chapters on Congreve’s comedies (chapters 8–9, pp. 178–248).

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                                                                                                    • Burns, Edward. Restoration Comedy: Crises of Desire and Identity. Houndmills, UK: Macmillan. 1987.

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                                                                                                      Reads Congreve (chapter 9, pp. 183–211) as self-consciously aware of his status as the “final” dramatist of restoration comedy.

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                                                                                                      • Dobrée, Bonamy. Restoration Comedy 1660–1720. London: Oxford University Press, 1924.

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                                                                                                        Short study, including a chapter on Congreve (chapter 8: pp. 121–150), setting out the grounds for a revaluation of the genre, but tending to find Congreve too clever for his own dramatic good.

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                                                                                                        • Fujimura, Thomas H. The Restoration Comedy of Wit. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1952.

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                                                                                                          Enormously influential study that disputed the dominance of “manners” as the key to understanding restoration comedy, as identified in many early studies such as John Palmer’s The Comedy of Manners (1913) and others; Fujimura sought real intellectual substance in the culture of “wit” displayed and discussed in the plays, using a definition provided by Congreve in the preface to The Way of the World. Chapter 7 (pp. 156–196) is directly on Congreve.

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                                                                                                          • Holland, Norman N. The First Modern Comedies: The Significance of Etherege, Wycherley and Congreve. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1959.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674498518Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Another book championing the substance, interest and relevance of the genre, reading play by play, with separate chapters (chapters 12–15, pp. 131–198) on Congreve’s comedies.

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                                                                                                            • Hughes, Derek. English Drama 1660–1700. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198119746.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              An attempt to place more or less the whole of restoration drama into lucid chronological and generic order. Congreve here surfaces from a much more detailed context of dramatic writing than is usual in general studies.

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                                                                                                              • Hume, Robert D. The Development of English Drama in the late Seventeenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon, 1976.

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                                                                                                                Based on an extraordinarily wide knowledge of theatrical history and practice and an unusually comprehensive awareness of the range of dramatic writing in the period, traces formal developments and theatrical fashions in great detail, commenting on Congreve’s plays at several points.

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                                                                                                                • Lynch, Kathleen M. The Social Mode of Restoration Comedy. New York: Macmillan, 1926.

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                                                                                                                  One of the first serious academic studies of the genre, placing Congreve (chapter 7, pp. 96–125) in the tradition of what Lynch calls “precieuse dialogue,” that is, witty verbal play.

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                                                                                                                  Collections of Criticism

                                                                                                                  As an author popular in his own lifetime, Congreve attracted attention and comment even before the advent of formal theatre reviews or literary criticism as now understood. Significant early views are gathered judiciously in Lindsay and Erskine-Hill 1989, following a mix of early and later comment in Lyons 1982 and Person 1987. Morris 1972 and Williams, et al. 1971 indicate much of the range of argument in academic circles during the high period of Congreve’s literary-critical popularity in the early seventies, matching the production of individual editions of the plays noted in Editions of Individual Works.

                                                                                                                  • Lindsay, Alexander, and Howard Erskine-Hill, eds. William Congreve: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge, 1989.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.4324/9780203197790Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Enormously useful collection of early critical material up to the end of the 18th century, with a further section covering the later decline of Congreve’s reputation down to 1913. Authors quoted include Dryden, Swift, Steele, Dennis, Fielding, Johnson, Inchbald, and Byron. Complemented by the section of “Allusions” in the McKenzie 2011 edition (cited under Collected Editions)

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                                                                                                                    • Lyons, Patrick, ed. Comedies: “The Old Bachelor,” “The Double-Dealer,” “Love for Love,” “The Way of the World”: A Casebook. London: Macmillan, 1982.

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                                                                                                                      A collection of extracts, moving from Collier and Johnson through 19th-century appreciations and into the modern period, with some specifically theatrical material. A starting point for the study of Congreve’s reputation as it moved from the theatre toward literary criticism.

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                                                                                                                      • Morris, Brian, ed. William Congreve. Mermaid Critical Commentaries. London: Ernest Benn, 1972.

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                                                                                                                        Material from an evidently lively symposium on Congreve held in 1970, offering resistance to the idea that Congreve had little or no moral sense, though this view is to some extent preserved in one contribution (pp. 21–38). Contributions on Congreve’s relation to Ben Jonson, wit, Christianity, stagecraft, characterization, literary inheritance, and ideology.

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                                                                                                                        • Person, James E. “William Congreve.” In Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800. Vol. 5. Edited by Dennis Poupard, 62–119. Detroit: Gale, 1987.

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                                                                                                                          Useful collection of early comments on Congreve’s work from the informal practice of literary theory in the 18th century, though to a certain extent superseded by Lindsay and Erskine-Hill 1989.

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                                                                                                                          • Williams, Aubrey, Maximillian E. Novak, and H. T. Swedenberg. Congreve Consider’d. Los Angeles: William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA, 1971.

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                                                                                                                            Two well-argued essays (Williams and Novak) with an introduction (Swedenberg). Williams discerns religious patterns of piety and poetic justice in The Mourning Bride, and Novak finds a hopeful sense of intelligent respect between the sexes emerging from within a context of libertinage and scandal across the range of comedies.

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                                                                                                                            Religion and Society

                                                                                                                            Much of the critical approach to the world Congreve depicts has concentrated on the political implications of heterosexual romance (see also Sexual Politics), but some attention has been also been paid to more general social and moral issues. Rosowski 1976 outlines a coherent developmental position on the place of the individual in society through the course of the four comedies, while Wertheim 1986 shows how the plays increasingly moved toward a novelistic understanding of the social relationship between money, desire, and marriage. Moving in what proved to be an anomalous direction, Williams 1979, building on earlier work on individual plays, attempts to show that a providential pattern of action was at the core of Congreve’s vision of the individual’s place in the world; this position was cogently refuted by Love 1983 and Hughes 1986, among others, and has generally been neglected except as a position to argue against and thus illuminate other aspects of the plays and their context.

                                                                                                                            • Hughes, Derek. “Providential Justice and English Comedy 1660–1700: A Review of the External Evidence.” Modern Language Review 81 (1986): 273–292.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/3729695Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              Following Love 1983, a further and perhaps final answer to the thesis of Williams 1979, pointing out the operative conventions of the drama of the time.

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                                                                                                                              • Love, Harold. “Was Congreve a Christian?” In Drama and Religion. Themes in Drama 5. Edited by James Redmond, 293–309. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

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                                                                                                                                Accomplished unpicking of the “providentialist” argument of Williams 1979.

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                                                                                                                                • Rosowski, Susan J. “Thematic Development in the Comedies of William Congreve: The Individual in Society.” SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 16 (1976): 387–406.

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                                                                                                                                  Describes a progression in the comedies from examination of society as a whole, through social effects on the individual and individual responsibility, to a study of the individual defined in relation to social context.

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                                                                                                                                  • Wertheim, Albert. “Romance and Finance: The Comedies of William Congreve.” In Comedy from Shakespeare to Sheridan: Change and Continuity in the English and European Dramatic Tradition. Edited by A. R. Braunmuller and J. C. Bulman, 255–273. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1986.

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                                                                                                                                    Shows how all four comedies consider the marriage/money nexus, from comic subplot issues to the fuller development of Love for Love, where the heroine has unusual autonomy, and the conflicts of The Way of the World, where the primacy of love is challenged by the novelistic complications of dowry arrangements.

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                                                                                                                                    • Williams, Aubrey L. An Approach to Congreve. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979.

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                                                                                                                                      A full monograph collecting and developing Williams’s own earlier essays on the theme of providence and poetical justice in the five plays and the novella, which Williams sees as connected to and guaranteed by a Christian worldview. The position has commanded virtually no general assent so far as the comedies are concerned but remains a useful starting point for argument. Particularly cogent rebuttals of the thesis are found in Love 1983 and Hughes 1986.

