The Rivals

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
A passionate, book-obsessed girl of seventeen, Lydia Languish is determined to defy both convention and the wishes of her aunt and guardian Mrs. Malaprop in her choice of a husband. She is a fabulously wealthy heiress, but will lose two-thirds of her fortune if she marries without her aunt’s consent, as she intends to do. Captain Absolute then uses Lydia’s romanticism and determination to have a romance fit for a novel to woo her under the false identity of Ensign Beverley. Lydia is often scolded by her more reasonable cousin Julia for her capricious actions and self-defeating intentions. For instance, when she finds out Beverley is actually Absolute, she swears to break off their ties, although she still loves him.

Lydia Languish Quotes in The Rivals

The The Rivals quotes below are all either spoken by Lydia Languish or refer to Lydia Languish. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Sheridan and His World Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Rivals published in 1998.
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

LYDIA
Here, my dear Lucy, hide these books. Quick, quick!—Fling Peregrine Pickle under the toilet—throw Roderick Random into the closet—put The Innocent Adultery into The Whole Duty of Man—thrust Lord Aimworth under the sofa—cram Ovid behind the bolster—there—put The Man of Feeling into your pocket—so, so—now lay Mrs. Chapone in sight, and leave Fordyce's Sermons open on the table.
LUCY
O burn it, ma'am! the hair-dresser has torn away as far as Proper Pride.
LYDIA
Never mind—open at Sobriety.—Fling me Lord Chesterfield’s Letters.—Now for 'em.

Related Characters: Lydia Languish (speaker), Lucy (speaker)
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

Sir Anthony has come to call and Lydia and Lucy expect him and Mrs. Malaprop to come up to the room. Knowing that these two older people will disapprove of the sentimental literature that Lydia reads, she and Lucy hide the books she likes to read inside decoy books, which are all dull works about proper morality. Lydia is actually interested in books about love, sex, and adventure. Roderick Random, for instance, is a novel about a young man who is not treated like a gentleman because he is the son of a gentleman and lower-class woman. He eventually inherits a fortune and is able to convince a woman to marry him without her guardian’s permission. The older people who hope to control Lydia’s choice of a husband see these books as bad influences, which will make her forget her proper role as a woman.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Rivals quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

What business have you, miss, with preference and aversion? They don't become a young woman; and you ought to know, that as both always wear off, 'tis safest in matrimony to begin with a little aversion. I am sure I hated your poor dear uncle before marriage as if he'd been a blackamoor—and yet, miss, you are sensible what a wife I made!—and when it pleased Heaven to release me from him, 'tis unknown what tears I shed!—

Related Characters: Lydia Languish (speaker), Mrs. Malaprop / Delia (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Malaprop, ever unable to read her audience, attempts to convince Lydia to obey her elders and marry a man that they choose for her by telling Lydia that she herself hated Lydia’s uncle (while using a racist slur to emphasize her point) before she married him. One would expect her to say that their marriage turned out well, but because of the way she garbles her speech, she communicates the opposite. She says “Heaven released me from him” instead of “Heaven released him from me,” which was a poetic way to describe someone’s death. Instead of saying that she “shed unknown tears,” which would mean too many tears to count, she says it is “unknown what tears I shed,” which suggests that she may not have cried at all at his death. But whether or not the Malaprops’ marriage was a happy one, Lydia has nothing but disdain for her silly aunt’s advice on how to be a proper lady or whom to marry.

Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

LUCY
Nay, Sir Lucius, I thought you wa'n't rich enough to be so nice!
Sir LUCIUS
Upon my word, young woman, you have hit it:—I am so poor, that I can't afford to do a dirty action.—If I did not want money, I'd steal your mistress and her fortune with a great deal of pleasure.—However, my pretty girl, [Gives her money] here's a little something to buy you a ribbon; and meet me in the evening, and I'll give you an answer to this. So, hussy, take a kiss beforehand to put you in mind. [Kisses her.]

Related Characters: Sir Lucius O’Trigger (speaker), Lucy (speaker), Lydia Languish
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Lucy is pretending to be naïve to gain Sir Lucius’s trust and get information from him that might prove useful to her in the future. She understands that he wants to think of her as a simple girl who trusts and likes him enough to flirt with him. She also pretends to be surprised that he is such a gentleman and will not run off with Lydia without getting Mrs. Malaprop’s permission first. Of course, she understands that Lydia loses part of her fortune if she marries without her aunt’s permission, but she pretends that such matters are over her head. She succeeds in tricking him, and gets him to reveal his motivations in courting Lydia. He shows that, far from being disinterested in Lydia’s money, it is an important reason for his courtship of her.

Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

Sir, I repeat it—if I please you in this affair, 'tis all I desire. Not that I think a woman the worse for being handsome; but, sir, if you please to recollect, you before hinted something about a hump or two, one eye, and a few more graces of that kind—now, without being very nice, I own I should rather choose a wife of mine to have the usual number of limbs, and a limited quantity of back: and though one eye may be very agreeable, yet as the prejudice has always run in favour of two, I would not wish to affect a singularity in that article.

Related Characters: Captain Jack Absolute / Ensign Beverley (speaker), Lydia Languish, Sir Anthony Absolute
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Absolute has told his father that he will marry any girl his father chooses for him, as Sir Anthony had previously demanded. He does not reveal that he knows that his father wants to arrange for him to marry Lydia, the girl he is already courting, because he is determined to make his father feel how ridiculous was his demand that Absolute show him perfect obedience and surrender any control over his own future. This conflict between the generations has an easy solution, but Absolute is still determined to win a point against his father as a comeuppance for the bullying way Sir Anthony tried to control him. Sheridan was likely also trying to send a message to his own father, who had tried and failed to control his son’s choice of a wife.

Act 3, Scene 3 Quotes

Well, but Mrs. Malaprop, as the girl seems so infatuated by this fellow, suppose you were to wink at her corresponding with him for a little time—let her even plot an elopement with him—then do you connive at her escape—while I, just in the nick, will have the fellow laid by the heels, and fairly contrive to carry her off in his stead.

Related Characters: Captain Jack Absolute / Ensign Beverley (speaker), Lydia Languish, Mrs. Malaprop / