The dramatic significance of the proviso scene

Question: Discuss the dramatic significance of the proviso scene.

Or, evaluate the significance of the proviso scene.



 Millamant and Mirabell’s negotiations in Scene 5 of Act 4 make it the most famous scene in The Way of the World which is written by William Congreve . Known as the “proviso scene,” for the bargaining between characters. Millamant’s terms of engagement cast her as the representation of the Restoration Period’s modern woman.

The dramatic significance of the proviso scene

Click here: all notes for drama

The detailed concept of the proviso scene

Mirabell sneaks into the room while Millamant works on memorizing the poem. Standing behind her, he repeats the next line, startling her. Mirabell wonders if Millamant locks herself away from him to make his search “more curious” or because she has finally given up and will marry him. Millamant jokingly wonders if she’ll cease to be interesting once she’s freed from the “fatigues of solicitation.” She vows never to marry unless her husband can promise her freedom and pleasure.

Mirabell flirtatiously offers her both. Mirabell carries on, saying she won’t change her daily routines once married, nor will she respond to “pet” names like “my dear, joy, jewel, love, sweetheart, and the rest of that nauseous cant.” If she marries Mirabell, she says, she wants to live a “strange and well-bred” life in which they basically ignore each other, never kissing or being seen together in public. She asks to be able to come and go as she pleases, wear what she wants, have no obligation to converse with his boring family members and be alone when she feels like it.
If Mirabell can agree to these terms, she admits she may “dwindle” into a wife. Mirabell agrees and lists his own terms for Millamant: she must never have a close female friend who might cause unnecessary drama in their marriage, she must stop wearing masks, and she may not wear corsets while pregnant lest she “mold my boy’s head like a sugar-loaf.” He also lists a few dietary requirements, including no foreign foods.

Significance of the scene

The proviso scene purports utmost dramatic significance to hand major themes of the drama – love, marriage, and wealth. This can be said a short play within a long-confused play that is similar to Shakespeare’s creative genius. This extraordinary scene is the psychological analysis of human beings focusing on the following facts.

  1. Planning
  2. Independence
  • Expectations
  1. Rules and regulations
  2. Patriarchal control and
  3. Adjustment in conjugal life.


However, the smooth, witty conversation between Millamant and Mirabell show how perfectly paired they are for each other. Clearly in love, the couple complements each other physically, mentally, and emotionally. Congreve contrasts this match sharply with the only other true competitor for Millamant’s hand: Sir Wilfull.

Click here: all notes of the drama of “The Way of World”

Biswazit Kumar
Biswazit Kumar
Articles: 64

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