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                                                                                                                                      Sexual Politics

                                                                                                                                      As an explorer of relationships, desire, marriage, and social life, Congreve has naturally featured in studies of gender and politics, and the relations between the two, since the 1980s, when these aspects of literary study emerged as of particular interest. Much of this work focuses on The Way of the World, and particular the “contract scene” between Mirabell and Millamant, and such items are listed under critical responses to that play individually (see also Critical Assessments: The Way of the World). More general treatments have often a feminist slant, seeking out both positive and negative aspects of the portrayal of women in relation to power in Restoration drama (Pearson 1988; Young 1997), but there is also treatment of masculine roles, particularly the developing and changing idea of the “rake” from the sexual adventurers of Wycherley’s plays to the version of self-reforming libertine in The Way of the World (Braverman 1993). Theoretically adept readings have come in particular from Markley 1988, which offers a Bakhtinian analysis of issues of style and ideology in Congreve’s plays, and from Velissariou 2008, which sounds a cautionary note in relation to the modernity of Congreve’s respectful treatment of relationships by pointing out aspects of dominant masculinity that remain within companionate structures.

                                                                                                                                      • Braverman, Richard. Plots and Counterplots: Sexual Politics and the Body Politic in English Literature, 1660–1730. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                        Interprets Congreve’s plots, particularly The Mourning Bride and The Way of the World, as essentially Whig versions of historical myth and social action respectively. The lone rake of an earlier Restoration culture, associated with Royalist excess, gives place to a post-1688, Williamite bourgeois man of the world as the focus for intelligent action. Refines earlier positions on libertines and rakes in the comedies.

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                                                                                                                                        • Markley, Robert. Two-Edg’d Weapons: Style and Ideology in the Comedies of Etherege, Wycherley and Congreve. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                          Subtle discussion, tracing a revisionist history of style theory from Jonson and Fletcher through to Congreve, influenced by the dialogic criticism of Mikhail Bakhtin and postmodern accounts of discourse. The comic wit of the later period is seen as a mode of debate about political and sexual values.

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                                                                                                                                          • Pearson, Jacqueline. The Prostituted Muse: Images of Women and Women Dramatists 1642–1737. New York: St. Martin’s, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                            Full-scale study of issues pertaining to the emerging generation of women dramatists in the period, alongside an analysis of female characters on stage at the same time. Includes an influential study of Congreve’s heroines and their ambivalent relation to power.

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                                                                                                                                            • Velissariou, Aspasia. “The Hobbesian Other in Congreve’s comedies.” Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research 23 (2008): 68–81.

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                                                                                                                                              Scrutinizes in a theorized way Congreve’s supposed political commitment to consensual and companionate marriage by suggesting that the Hobbesian will to power is given very strong presence in the plays, with male characters often able to provide the solution to their own plot complications, not least by a dominant ordering of female “error.”

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                                                                                                                                              • Young, Douglas M. The Feminist Voices in Restoration Comedy: The Virtuous Women in the Play-Worlds of Etherege, Wycherley and Congreve. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                Identifies a positive emergence of witty female characters with a quasi-modern will to autonomy and discusses the differences in presentation between the three dramatists. A reference point for optimistic readings of sexual politics, challenged in relation to Congreve’s last play; see also Critical Assessments: The Way of the World.

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                                                                                                                                                Stage History and Dramatic Theory

                                                                                                                                                Congreve’s plays were very popular with audiences during his lifetime and through the 18th century, falling out of favor on the supposition that they privileged wit and sexual charisma over morality in the 19th century. They were much revived in Britain (and America) in the 20th century, as Taney 1985 records, without ever quite regaining full repertory status. Avery 1951 shows in detail the performance history of the plays for the first century after they were first staged. Hughes and Scouten 1981 is an example of detailed work on theatrical practice involving Congreve’s plays after he had ceased to work directly with the theatre. Styan 1987 was a pioneering attempt to look closely at what is known of actual performance styles and the use of theatrical space in Congreve’s period. Weber 1985 looks at one particular device, disguise, and its transformation from literal to metaphorical, in Congreve’s work. There are many general books about Restoration theatre and comedy in particular; Holland 1979 is to be recommended as one that marries attention to aspects of casting and staging with cultural and literary analysis of the plays in comparison with the work of other dramatists. Milhous and Hume 1985 gives a stimulating account of possible stagings of restoration plays including Love for Love. Markley 1988 (cited under Sexual Politics) also places Congreve in comparison with earlier Restoration dramatists but seeks explanations further back in literary history with the Jacobean dramatists. Weber 1997 sees Congreve as detaching himself from this inheritance for reasons of taste and class.

                                                                                                                                                • Avery, Emmett L. Congreve’s Plays on the Eighteenth-Century Stage. Monograph Series 18. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1951.

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                                                                                                                                                  Covers the stage history of the plays in chronological sections, up to the beginnings of a decline in popularity. Includes a catalogue of performances across the century, enabling an assessment of the relative popularity of each and showing the relative slowness of The Way of the World to gain a foothold in the repertoire.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Holland, Peter. The Ornament of Action: Text and Performance in Restoration Comedy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

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                                                                                                                                                    Convincing literary-critical account, showing through comparison with other dramatists and examination of contemporary cast lists and performance practices how Congreve (chapter 7, pp. 204–243) responded to and attempted to remold audience expectations. Useful starting point for students interested in the theatrical qualities of the plays.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Hughes, Leo, and Arthur H. Scouten. “Congreve at Drury Lane: Two Eighteenth-Century Promptbooks.” Modern Philology 79 (1981): 146–156.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1086/391115Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Examines revisions in the theatre promptbooks of Old Batchelour and Double Dealer. A succinct example of theatre history scholarship on the plays as products of their time beyond direct authorial control.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Milhous, Judith, and Robert D. Hume. Producible Interpretation: Eight English Plays 1675–1707. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                        Includes a chapter on Congreve (pp. 260–288), focusing mainly on interpretations of Love for Love that could be staged, with details of casts, settings, and scene plans, and further reference to Congreve’s other plays. A fine example of theatrical scholarship leading to interpretation.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Styan, J. L. Restoration Comedy in Performance. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                                          Important early work looking at all the comedies in the context of Restoration stage practices, with some examination of modern revivals.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Taney, Retta M. Restoration Revivals on the British Stage (1944–1979): A Critical Survey. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                            Includes a section (pp. 177–229) on performances of Congreve’s plays, most of which have been performed in modern times, except for The Old Batchelour.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Weber, Harold. “Disguise and the Audience in Congreve.” Modern Language Quarterly 46 (1985): 368–389.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1215/00182702-46-4-368Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              Examines the uses of disguise in The Old Batchelour and Love for Love and the neglect of this pleasurable interplay with the audience in The Way of the World, where spectators lose a comforting edge of superiority as actions become metaphorically masked from them.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Weber, Harold. “A ‘Double Portion of His Father’s Art’: Congreve, Dryden, Jonson and the Drama of Theatrical Succession.” Criticism: 39 (1997): 359–382.

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                                                                                                                                                                Shows how Congreve’s mid-career abandonment of the stage, in the year Dryden died, was prefigured in his early critical statements and how the expectation of the role of aristocratic “successor” placed on Congreve in commendatory poems had become unsustainable in class terms.

