Millamant is a beautiful young widow. Millamant is wealthy but dependent on her aunt. She would lose half of her property if she married without her aunt’s consent. Fainall requests that Mirabell be secretly married to her, as Lady Wishfort will have her property, and he could blackmail her to get this money.
Millamant exudes genuine charm and grace. Millamant has a dignity that we don’t usually see in the heroines of Restoration comedies. Fainall, known for flirting with all the girls, has left her alone as he knows that she is far superior to him and wouldn’t give her a lift. She has a solid moral reputation, even in a society which was a school for scandal. Witwoud and Petulant are allowed to follow her as she considers them fools, and their conversation will benefit her mental health.
Millamant has been a favourite of all audiences since its first performance on the stage. This role has been played by many famous actresses, including Mrs Bracegirdle, Hannah Pritchard, and Frances Abington.
Millamant has a strong individuality. She comes into contact with other characters but keeps her own identity. Everyone admires her. Her cousin Mrs Fainall admires her. Although she knows her ex-lover Mirabell is in love with Millamant, she doesn’t feel jealous. She does everything she can to get the lovers married.
Although she appears late in the play, her appearance is a pleasant surprise. Everyone is impressed by her personality, manners and demeanour, and Mirabell’s words sum up the general impression.
Here she comes l’ faith full sail, with her fan spread and her streamers out, and a shoal of fools for tenders.
She is often compared to a large ship coming full sail, with smaller ships following. She is witty, gay and lively. Mirabell believes that beauty of women is the gift of their lovers.
She makes a fool of the “rustic, ruder than Gothick, Sir Willfull” who has never heard of Suckling. She cannot think of marrying an ignorant fool. She says,
I wonder at the impudence of any illiterate man to offer to make love…..Ah! to marry an ignorant that can hardly read or write.
Relationship between mirabell and millamant
Millamant is in love with Mirabell, but she hesitates to declare her love. Marriage was a very risky thing in those days when faithfulness and devotion were not in fashion. Her words to Mirabell (when Mrs. Fainall enters) shows the risk that she is taking, in agreeing to marry him. She and Mirabell have much in common. Both are equally proficient readers, and both are well aware of the dangers associated with marriage.
In those days, marriage was not a pledge of constancy. Adultery was an accepted way of life. One person could be annoyed by his spouse being unfaithful, but he didn’t mind his wife having other lovers. It was an old-fashioned ideal to be faithful in marriage.
Read also Plot Construction of Dr. Faustus
One scene shows Mrs Fainall leaving her husband with Mrs Marwood and walking away with Mirabell. Millamant saw that Mirabell was in love with her cousin before Fainall married. They were close, and Millamant was afraid she would get in her family’s way. However, their marriage did not happen. Mirabell planned her marriage to Fainall so that he would appear as the child’s father. Millamant was cautious about marrying when this was the case. Mirabell is her love, but she doesn’t want to tell him so marriage was a big risk.
Millamant has not received fair criticism from the critics.
Hazlitt thought that Millamant was nothing but a beautiful lady, and Meredith believed that Millamant was one of those superior ladies who didn’t think. Professor L. C. Knight claims that Millamant was to draw vitality from the excitement of incessant solicitation. She loves the pleasures of the chase. She wants that her lover should keep on wooing her.
All of this is a misinterpretation of her real character. Mirabell is her true love, but she cannot express her feelings due to social conventions. When she acts as a lady of the contemporary society, she is only pretending to be one.
If you look at the bargaining scene, it will appear that she is a common coquette and wants to stay a society girl even after her marriage. This is false. It is clear from Mrs Fainall’s and Mrs Marwood’s experiences that marriage isn’t always a fairy tale.
Many people of those times had experienced that marriage was fraught with faithlessness, treachery, and disillusionment. Her anxiety about her marriage not failing like other marriages shows in her bargaining scenes. She has seen young couples kiss each other in public, and go to parties and parks together, pretend to be very intimate and then come home to start quarrelling. She is determined to prevent this from happening in her case. She doesn’t want Mirabell to show her love in public; she calls Mirabell by her pet names, and then goes to some mistress of his and come home to rebuke Millamant.
Happiness is the result of the depth, and not the passion of love. They must behave in public and show genuine affection at home.
Millamant is not perfect. Millamant is gay and cannot be serious for even a second when discussing serious subjects. She wants to be chased and solicited all the time.She doesn’t like a lover who is confident and has a certain look. After marriage she wants to have the liberty to get up from bed as late as she likes, to pay and receive visits to and from anyone she pleases, to write and receive letters freely and to be the empress at the tea-table. Because she loves to befool others, she wants to enjoy Witwoud’s company.
But these are not serious faults. We love Millamant, like Mirabell, in spite of her faults, in fact because of her faults.
Does Mirabell deserve Millamant?
Millamant is a very kind and virtuous girl. She is beautiful, wealthy, and cheerful by temperament. The question is: Does Mirabell deserve her? It is true that he did have an affair with Mrs Languish’s widow, and she was not a good person for him. He would have done the most honourable thing to marry her. He didn’t do that. Fainall was the one who arranged for her marriage. After that, she was very unhappy. According to our current view, this was a very bad act of morality. In those days of free love, no one could think any worse of someone who did this.
His charming nature is another flaw in his character. He was in love with Millamant and decided to marry her. He realized that Millamant was dependent upon Lady Wishfort, her aunt. He discovered that Lady Wishfort was of a sensual nature. So, he made a pretence of loving her in order to be near Millamant. When this comes to be known to Lady Wishfort, he thinks of another intrigue. He gets his servant Wait well married to Foible and then sends him to love Lady Wishfort in the disguise of his supposed uncle, Sir Rowland.
All of this is clearly against Mirabell. We must also remember that he did this all because he loved Millamant. He will do anything to get her. He is willing to participate in any plot for her. Millamant keeps him in suspense for some time and gives her consent to marry him only when she becomes certain of his devotion. She says,
His constancy to me has quite destroyed his complaisance for all the world beside.
He must then pass through the fire. He is now on the verge of losing Millamant because of Fainall’s counter-plot. She marries Sir Willfull. Now he is the epitome of misery. He can bring out the best of himself in this situation. He truly regrets what he did to Lady Wishfort. He gives Mrs Fainall the documents. Sir Willfull now realizes how much Mirabell and Millamant love each other and he lets them be united.
Millamant’s love transformed him from a rake to a serious gentleman. Whatever he might have been in the past, he is now a noble person and fully deserves to marry his noblewoman.