The Double Dealer: A Comedy

Author: William Congreve

Scene III.


CARE. Pert coxcomb.

MEL. Faith, ’tis a good-natured coxcomb, and has very entertaining follies. You must be more humane to him; at this juncture it will do me service. I’ll tell you, I would have mirth continued this day at any rate; though patience purchase folly, and attention be paid with noise, there are times when sense may be unseasonable as well as truth. Prithee do thou wear none to-day, but allow Brisk to have wit, that thou may’st seem a fool.

CARE. Why, how now, why this extravagant proposition?

MEL. Oh, I would have no room for serious design, for I am jealous of a plot. I would have noise and impertinence keep my Lady Touchwood’s head from working: for hell is not more busy than her brain, nor contains more devils than that imaginations.

CARE. I thought your fear of her had been over. Is not to-morrow appointed for your marriage with Cynthia, and her father, Sir Paul Plyant, come to settle the writings this day on purpose?

MEL. True; but you shall judge whether I have not reason to be alarmed. None besides you and Maskwell are acquainted with the secret of my Aunt Touchwood’s violent passion for me. Since my first refusal of her addresses she has endeavoured to do me all ill offices with my uncle, yet has managed ’em with that subtilty, that to him they have borne the face of kindness; while her malice, like a dark lanthorn, only shone upon me where it was directed. Still, it gave me less perplexity to prevent the success of her displeasure than to avoid the importunities of her love, and of two evils I thought myself favoured in her aversion. But whether urged by her despair and the short prospect of time she saw to accomplish her designs; whether the hopes of revenge, or of her love, terminated in the view of this my marriage with Cynthia, I know not, but this morning she surprised me in my bed.

CARE. Was there ever such a fury! ’Tis well nature has not put it into her sex’s power to ravish. Well, bless us, proceed. What followed?

MEL. What at first amazed me—for I looked to have seen her in all the transports of a slighted and revengeful woman—but when I expected thunder from her voice, and lightning in her eyes, I saw her melted into tears and hushed into a sigh. It was long before either of us spoke: passion had tied her tongue, and amazement mine. In short, the consequence was thus, she omitted nothing that the most violent love could urge, or tender words express; which when she saw had no effect, but still I pleaded honour and nearness of blood to my uncle, then came the storm I feared at first, for, starting from my bed-side like a fury, she flew to my sword, and with much ado I prevented her doing me or herself a mischief. Having disarmed her, in a gust of passion she left me, and in a resolution, confirmed by a thousand curses, not to close her eyes till they had seen my ruin.

CARE. Exquisite woman! But what the devil, does she think thou hast no more sense than to get an heir upon her body to disinherit thyself? for as I take it this settlement upon you is, with a proviso, that your uncle have no children.

MEL. It is so. Well, the service you are to do me will be a pleasure to yourself: I must get you to engage my Lady Plyant all this evening, that my pious aunt may not work her to her interest. And if you chance to secure her to yourself, you may incline her to mine. She’s handsome, and knows it; is very silly, and thinks she has sense, and has an old fond husband.

CARE. I confess, a very fair foundation for a lover to build upon.

MEL. For my Lord Froth, he and his wife will be sufficiently taken up with admiring one another and Brisk’s gallantry, as they call it. I’ll observe my uncle myself, and Jack Maskwell has promised me to watch my aunt narrowly, and give me notice upon any suspicion. As for Sir Paul, my wise father-in-law that is to be, my dear Cynthia has such a share in his fatherly fondness, he would scarce make her a moment uneasy to have her happy hereafter.

CARE. So you have manned your works; but I wish you may not have the weakest guard where the enemy is strongest.

MEL. Maskwell, you mean; prithee why should you suspect him?

CARE. Faith I cannot help it; you know I never liked him: I am a little superstitious in physiognomy.

MEL. He has obligations of gratitude to bind him to me: his dependence upon my uncle is through my means.

CARE. Upon your aunt, you mean.

MEL. My aunt!

CARE. I’m mistaken if there be not a familiarity between them you do not suspect, notwithstanding her passion for you.

MEL. Pooh, pooh! nothing in the world but his design to do me service; and he endeavours to be well in her esteem, that he may be able to effect it.

CARE. Well, I shall be glad to be mistaken; but your aunt’s aversion in her revenge cannot be any way so effectually shown as in bringing forth a child to disinherit you. She is handsome and cunning and naturally wanton. Maskwell is flesh and blood at best, and opportunities between them are frequent. His affection to you, you have confessed, is grounded upon his interest, that you have transplanted; and should it take root in my lady, I don’t see what you can expect from the fruit.

MEL. I confess the consequence is visible, were your suspicions just. But see, the company is broke up, let’s meet ’em.


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Chicago: William Congreve, "Scene III.," The Double Dealer: A Comedy, trans. Evans, Sebastian in The Double Dealer: A Comedy Original Sources, accessed July 23, 2024,

MLA: Congreve, William. "Scene III." The Double Dealer: A Comedy, translted by Evans, Sebastian, in The Double Dealer: A Comedy, Original Sources. 23 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Congreve, W, 'Scene III.' in The Double Dealer: A Comedy, trans. . cited in , The Double Dealer: A Comedy. Original Sources, retrieved 23 July 2024, from