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                                                                                                                                                                Collier Controversy

                                                                                                                                                                Jeremy Collier’s ranting denunciation, A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698), a new intervention in a long history of suspicion against the theatre, was greeted by a return onslaught of dozens of pamphlets, many of them from the dramatists accused. Congreve’s initial role in the affair was a fairly undistinguished personal rejoinder, Amendments of Mr. Collier’s False and Imperfect Citations (1698), in which, while accepting some criticism, he challenged some of Collier’s quotations and reversed the accusation to suggest that Collier was guilty of prurient misreading. There is some evidence, however, that an adjustment of attitude toward a more sophisticated moral code took place in his last play, The Way of the World, in which the sexual behavior of the reformed rake hero is subjected to somewhat more exacting moral analysis. Novak 1969 treats the exchange as an instance of two public characters talking according to preset roles, one a High-Church Tory clergyman, one a Whig gentleman of no great religious conviction, resulting in no real discussion at all. The Collier exchanges were set in long historical perspective by Barish 1981. Williams 1975 uses the material generated by the controversy to pursue the author’s idea of the genuine moral force of Congreve’s critical and theatrical practice, with Congreve featuring as a sort of theorist of Aristotelian praxis in response to Collier’s Platonic rejection of art and fiction. Hinnant 1978 uses Love for Love as the author’s focus in analyzing the politics of the exchange. Peters 1987 develops Novak’s position considerably by looking at the mutual misprision in terms of differing attitudes toward language and semantics. Norton 1998 situates the controversy partly in relation to an earlier diatribe against theatre, The Tragedies of the Last Age, Consider’d, issued by Thomas Rymer in 1678. Sieber 1996 looks at the effects of the controversy on moral character-drawing in the later comedies. Hume 1999 studies the immediate local effects of the controversy in actual London theatres of the time and questions the extent of Collier’s long-term influence.

                                                                                                                                                                • Barish, Jonas. The Anti-Theatrical Prejudice. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Important and influential study of cultural suspicion of the theatre from classical to modern times, including a chapter (chapter 8) on the Collier controversy.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Hinnant, Charles H. “Collier, Congreve and the Patriarchalist Debate.” Eighteenth-Century Life 4 (1978): 83–86.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Distinguishes between Whig (Congreve) and Tory (Collier) senses of the patriarchalist controversy about the origins of political authority, a particular concern after the Revolution of 1688, underlying the ostensibly limited dramatic exchange.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Hume, Robert D. “Jeremy Collier and the Future of the London Theatre in 1698.” Studies in Philology 96 (1999): 480–511.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Revisionist look at the actual evidence for the effects of the controversy on London theatrical practice and atmosphere, questioning the supposed relation between later sentimental comedy and Collier’s reformist agenda.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Norton, James. “Restoration Theories of Confessional Theater: Rymer, Collier, Congreve.” Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research 13 (1998): 41–53.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Useful reminder of the tradition of critical hatred of the stage as a free space of pleasure and debate; brings an earlier critical controversy, started by Thomas Rymer in 1678, into play.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Novak, Maximillian E. “The Artist and the Clergyman: Congreve, Collier and the World of the Play.” College English 30 (1969): 555–561.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Argues that Collier and Congreve are taking part in a staged rather actual debate, with both adopting the fixed positions appropriate to their public identities as Tory clergyman and Whig theatrical gentleman.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Peters, Julie Stone. “‘Things Govern’d by Words’: Late 17th-Century Comedy and the Reformers.” English Studies 68 (1987): 142–153.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1080/00138388708598501Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            Incisive account that sees the Collier controversy as partly about different views of language and argues that Congreve becomes a moral relativist by shifting words and their uses along from fixed dictionary definitions.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Sieber, Anita. Character Portrayal in Congreve’s Comedies The Old Batchelour, Love for Love, and The Way of the World. Salzburg Studies in English Literature: Elizabethan & Renaissance Studies 183. Salzburg, Austria: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                              A detailed examination of three comedies in Restoration context, especially in relation to social conventions of marriage and the moral climate of the Collier Controversy.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Williams, Aubrey. “No Cloistered Virtue: Or, Playwright versus Priest in 1698.” PMLA 90 (1975): 234–246.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Developing the role-based analysis of Novak 1969, Williams argues that Congreve’s statements about his own practice and the theatre in general have actual moral content and likens the exchange to Aristotle’s defense of the internal realities and functions of the arts against Plato’s rejection of all illusion as immoral.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Critical Assessments

                                                                                                                                                                                As the following sections show, The Way of the World is the text that has, in the 20th century, attracted by far the greatest share of critical attention, with the play often treated in isolation. Most of the broader positions outlined in general works and General Overviews are tested in subsequent criticism in relation to this play, which has sustained its literary reputation through all shifts in critical attention and all fashions of criticism, which to some extent it also naturally reflects. Love for Love is the next most popular of the plays among critics, followed by The Old Batchelour and The Double Dealer. The attention given to The Mourning Bride is more often directed at its surprising early popularity than its modern reputation. Incognita continues to enjoy a pivotal status in the histories detailing the vexed emergence of the form we know as the “novel.” Congreve’s Other Works including Music are less often treated individually, but there is a significant if small body of criticism on his relation to music.

                                                                                                                                                                                Incognita

                                                                                                                                                                                Partly on account of its teasing critical preface, on the subject of the narrative codes of romance, novel, and drama, Congreve’s only prose fiction has been much studied in relation to the historical moment in which the dominant modern literary form, the novel, began to emerge and overtake the drama in popularity. The so-called rise of the novel, after an important book of that title by Ian Watt in 1957, has itself spawned a huge literature in which Congreve’s archly narrated fiction features prominently but awkwardly. Importing dramatic unities and conventions (such as a foreign setting, romance names, disguise, mistaken identity, and the eventual marriage of witty lovers) from the drama into fiction, Congreve nonetheless strikes a relatively humane and domestic note, nudging prose fiction away from romance and toward recognizable situations and more modern-seeming narrative possibilities. Simon 1968 was an early attempt to outline theories of fiction before and after the form called the “novel” had been identified, using Congreve and Fielding as ends of a spectrum. Novak 1969 stresses the weight of rhetorical history and artistic formalism in Congreve’s novella, as an antidote to the supposed verisimilitude of the new fiction, a theme revisited in Corman 1984 as developments in the history of the novel as a form grew more sophisticated. Stephenson 1972 examines Congreve’s novella as a response to specifically Spanish amatory narratives. Westcott 1976 concentrates attention on the characterization of the narrative voice; Aercke 1990 drove the debate toward issues of narrative verisimilitude and narrative theory. Velissariou 2002 offers a densely theoretical reading of the fiction’s uses of codes of resemblance and difference in an analysis of challenges to and defenses of the aristocratic ideology of romance.

                                                                                                                                                                                • Aercke, Kristiaan P. “Congreve’s Incognita: Romance, Novel, Drama?” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 2 (1990): 293–308.

                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1353/ecf.1990.0041Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                  Finds the fiction interesting because of its implied metafictional debate, between the opposed voices of preface and narrative, about the means of producing literary verisimilitude.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Corman, Brian. “Congreve, Fielding, and the Rise of Some Novels.” In British Theatre and the Other Arts, 1660–1800. Edited by Shirley Strum Kenny, 257–270. Washington, DC: Folger Shakespeare Library, 1984.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Response to newer theoretical developments in the “rise of the novel” argument; a formalist reading of Congreve’s fiction that sees the text more within the rhetorical tradition than in any emerging “realist” category.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Novak, Maximillian E. “Congreve’s ‘Incognita’ and the Art of the Novella.” Criticism, 11 (1969): 329–342.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      In an early phase of the “rise of the novel” debate, points out that “novel” meant something very different for Congreve’s readers and that his text should be judged in terms of its quasi-dramatic artistic practice, not the naturalism later associated with the modern novel.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Simon, Irene. “Early Theories of Prose Fiction: Congreve and Fielding.” In Imagined Worlds: Essays on Some English Novels and Novelists in Honour of John Butt. Edited by Maynard Mack, Ian Gregor, and G. D. Carnall, 19–35. London: Methuen, 1968.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Stresses the relation of Congreve’s preface and practice to French neoclassical theory and finds that Congreve added a special grace to the form then known as “novel.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Stephenson, Peter S. “Congreve’s ‘Incognita’: The Popular Spanish Novela Form Burlesqued.” Studies in Short Fiction 9 (1972): 333–342.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Shows how Congreve contrived to combine a specifically Spanish tradition of the novella form with the rules and unities of stage comedy, producing irony and parody.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Velissariou, Aspasia. “‘This Thing Was Only Designed for Show and Form’: The Vicissitudes of Resemblance in Congreve’s Incognita.” Journal of the Short Story in English 39 (2002): 23–40.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            Highly sophisticated reading that sees the novella not only as enacting a key rupture in the sign systems underlying aristocratic (especially male) identity but also as a conservative redemption of those ideological codes; the lovers attempt to make independent choices of partner and constantly misread identities, but end up with “appropriate” class-based marriages.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Westcott, I. M. “The Role of the Narrator in Congreve’s Incognita.” Trivium 11 (1976): 40–48.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Studies the narrative voice of the fiction as not neutral but foregrounded as both sympathetic and detached, committed to the romance of the young people but amused by their folly.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Williams, Aubrey. “Congreve’s Incognita and the Contrivances of Providence.” In Imagined Worlds: Essays on Some English Novels and Novelists in Honour of John Butt. Edited by Maynard Mack, Ian Gregor, and G. D. Carnall, 3–18. London: Methuen, 1968.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                An example of Williams’s attempt to locate in Congreve’s work a commitment to demonstrating the shaping hand of providence, a position later worked out more fully in the plays, according to Williams’s larger thesis (see Williams 1979, cited under Religion and Society).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                The Old Batchelour

