Question: Discuss the character of Lady Wishfort.
The character of Lady Wishfort has been portrayed in a humorous way in the poetry “The Rape of the Lock” which is written by Alexander Pope. She is very dominant in her behavior. The play “The Way of the World” revolves around her. She is a combination of humor and pathos. She is a snob, gullible, old, and desperate coquette to get a husband. Although readers get enough element of humor in her character, basically she is a tragic character.
The character of Lady Wishfort
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Lady Wishfort is a character who does not have the patience for anything. She becomes perplexed when any adverse circumstances appear before her. When she waits for Sir Rownald, her impatience reaches its peak. She shows her excitement impatiently because she asks her maidservant again and again as to the arrival of Sir Rownald. Her mentality is very hot. She cannot tolerate anything which happens without her consent and she loses her temper. When she is annoyed with her maidservant, she says:
“Out of my house, out of my house, thou viper, thou serpent, that I have fostered,……..”
Such an impatient and hot mentality bears the testimony that Lady Wisfort is autocratic.
Lack of judgment
Lady Wishfort has a dislike for Mirabell and there are some pure reasons behind her dislike. She is not a reader of character. She is easily cheated by people around her because of her differentiating power between right and wrong, or a good person and a bad one. Mrs. Marwood is very close to her. She depends on her to a great extent. But Mrs. Marwood is involved in an intrigue and always tries to exploit her. On the other hand, Lady Wishfort has a deep dislike for Mirabell who ultimately comes forward to rescue her and he saves her fortune and social reputation winning over the dominant intrigue of Mr. Fainall against her.
Lady Wishfort is a desperate coquette of the play to get a partner. She is surprising seeks her admirers although she has already passed her marriageable age. She behaves like a young juvenile girl despite being a woman of fifty-five. Her sexual appetite is just like a young teenaged girl though she does not show this. First of all, she gives her consent to Mirabell to flirt with her. Mirabell does so to marry her niece Millamant but she feels it for herself. When she gets the news that Sir Rownald is excited to meet her, she feels excitement. Then she tries her level best to impress him. So, we can feel that she is the paradigm of sexual inclination.
Autocratic senseless lady
Although Lady Wisfort is an autocratic lady, sometimes she exhibits stupidity. She is very commanding and influential, but she falls into trouble because of her senselessness. She easily trusts anybody. She is the kind of lady who can be easily misguided even by her maidservant. Mrs. Marwood exploits her stupidity until she is exposed.
The fusion of pathos and humor
Both pathetic and humorous elements abound in the personality of Lady Wishfort. Truly speaking, she cannot be said a humorous character, but the situation makes her a humorous figure. Most of the characters exploit her as a humorous character. She makes her gesture like a young girl and enjoys her follies but actually, she is not aware of all these. Like humor, pathos is noticeable in her character. She becomes a victim of intrigues. She is influenced by others that is why she is to suffer a lot. She expresses her pathos in the following manner:
“Must I live to be confiscated at this rebel rate? Here come two mor my Egyptian plagues too.”
To sum up, it can be said that the character of Lady Wishfort has been portrayed with great accuracy. William Congreve has given enough exposure to her character. She gains enough sympathy from the readers in the time of crisis though she is a funny character.