The Way of the World: A Plot Summary

Mirabell is in love with Millamant, a niece of Lady Wishfort, and has pretended to make love to the aunt to conceal his suit for the niece.  His trick has been revealed by Mrs. Marwood, who does it out of revenge because Mirabell has rejected her advances.  Lady Wishfort, who now hates Mirabell "more than a quaker hates a parrot," will deprive her niece of the half of the inheritance she controls if Millamant marries Mirabell.  Mirabell has his servant Waitwell impersonate his uncle, Sir Rowland, and pretend to marry Lady Wishfort, but only after having secretly married him off to her maid Foible.  He hopes to use this humiliating deception to force Lady Wishfort to consent to his marriage to Millamant.  The plot is discovered by Mrs. Marwood, who also finds out that Mirabell has had a past intrigue with Mrs. Fainall, daughter of Lady Wishfort, and after married her off to Mr. Fainall, thinking that she was pregnant with his child.  She conspires with Fainall, her lover and the pretended friend of Mirabell, to reveal this information to Lady Wishfort, while Fainall threatens to divorce his wife and to discredit Lady Wishfort unless he is given full control of Mrs. Fainallís property and Millamantís portion is handed over to him.  The scheme fails. Mrs. Fainall denies all and brings proof of Fainallís affair with Mrs. Marwood, while Mirabell produces a deed by which Mrs. Fainall, before her marriage, made him trustee of all her property.  Lady Wishfort, grateful for her release from Fainallís threats, forgives Mirabell and consents to the marriage.