                                                                                                                                                                                                Congreve’s first play, written with help from two established dramatists, John Dryden and Thomas Southerne, and performed in March 1693 at the Drury Lane Theatre with immediate success, no doubt helped by a strong cast and music from Henry Purcell. It is in some ways the least individual of Congreve’s comedies, a wittily cynical instance of sexual intrigue and game-playing, between two pairs of lively, intelligent, and mutually skeptical lovers, with a conventional obstacle in the shape of the “old bachelor.” In its tolerance of sexual libertinism it fitted easily into the mode of Etherege and Wycherley. Most critical accounts either place the play in comparison with something else or see it as a staging post: in some readings it has been found to prefigure Congreve’s later concern with deepening the character of the male rake and questioning the ethos of sexual adventuring. Hodges 1943 looks at how and when Congreve found himself in a position and with the means to write. Kaufman 1975 is an exemplary study of psychological depth in Congreve’s characterization, while McComb 1977 takes the alternative view that the characterization is based on available “types” within an overriding satiric frame. Novak 1970 offers a lively overview of the play, pointing out its areas of originality. More recently, Scalinci 2011 finds that part of the play’s dynamic depends on recollections of the Roman comedy of Plautus.

                                                                                                                                                                                                • Hodges, John C. “The Composition of Congreve’s First Play.” PMLA 58 (1943): 971–976.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  A still-useful biographical approach, giving details of the timing and location of Congreve’s actual writing practice from 1689 to 1692, when the play was performed.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Kaufman, Anthony. “Characterization in Congreve’s ‘The Old Bachelor’.” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 76 (1975): 308–316.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    Finds subtle and complex psychological detailing in the language Congreve gives his characters, who are afforded a private space of imagination and detached sense of self.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • McComb, John King. “Congreve’s ‘The Old Bachelour’: A Satiric Anatomy.” SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 17 (1977): 361–372.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      Shows how Congreve uses stock characters as examples in a witty satiric progress, which has something akin to later Augustan versions of wit.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Novak, Maximilian E. “Congreve’s ‘The Old Bachelor’: From Formula to Art.” Essays in Criticism 20 (1970): 182–199.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/eic/XX.2.182Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                        An examination of the plot, verbal wit, and characterization of the play, showing how these aspects show originality and promise despite the superficially conventional nature of the comedy.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Scalinci, Francesca. “Looking Back in Laughter: Plautine Characters and Situations in William Congreve’s The Old Bachelor.” In Rehearsals of the Modern: Experience and Experiment in Restoration Drama. Edited by Susanna Zinato, 49–70. Naples: Liguori, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          Part of a collection of essays based on the premise that Restoration theatre helped to shape radical discourses of modernity by staging challenges to power; this essays show how Congreve drew on the authority of the Roman dramatist Plautus in an anti-authoritarian way.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Double Dealer

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Congreve’s second play appeared late in 1693 and proved a more troubling experience for audiences; according to Dryden, women in the audience found the characters of the sexually overactive Lady Touchwood, Lady Plyant, and Lady Froth (a would-be poet) too close to home, and men found their own follies too exposed. The character of the false friend, Maskwell, who soliloquizes in the manner of a tragedy villain, also proved disturbing. Congreve rounded on his critics in the preface to the printed play, pointing out the dramatic unity and clarity of plot in the play, though his remarks were later withdrawn. The play has been felt in modern times to have less satirical intent, and more structural direction toward sentimental comedy, embodying a clearer distinction between virtue and villainy, than Congreve’s other plays. Mostly the play is treated in comparison with others by Congreve, but there are some concentrated studies on the play as a single entity. Corman 1974 suggests that it presents a kind of mix of comedic modes that allows Congreve later to transcend conventions, while Gosse 1968 is also interested in attempting to define the kind of comic tradition to which the play might be found to belong. McCarthy 1979 uses the play as a lever against the “providentialist” thesis of Aubrey Williams (see Williams 1979, cited under Religion and Society), by indicating that there are many strands to action and resolution in the play, not just a Christian sense of poetic justice. Ross 2004 explains the failure of the play through its experimental shifts of tone and oversophisticated demands on an audience.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Corman, Brian. “‘The Mixed Way of Comedy’: Congreve’s The Double-Dealer.” Modern Philology 71 (1974): 356–365.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            Finds that the play follows John Dryden’s prescription in being neither totally a comedy of modern wit nor fully one of more traditional humor, thus giving Congreve a pathway for eluding the pull of convention in the later plays.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Gosse, Anthony. “Plot and Character in Congreve’s ‘Double-Dealer’.” Modern Language Quarterly 29 (1968): 274–288.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1215/00267929-29-3-274Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Useful introductory essay, arguing that the villainy of the play is subordinated to the instinct for comedy, through an analysis of multiple plot strands; the play is finally an “ironic dark-comedy” that challenged its audience.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • McCarthy, B. Eugene. “Providence in Congreve’s ‘The Double Dealer’.” SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 19 (1979): 407–419.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                One of many critiques of Williams thesis (see Williams 1979, cited under Religion and Society) showing in this instance that chance and fortune have at least as much of an influence on the outcome of events as any Christian-based mimicking of providential intervention.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Ross, John C. “‘Comedy Raising Its Voice’: Tragic Intertextualities in Congreve’s The Double-Dealer.” Restoration 28 (2004): 19–30.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Argues that the play failed because of its disturbing and uncomfortable shifts in manner and complications of mode involving semi-tragic incident and plotline, which required a more sophisticated and morally aware audience.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Love for Love

