The Rivals

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Richard Brinsley Sheridan edited by Tiffany Stern

DOI: 10.5040/9781408168639.00000016
Acts: 5. Scenes: 14. Roles: Male (8) , Female (4) , Neutral (0)

The Rivals is a witty, pleasant and satirical comedy about love and foolishness.

Lydia Languish, whose view on life is shaped entirely by the romantic novels she reads, has fallen in love with a penniless soldier, Ensign Beverley. Beverley is in fact Captain Jack Absolute, son of a baronet, disguised to satisfy Lydia’s desires for an impoverished romantic hero. Enraged at this attachment, Lydia’s linguistically anarchic aunt, Mrs Malaprop, has arranged a match with an eligible bachelor: Captain Jack Absolute. He is thus his own rival; a sticky situation for Jack, but a brilliantly comic one for the play’s audience.

The various entanglements, fights and confusions of Lydia’s other suitors – the country bumpkin Bob Acres and the belligerent Irishman Sir Lucius – combined with the subplot of troubled romance between the earnest Julia and the flighty Faulkland, make The Rivals a delightful satire of manners and a supreme comedy.

Unlike other contemporary sentimental plays, The Rivals recalls Restoration theatre, though with an added whimsicality, charity and moral tone; whether it constitutes a complete rejection of sentimentality is a debate prolonged by the contrasting tones of the main plot and subplot.

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Bloomsbury Publishing

Richard Brinsley Sheridan edited by Tiffany Stern

ISBN: 9780713667653

Series: New Mermaids

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