William Congreve

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Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing.

William Congreve (24 January 167019 January 1729) was an English playwright and poet.


I find we are growing serious, and then we are in great danger of being dull.
  • Careless she is with artful care,
    Affecting to seem unaffected.
    • "Amoret", line 7 (1710).
  • Invention flags, his brain goes muddy,
    And black despair succeeds brown study.
    • "An Impossible Thing", line 105 (1720).
  • Defer not till tomorrow to be wise,
    Tomorrow's sun to thee may never rise.
    • "Letter to Cobham", line 61. Compare: "Be wise to-day, 't is madness to defer", Edward Young, Night Thoughts, Night i. line 390.

The Old Bachelor (1693)[edit]

The Old Bachelor
  • In my conscience I believe the baggage loves me, for she never speaks well of me herself, nor suffers any body else to rail at me.
    • Act I, scene iii.
  • Hannibal was a very pretty fellow in those days.
    • Act II, scene 2.
  • I find we are growing serious, and then we are in great danger of being dull.
    • Act II, scene vii.
  • Eternity was in that moment.
    • Act IV, scene vii .
  • If this be not love, it is madness, and then it is pardonable.
    • Act IV, scene x.
  • Men are apt to offend ('tis true) where they find most goodness to forgive.
    • Act IV, scene xi.
  • Thus grief still treads upon the heels of pleasure;
    Married in haste, we may repent at leisure.
    • Act V, scene viii. Compare: "Who wooed in haste, and means to wed at leisure", William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, Act iii, scene 2.

The Double Dealer (1694)[edit]

Full text online
  • It is the business of a comic poet to paint the vices and follies of human kind.
    • Epistle dedicatory.
  • Retired to their tea and scandal, according to their ancient custom.
    • Act I, scene i.
  • Though marriage makes man and wife one flesh, it leaves 'em still two fools.
    • Act II, scene iii.
  • No mask like open truth to cover lies,
    As to go naked is the best disguise.
    • Act V, scene iv.

Love for Love (1695)[edit]

Full text online
  • Thou liar of the first magnitude.
    • Act II, scene ii.
  • I warrant you, if he danced till doomsday, he thought I was to pay the piper.
    • Act II, scene ii.
  • Ferdinand Mendez Pinto was but a type of thee, thou liar of the first magnitude.
    • Act II, scene v.
  • I came up stairs into the world, for I was born in a cellar.
    • Act II, scene vii. Compare: "Born in a cellar, and living in a garret", Samuel Foote, The Author, act 2; "Born in the garret, in the kitchen bred", Lord Byron, A Sketch.
  • O fie, miss, you must not kiss and tell.
    • Act II, scene x.
  • I know that's a secret, for it's whispered every where.
    • Act III, scene iii.
  • Women are like tricks by sleight of hand,
    Which, to admire, we should not understand.
    • Act IV, scene iii.
  • Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing.
    • Act IV, scene xx.
  • 'Tis well enough for a servant to be bred at an University. But the education is a little too pedantic for a gentleman.
    • Act V, scene iii.

The Mourning Bride (1697)[edit]

  • Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
    To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.

    I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
    And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
    By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
    What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
    Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
    'Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
    Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
    The silent Tomb receiv'd the good Old King;
    He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg'd
    Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
    Why am not I at Peace?
    • Act I, scene i; the first lines of this passage are often rendered in modern spelling as "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast", or misquoted as: "Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast".
  • Vile and ingrate! too late thou shalt repent
    The base Injustice thou hast done my Love:
    Yes, thou shalt know, spite of thy past Distress,
    And all those Ills which thou so long hast mourn'd;
    Heav'n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn'd,
    Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn'd.
    • Act III, scene viii; often paraphrased: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". A similar line occurs in Love's Last Shift, by Colley Cibber, act iv.: "We shall find no fiend in hell can match the fury of a disappointed woman".
  • For blessings ever wait on virtuous deeds,
    And though a late, a sure reward succeeds.
    • Act V, scene 12.

The Way of the World (1700)[edit]

Full text online
  • They come together like the Coroner's Inquest, to sit upon the murdered reputations of the week.
    • Act I, scene i.
  • Say what you will, tis better to be left than never to have been loved.
    • Act II, scene i. Precedent for Alfred Tennyson's more famous: "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all".
  • Love's but a frailty of the mind,
    When 'tis not with ambition joined.
    • Act III, scene xii.
  • If there's delight in love, 'tis when I see
    That heart which others bleed for, bleed for me.
  • I nauseate walking; 'tis a country diversion, I loathe the country.
    • Act IV, scene v.
  • Let us be very strange and well-bred:
    Let us be as strange as if we had been married a great while;
    And as well-bred as if we were not married at all.
    • Act IV, scene v.
  • Thou art a retailer of phrases, and dost deal in remnants of remnants.
    • Act IV, scene ix.
  • O, she is the antidote to desire.
    • Act IV, scene xiv.


  • Never go to bed angry, stay up and fight.
    • Phyllis Diller, as quoted in Getting Through to the Man You Love : The No-Nonsense, No-Nagging Guide for Women (1999) by Michele Weiner-Davis, p. 151.

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