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Congreve’s third play was used to inaugurate the new Lincoln’s Inn Theatre in April 1695, though written for the United Company before the actors’ rebellion of December 1694. It was a huge success, though not without some darkness of theme, with an obstructive and sadistic Oedipal father blocking the fortune of the male hero, whose ruses (including feigned madness) all fail and who has eventually to be rescued by the cleverness of his destined bride, with whom he exchanges witty and searching banter throughout. Love for Love was one of the plays that provoked critics to respond to Knights’ generalized assault on the theatre of the period (see General Overviews). The main courtship narrative has a more sentimental and less aristocratic feel than in the earlier plays, modifying the satirical acid of the Restoration mode. Lyons 1964 defends the humane depth of the relationships achieved in the play and Williams 1972 pursues the author’s agenda to prove that Congreve’s plays demonstrated a fundamentally Christian belief system. The play has also attracted interest for its philosophical and psychological concerns, because of its portrayal of madness: Jarvis 1972 examines the uses and limits of reason in the behavior patterns and speeches of the characters, and Taney 1979 looks at Congreve’s modification of conventions of representing the insane. The play’s literary background is studied in terms of allusion in Hoffman 1978, while Thompson 1980 finds that the play has lost theatrical currency and become more of a private reading text. Novak 1984 sees reading at the heart of the play’s issues, arguing that its action explores the human need to interpret the world as a series of signs. Later criticism has been more heavily politicized, as in Velissariou 2006, which looks at the complications of patriarchal economics at the heart of the play and its failure to find viable alternatives.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Hoffman, Arthur W. “Allusions and the Definition of Themes in Congreve’s Love for Love.” In The Author in His Work: Essays on a Problem in Criticism. Edited by Louis Martz, Aubrey Williams, and Patricia Meyer Spacks, 283–296. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1978.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Detailed analysis of the allusions used in speeches, holding that they form signals and clues to literary themes, character definitions, and moral values.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Jarvis, F. P. “The Philosophical Assumptions of Congreve’s ‘Love for Love’.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 14 (1972): 423–434.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Examines the ideas and underlying ethos of the play, according it a sophisticated and skeptical view of the limits of human reason.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Lyons, Charles R. “Congreve’s Miracle of Love.” Criticism 6 (1964): 331–348.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Argues that the play, so far from being morally ambiguous or lightweight, celebrates genuine (and rational) emotional exchange based on the intelligence and equality of Angelica and Valentine.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Novak, Maximillian E. “Foresight in the Stars and Scandal in London: Reading the Hieroglyphics in Congreve’s Love for Love.” In From Renaissance to Restoration: Metamorphoses of the Drama. Edited by Robert Markley and Laurie Finke, 181–206. Cleveland: Bellflower, 1984.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Shows that Congreve is interested in the human instinct to interpret the world as a text embodying meaning through signs.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Taney, Retta M. “The Treatment of Madness in Love for Love.” Forum 17 (1979): 15–20.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Argues that Congreve adapts the classical notion of inspired lunatic with more contemporary and recognizably modern psychological notion of mental disorder and illness.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Thompson, James. “Reading and Acting in Love for Love.” Essays in Literature 7 (1980): 21–30.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Finds that the play works better as a literary experience than as a theatrical one.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Velissariou, Aspasia. “‘Love for Love’: Patriarchal Politics versus Love.” Restoration 30 (2006): 39–55.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Energetic analysis of what is seen as the failure of the play to balance social responsibility and private happiness (a problem revisited in The Way of the World). While the play critiques and challenges capricious patriarchal authority, the alternatives (desperate private action, calculating female intelligence) are presented as awkward and unstable.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Williams, Aubrey. “The ‘Utmost Tryal’ of Virtue and Congreve’s Love For Love.” Tennessee Studies in Literature 17 (1972): 1–18.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Argues that the play presents a witty dramatization of basic Christian truths and paradoxes to which Congreve is committed; later incorporated in Williams’s overview (Williams 1979, cited under Religion and Society).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Mourning Bride

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Perhaps seeking to develop some of his darker comic themes, Congreve turned his hand to tragedy, or what was then understood as tragedy, in his fourth play, staged in February 1697 with great success. Though notionally a tragedy, The Mourning Bride covers many of the same themes and complications as Congreve’s comedies—secret marriage, intrigue, resourceful lovers, and an obstructive patriarchal father who must be removed. The ending is more mixed than a modern audience expects from a tragedy, and the play has comprehensively exited the repertoire. But it was very popular in its day, as Avery 1941 shows. Potter 1943 followed with an analysis of the critical denigration of the play in contrast with its success as a stage play. Clear moral structure and due apportioning of poetic justice are pursued by Williams 1971 as part of the author’s overarching account of Congreve’s adherence to Christian norms. Carper 1971 explains the popularity of the play in terms of its mirroring of important social concerns of the day. Mann 1975 studies Congreve’s own textual development of the play between its first publication and performance and the text of the 1710 Works.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Avery, Emmett L. “The Popularity of ‘The Mourning Bride’ in the London Theaters in the Eighteenth Century.” Research Studies of Washington State University 9 (1941): 114–116.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Detailed account of the performance history of the play.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Carper, Thomas R. “Congreve’s Popular Tragedy.” Thoth 12 (1971): 3–10.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Succinct argument suggesting that the source of the play’s popularity lay in the dark mirror of the times that contemporaries discerned in it.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Mann, David D. “Congreve’s Revisions of The Mourning Bride.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 69 (1975): 526–546.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Careful study of the textual changes that Congreve made to a play of which he was particularly fond in the course of successive editions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Potter, Elmer B. “The Paradox of Congreve’s ‘Mourning Bride’.” PMLA 58 (1943): 977–1001.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/458923Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The paradox is that of the critical failure of the play, in modern terms, against its popular success with contemporary audiences; this is explored through stage and literary history.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Williams, Aubrey. “The ‘Just Decrees of Heav’n’ and Congreve’s Mourning Bride.” In Congreve Consider’d. Edited by Aubrey Williams, Maximillian E. Novak, and H. T. Swedenberg, 1–22. Los Angeles: William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA, 1971.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Contends that Congreve’s use of patterns of piety and poetic justice in his tragedy need to be taken seriously as a form of artistic belief, in the context of late 17th-century providential literature. Later incorporated in Williams’s larger argument (see Williams 1979, cited under Religion and Society), published here as part of a small collection (see Collections of Criticism).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Way of the World

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Congreve’s final solo-authored play appeared in March 1700, initially to a less enthusiastic reception. The dedication to the published play forms a short essay on classical models of comic character. Partly the play shows Congreve’s determination to move on from the Collier controversy (see Collier Controversy) with a less bawdy sense of comedy, though there are still some hits at Collier’s prurience and plenty of sexual history in the plot. It is the most complex (and to modern critics, satisfying) of Congreve’s plays, offering more of a series of concentric circles than linear plot structures, though it retains at the center a well-matched, witty, and intelligent couple who eventually succeed in negotiating each other, through the famous “proviso” scene, into companionate marriage. That this arrangement is not and cannot be truly equal in terms of late 17th-century sexual politics has been the focus of much recent critique, along with its portrayal of other female figures, the reformed rake, and the role of money and social authority in marriage. Many of the general studies derive in part from a critical anxiety to defend Congreve on quasi-moral grounds; those devoted to particular issues, such as gender, law, or politics, are relatively free of this concern and concentrate their energies on the interactions between the play and its context, implicitly valuing the work for its complex representation of these issues.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Overviews

