The Way of the World

The Way of the World Comedy of Manners

A comedy of manners, also called a Restoration comedy, was a theatrical form that satirized the social manners of the time, primarily those of the upper class. Horace's Satires, published around 35 BCE, and Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, published in 1598, are considered early versions of the comedy of manners genre. However, the genre really flourished in the English Restoration period, spanning 1660 until around 1710. The most famous examples of comedy of manners plays from that era are William Wycherley's The Country Wife, William Congreve's The Way of the World, and Molière's The School for Wives, The Misanthrope, and Tartuffe.

Comedy of manners are usually set in locations exclusive to upper classes, like fashionable homes and private clubs. They include stock characters, especially the fop (a foolish man overly concerned with fashion), elegant young ladies, and older people attempting to live like or reclaim their youths. These plays are often centered around love and adultery and include gossip, eavesdropping, and scheming. Conversation is often witty and ironic.