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Containing Identity in The Plain Dealer and The Way of the World


This essay examines the correlation between property and identity in William Wycherley’s The Plain Dealer and William Congreve’s The Way of the World. Both playwrights emphasize this connection between property and identity by using containers as stage properties. Often brought on stage during revelatory moments, the containers and their contents not only help resolve the action, but they also manifest the connection between what one owns and who one is. They reinforce the correlation between property and power. That women often owned property in these plays reveals the limited and contingent nature of female ownership. By following the movement of these containers, readers can trace the shifting power dynamics that property creates between people and, thereby, the influence that property has on constructing, expressing, and containing identities.

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