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Way of the World is of all Congreve’s plays the one that is held to have the best balance between emotional value and satiric energy, with a clear moral purpose, for those who need one, outlined in its epilogue. Its compassionate psychological complexity, hard-won social solutions, and artistic brilliance as a stage spectacle are remarked upon by many critics. Thus Nolan 1959 is interested in how particular moments freeze and energize characters and audience. These early articles form useful starting points for students encountering the play for the first time. Shafer 1970 contrasts the proviso scene with other models of the kind in Restoration drama, finding Congreve’s the most seriously minded as a foundation for the marriage that ensues. Lyons 1971 sees Congreve’s use of the conventional disguise motif as a real analytical tool for the examination of character and social issues, while Kaufman 1973 finds a wider richness of perspective in the carefully chosen language that Congreve allots his characters. Corman 1975 argues that the play offers, in the teased-out marriage agreement between hero and heroine, a model that is the more real by contrast with alternatives elsewhere in the play; Deitz finds serious moral action underlying the wit of the intelligent characters. McCloskey 1981 broadens the discussion to find the ways in which characters are bound to each other in social and family groups.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Corman, Brian. “‘The Way of the World’ and Morally Serious Comedy.” University of Toronto Quarterly 44 (1975): 199–212.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.3138/utq.44.3.199Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Centered on the relationship between Mirabell and Millamant as a hard-won but believable ideal of serious commitment, compared to the cynical wreckage of marriages displayed and alluded to elsewhere in the play. An accessible construction of the “humane” values that many critics ascribe to Congreve.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Deitz, Jonathan E. “Congreve’s Better Way to Run the World.” Papers on Language and Literature 11 (1975): 367–379.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Analyzes the moral basis of the play as a series of actions carried out, not merely talked of, in a difficult and unhelpful social environment; like Corman 1975, essentially a defense of the idea that the play has a significant moral core.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Hawkins, Harriett. Likeness of Truth in Elizabethan and Restoration Drama. Oxford: Clarendon, 1972.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A study of the ways in which drama can legitimately analyze human experience. Chapter 6 (pp. 115–138) is on The Way of the World and its apparently deliberate challenge to audiences in terms of displaying dramatic and human faults and its quasi-novelistic revelations of character and world, particularly in the differences between Mirabell and Fainall.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Kaufman, Anthony. “Language and Character in Congreve’s The Way of the World.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 15 (1973): 411–427.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A study of the language Congreve allots to his characters, which is found to be personalized and individual, creating a large-scale drama of perspective and moral conflict.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Lyons, Charles R. “Disguise, Identity, and Personal Value in The Way of the World.” Educational Theatre Journal 23 (1971): 258–268.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/3205354Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Shows how the traditional disguise motif of theatre of the period was used by Congreve for subtle dramatic analysis of social artifice and the problem of interior value in a world dominated by outward appearance and display.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • McCloskey, Susan. “Knowing One’s Relations in Congreve’s ‘The Way of the World’.” Theatre Journal 33 (1981): 69–79.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Analyzes the role of genealogical and emotional ties in the play, showing how these are used to demonstrate problems of social interaction and individual identity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Nolan, Paul T. “The Way of the World: Congreve’s Moment of Truth.” Southern Speech Journal 25 (1959): 75–95.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1080/10417945909371549Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Interesting short study of key moments of truth and confrontation in the play; somewhat different from Woolf’s sense of the “moment” (Woolf 1947, cited under General Overviews) but similarly concerned with the primacy of an artistic sense of truth in minute particulars.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Shafer, Yvonne Bonsall. “The Proviso Scene in Restoration Comedy.” Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research 9 (1970): 1–10.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A comparative study putting the famous proviso scene from Act IV of the play in comparison with other similar scenes and finding that Congreve’s version shows a relatively high degree of commitment to the creating of a lasting humane partnership that guarantees individual selfhood and political liberty.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Stage History

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Though The Way of the World was not Congreve’s most popular play in terms of box office receipts, it was certainly not a disaster, as Hume 1971 shows. Powell 1984 considers the scenic effects of the play in the comparison with other restoration productions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Hume, Robert D. “A Revival of The Way of the World in December 1701 or January 1702.” Theatre Notebook 26 (1971): 30–36.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              An important corrective to the performance history of Congreve’s work, demonstrating that the play was more often successfully performed in its early years than previously thought.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Powell, Jocelyn. Restoration Theatre Production. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A study of the scenic possibilities of restoration drama informed by contemporary practices. Chapter 10 (pp. 180–198) considers how The Way of the World looks and works on stage.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Wit, Language, and Design

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                By general consensus, Congreve’s sense of artistic design was preeminent among his contemporaries: some have argued that he stopped writing comedies as The Way of the World was as well-constructed as it was possible for a play in that era to be. Mueschke and Mueschke 1958 devotes what is essentially a short schematic book to analyzing the structure of the play as a series of instances contrasting symmetrical pairs within an inheritance (rather than marriage) plot. In this reading, as in many, artistic thought is found to equate with moral depth, the “true wit” of the successful characters being in effect a form of humane intelligence, rather than empty facility with words. The point about wit is taken up by Hinnant 1977, using Dryden’s theories on the matter. McConnell 2000 argues that Congreve’s foregrounding of wit in the play suggests social interplay rather that the dominance of single “humor” or “type” character and that wit is based in the circulations of dialogue rather than the powerful dominance of individuals. Following the aesthetic analysis by Mueschke and Mueschke, Roper 1973 also robustly defends the play’s moral vision in artistic terms by comparison with other popular comedies near in date. Wagoner 1968 and Kimball 1977 look at the ways in which Congreve’s thematic and verbal use of gaming and gambling stand as a pervasive metaphor and test point for mentality and virtue on stage. Coburn and Erwin 2000 suggests that Congreve was, rather, an agent in moving from gambling as a ruling metaphor (with implications of chance and risk) toward a more socially modulated, gender-inclusive, and rule-bound form of activity in the shape of dancing. Neufeld 1984 situates the play in a discourse concerning bodily humors associated with the comedy of Ben Jonson, complementing Mueschke and Mueschke’s sense of its tradition.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Coburn, Leon, and Timothy Erwin. “Spectacle in The Way of the World.” Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research 15 (2000): 1–13.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Finds that the development of participatory and sentimental responses in the theatre of the 1730s was prefigured by Congreve in his final comedy by a move from gambling to dancing as the controlling metaphor for life and emotion, signaling a move from high-stakes risk toward socially patterned movement.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Hinnant, Charles H. “Wit, Propriety, and Style in The Way of the World.” SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 17 (1977): 373–386.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Shows how Congreve used Dryden’s well-known theory of wit to give audiences a key to understanding the correct way to respond to false and true wit among the winners and losers of the play.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Kimball, Sue L. “Games People Play in Congreve’s The Way of the World.” In A Provision of Human Nature: Essays on Fielding and Others in Honor of Miriam Austin Locke. Edited by Donald Kay, 191–207. University: University of Alabama Press, 1977.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      An analysis of the way that the male aristocratic pursuit of gaming features as part of Congreve’s stage action but also becomes an analytic metaphor for games of life and love more generally.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • McConnell, Will. “‘Whirlwind within a Whirlwind’: Congreve, Restoration Comedy, and the Play of History.” 1650–1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era 5 (2000): 3–36.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Compares The Way of the World with Wycherley’s The Country Wife and Etherege’s The Man of Mode to analyze the changing role of wit and character in the later play; wit is found to have a softened and less aggressive mode in Congreve, shared across different types of character.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Mueschke, Paul, and Miriam Mueschke. A New View of Congreve’s “Way of the World.” Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press; London: Mayflower, 1958.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Substantial work devoted to the schematic analysis of the play, which is placed in the satiric tradition of Horace and Jonson; shows by extensive quotation from five key scenes that the inheritance plot is at the center of a moral diagram balancing regenerating against degenerating couples in an antithetical construction of intrigue and counterintrigue.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Neufeld, James E. “The Indigestion of Widdow-Hood: Blood, Jonson, and ‘The Way of the World’.” Modern Philology 81 (1984): 233–243.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Finds further evidence that Congreve’s understanding of humoral theory is derived from Jonsonian comedic practice.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Roper, Alan. “Language and Action in The Way of the World, Love’s Last Shift, and The Relapse.” ELH: A Journal of English Literary History 40 (1973): 44–69.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/2872636Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Congreve’s play contrasted with near-contemporary examples of similar plots and issues by Colley Cibber and Sir John Vanbrugh. Congreve is judged to exceed these rivals by virtue of the moral integrity, mature perspective, psychological truth, and balanced aesthetic vision of his play.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Wagoner, Mary. “The Gambling Analogy in The Way of the World.” Tennessee Studies in Literature 13 (1968): 75–80.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Shows how Congreve uses the gambling metaphor to establish social judgment in exposed situations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Gender Issues with Female Characters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                As noted in the general thematic section on the role of Sexual Politics in Congreve’s work as a whole, the plays have received significant attention from feminist-influenced criticism from the 1970s onward. While in some ways it is obviously artificial to separate gender issues into separate categories of female and male, one of the notable features of criticism of Congreve’s work in recent decades has been the degree of attention paid specifically to issues of representation of female characters, especially in relation to social and political position, with less observation of the gendering of male characters (see Gender Issues with Male Characters). Kraft 1989 is unimpressed by the argument that Congreve purveys a kind of positive female presence and autonomy in the shape of the witty Millamant, and Carlson 1991 analyzes the play’s failure to find any kind of socially progressive solution to the problem of female independence that it raises. Gill 1996 looks at the balancing act necessary for Congreve in creating a witty heroine (Millamant) who would not in the end compromise male supremacy, in contrast with sexually rakish or financially powerful females (Lady Wishfort, Mrs. Fainall). Evans 1996 finds more to value in the play’s opposition to standard patriarchal accounts of sexual relations, using a comparison with the slightly later George Farquhar; Evans 2003 returns to comparative mode, focusing this time on Congreve’s play alongside one by an important female dramatist, Mary Pix. Erickson 1984 takes an unusual line in reading the character of Lady Wishfort, who has money and formidable experience, as a focus of a certain intellectual sympathy. Lady Wishfort is revisited by Gardner 2002, in an examination of her self-scrutiny as a performing agent within a patriarchal economy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Carlson, Susan. “The Way of Millamant: The Endangered Female Self in the Comic Tradition.” In Women and Comedy: Rewriting the British Theatrical Tradition. By Susan Carlson, 69–91. Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Finds that Congreve is better than most male dramatists at recognizing the social predicament of independently minded women under contemporary legal constraints but that the drama fails to find any real solution other than reliance on marriage and also fails to establish a female community based on anything other than rivalry.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Erickson, Robert A. “Lady Wishfort and the Will of the World.” Modern Language Quarterly 45 (1984): 338–349.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1215/00267929-45-4-338Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Argues that the character of Lady Wishfort, normally read as obstructively independent in financial and sexual terms, has deeper characterization and symbolism in it, despite the conventional lineaments of her role in the plot and that she represents a poignant figure in a corrupt world.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Evans, James E. “Resisting a Private Tyranny in Two Humane Comedies.” In Broken Boundaries: Women and Feminism in Restoration Drama. Edited by Katherine M. Quinsey, 150–163. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Compares Congreve’s play with George Farquhar’s later The Beaux’ Stratagem in their resistance to standard patriarchal values, using the context of proto-feminist debate as represented by Mary Astell’s Some Reflections Upon Marriage (1700).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Evans, James E. “The Way of the World and The Beau Defeated: Strains of Comedy in 1700.” South Atlantic Review 68 (2003): 15–33.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Uses the coincidence of timing of performances by the same company of Congreve’s play alongside Mary Pix’s comedy in March 1700 as the focus for a comparison between differing fates in literary history and the relatively prominent role of women in the theatre at the time.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Gardner, Kevin J. “Patrician Authority and Instability in The Way of the World.” South Central Review 19 (2002): 53–75.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/3190039Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sophisticated and stimulating examination of the underlying conventions governing the authority of the female aristocratic body, in this instance the powerful but ultimately limited Lady Wishfort. Offers a further reading of the proviso scene in terms of its implication of an external system of commerce, which has the potential to disrupt patriarchal authority.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Gill, Pat. “The Way of the Word: Telling Differences in Congreve’s Way of the World.” In Broken Boundaries: Women and Feminism in Restoration Drama. Edited by Katherine M. Quinsey, 164–181. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Details the difficulties facing Congreve in his attempt to construct a female heroine of sufficient spirit and intelligence to be interesting but at the same time nonthreatening, especially given the presence of characters such as Mrs. Fainall, who espouses a kind of desperate female-rakish politics.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Kraft, Elizabeth. “Why Didn’t Mirabell Marry the Widow Languish?” Restoration 13 (1989): 26–34.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The short answer is that Mirabell does not have to marry her, being male, whereas female characters have much less scope and option in the marriage game, even in the case of quasi-Amazons such as Lady Wishfort. Does not find that differences in intelligence and wit correspond to access to autonomy in women.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Gender Issues with Male Characters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Whereas the earliest feminist criticism tended to concentrate on the depiction of female characters or the underlying sociology limiting the autonomy of women in Congreve’s time (see Gender Issues with Female Characters), there has been a concomitant move to examine the gendering of male characters as a performed and therefore alterable process rather than a “natural” given. Much of the scholarship is about the development of and changes to the way independent and sexually active males are characterized as rakes and libertines, particularly tending to contrast Congreve’s humane and genteel version of the rake against the more individualistic and predatory types from Wycherley and Etherege. Some of this type of work on Congreve’s drama in general is listed in Sexual Politics, but listed here are a few articles that concentrate on The Way of the World. Gagen 1964 contends that the character of Mirabell was not intended as any type of rake at all but as in effect an ideal gentleman of the time. Weber 1982 usefully charts the substitution of Wycherley’s Hobbesian rake for Congreve’s considered libertine, a figure more compatible with the emerging domestic ideology of post-1688 society. Snider 1989 looks at the tension between the free exchanges of Epicurean libertine selfhood (of the kind understood in Weber 1982) and the underlying (and unavoidable) patriarchal rules of sexual behavior. Davis 2011 uses a comparison between Congreve’s play and one by the last of the prominent women dramatists of the period, Susanna Centlivre, to analyze the ways in which Mirabell’s strategies for normative dominance involve him in the “female” forms of interaction and strategy the play otherwise satirizes; Centlivre’s play, meanwhile, offers a model of less fixed thinking about identity and selfhood.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Davis, Vivian. “Dramatizing the Sexual Contract: Congreve and Centlivre.” SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 51 (2011): 519–543.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Contrasts Congreve’s play with Susanna Centlivre’s later A Bold Stroke for a Wife as a means of analyzing Mirabell’s relation to codes of gender, arguing that Mirabell must gain his conventional goal of dominance (marrying the rich intelligent woman) by using the tricks and deceptions ascribed to feminine social performance.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Gagen, Jean. “Congreve’s Mirabell and the Ideal of the Gentleman.” PMLA 79 (1964): 422–427.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.2307/460747Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Contests earlier readings of Mirabell as a rake, cad, or reformed libertine by showing that his characterization corresponds to the lineaments of a “gentleman” as understood in the period.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Snider, Alvin. “Professing a Libertine in The Way of the World.” Papers on Language and Literature 25 (1989): 376–397.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Finds in the play a sophisticated and skeptical reflection on neo-Epicureanism, particularly in its study of friendship divorced from sexual relations, which fails in the end to replace patriarchal codes of sexual hierarchy; it remains attractive as an ethos, but its version of mutuality is limited to male prerogative.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Weber, Harold. “The Rake-Hero in Wycherley and Congreve.” Philological Quarterly 61 (1982): 143–160.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Analyzes the shift from the aggressive and predatory Horner, in Wycherley’s The Country Wife, who acts in accordance with a recklessly appetitive individualism, to Congreve’s sexually experienced but potentially marriageable hero (Mirabell), who espouses a philosophical code of libertinism amenable to social ordering.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Government, Law, and Politics

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In thematic accounts of Congreve’s work as a whole, politics has an obvious interaction with gender issues (see in general Sexual Politics). But in the case of The Way of the World, much has also been made of its particular relation to broader issues of social practice and law as well as to political activity more strictly understood. Braverman 1985 affords a starting point for thinking about the play as a reflection of contemporary social and political issues. In respect of governmental politics, Kroll 1986 offers an elaborate reading of the proviso scene and other aspects of acts of negotiation in relation to the social contract theory of sovereignty associated with John Locke and theories of government appropriate to the Whig leadership of parliament after the revolution of 1688. Kroll 2002 subtly revises this position, adding a new allegorical element in aligning the play’s discussions of surface and internal senses of value with monetary theory attendant on the national recoinage of 1695–1696. Handley 2008 accepts the social contract reading of the proviso scene but also pursues a comparison between Congreve’s careful self-fashioning as an aristocrat of the literary tradition against Thomas Southerne’s more straightforwardly mercantile ethos. A related trend in literary criticism has sought out literature’s relations with the discourse of law, appropriately enough in this period given that writers (including Congreve) often trained, or pretended to train, as lawyers at the Inns of Court in preparation for their literary career. Hurley 1971 is an early examination of the interaction of legal and dramatic rhetoric in Congreve’s play. Pether 1991 takes a lawyer’s look at the contractual exchanges of the play, especially in relation to issues of trust, including the proviso scene, Mirabell’s more cynical exchanges with an earlier mistress, Mrs. Fainall, and the important legal arrangements made by and on behalf of women. Loftis 1996 takes an innovative line by examining the play in the context of a burgeoning popular literature of crime. Most recently Bender 2013 looks at the underpinning ideology of property ownership as a correlate of personal identity.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Bender, Ashley Brookner. “Containing Identity in The Plain Dealer and The Way of the World.” Eighteenth-Century Life 37 (2013): 1–25.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1215/00982601-2080964Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Using a comparison with Wycherley’s play, this imaginative article examines the correlation between property and identity in the use of stage props, especially containers, at moments of revelation and resolution, tracking dynamic shifts of power between characters and showing the incomplete nature of female ownership.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Braverman, Richard. “Capital Relations and The Way of the World.” ELH: A Journal of English Literary History 52 (1985): 133–158.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A useful introductory article showing how the play acts as a revealing mirror of its political and social context and of its economic climate.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Handley, Miriam. “William Congreve and Thomas Southerne.” In A Companion to Restoration Drama. Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture 12. Edited by Susan J. Owen, 412–428. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Accessible introductory essay, in the form of a comparison between Southerne’s commercial ethos and Congreve’s careful self-fashioning within the literary tradition of patronage and inheritance; sees the proviso scene in terms of a Whiggish reading of the Glorious Revolution against the autocracy or tyranny of the Stuart kings.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Hurley, Paul J. “Law and the Dramatic Rhetoric of The Way of the World.” South Atlantic Quarterly 70 (1971): 191–202.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Judicious examination of the use of legal rhetoric in the play alongside its dramatic structure and artistic meaning.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Kroll, Richard W. “Discourse and Power in The Way of the World.” ELH: A Journal of English Literary History 53 (1986): 727–758.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Highly-theorized look at the proviso scene in relation to the dominant Whiggish theory of political sovereignty and the Lockean social contract used to justify recursively the substitution of William and Mary for the absolutist James II; also examines the discourses of power that pervade actions of more general kinds.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Kroll, Richard W. “Congreve as Whig: The Politics of Equivalence in The Way of the World.” REAL: The Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature 18 (2002): 21–38.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Revising Kroll 1986, this article studies Congreve’s inheritance of dramatic leadership from Dryden in the context of coded political structures implicit in dramatic theory alongside emergent political economy of the period. Also ingeniously links the play’s reformation of manners and discourses of internal and external estimations of value with the national recoinage of 1696. Developed further in Kroll’s book, Restoration Drama and “The Circle of Commerce” (Cambridge. UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007), chapter 11.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Loftis, John E. “Congreve’s Way of the World and Popular Criminal Literature.” SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 36 (1996): 561–578.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Places the legal metaphors and skirmishing of the play in the context of lurid criminal publishing industry developing at the time and relates the play to the social anxieties about class and gender that this exacerbated.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Pether, Penelope. “Fiduciary Duties: Congreve’s The Way of the World.” Australian Journal of Law & Society 7 (1991): 71–82.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A study of issues of legal trust between the characters in the play, finding that arguments suggesting that Mirabell and Millamant bargain as equals are sentimental and lack knowledge of the principles of equity underlying the play’s negotiations and crucial documentary instruments, which remain controlled by superior men, if sometimes for the benefit of women.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Other Works including Music

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Though Congreve all but abandoned his theatrical career after The Way of the World, he continued to write poetry and also produced two works designed for musical settings, which have attracted their own musicological following; in particular Lincoln 1963a, Lincoln 1963b, and Lincoln 1984 put Congreve’s writing alongside the composing career of his contemporary John Eccles as a means of highlighting his sense of verbal rhythm. Lowerre 2000 drives this argument further in the case of Congreve’s final comedy. Winkler 2003 reads Congreve’s masque The Judgment of Paris in the light of political allegories of the time. The role of song in the plays themselves is further highlighted by Thompson 1983; music is often now included in academic editions of the works, such as the major complete edition by McKenzie 2011 (cited under Collected Editions). Like most Restoration writers, Congreve was an adept in amatory lyric, and his entry into that tradition is scrutinized in a small but detailed example in Kaufman 1973. One of Congreve’s few literary essays was attached to his “Pindarique” ode of 1695, and his place in that more august version of lyric history is examined in Oates 1979.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Kaufman, Anthony. “‘A Libertine Woman of Condition’: Congreve’s ‘Doris’.” Yearbook of English Studies 3 (1973): 120–123.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/3506862Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Brief, intense close reading of a Congreve poem in the context of the development of lyric to the time of Swift.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Lincoln, Stoddard. “Eccles and Congreve: Music and Drama on the Restoration Stage.” Theatre Notebook 18 (1963a): 7–18.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          An early attempt to develop a serious mode of analysis for Congreve’s lyrics in a theatrical and musical context, alongside the work of the theatre composer John Eccles.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Lincoln, Stoddard. “The First Setting of Congreve’s ‘Semele’.” Music & Letters 44 (1963b): 103–117.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1093/ml/44.2.103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Analyzes Congreve’s talent at writing for music in terms of his ear for rhythm and the uses of music in understanding events and character in relation to his opera.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Lincoln, Stoddard. “The Librettos and Lyrics of William Congreve.” In British Theatre and the Other Arts, 1660–1800. Edited by Shirley Strum Kenny, 116–132. Washington, DC: Folger Shakespeare Library, 1984.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              An extension of the analysis mounted in Lincoln 1963a and Lincoln 1963b. Examines Love for Love, The Way of the World, and Semele, outlining Congreve’s development as a lyricist and librettist, once again in comparison with Eccles.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Lowerre, Kathryn. “Music and Meaning in Congreve’s The Way of the World.” Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research 15 (2000): 24–52.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Argues that our understanding of the play is enhanced by encountering the music of John Eccles because Congreve was fastidious and particular in his views on musical setting and Eccles was careful to adopt nuanced and sensitive character affects in the music that he wrote, especially in relation to characters such as Millamant. Lowerre subsequently developed this material in a book, Music and Musicians on the London Stage (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2009).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Oates, Mary I. “Jonson, Congreve, and Gray: Pindaric Essays in Literary History.” SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 19 (1979): 387–406.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Congreve’s essay and practice seen as part of a position statement on the role of poets and poetry in culture, using one of the highest of ancient forms to reflect modern concerns. Covers a large swathe of literary time by looking at three landmark instances of the form.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Thompson, James. “Congreve’s Dramatic Songs: ‘O I Am Glad We Shall Have a Song to Divert the Discourse’.” Philological Quarterly 62 (1983): 367–382.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Sees the songs in the plays as offering dramatic counternarratives, qualifying the main plot in complex ways; with reference particularly to Love for Love and The Way of the World.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Winkler, Amanda Eubanks. “‘O Ravishing Delight’: The Politics of Pleasure in The Judgment of Paris.” Cambridge Opera Journal 15 (2003): 15–31.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/S0954586703000156Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Studies the political import of the music of three composers who competed to set Congreve’s masque libretto The Judgment of Paris and shows how musical details supported the Whiggish tendencies and anti-Stuart import of the drama, in which a prince chooses beauty and personal pleasure over wisdom and national responsibility.

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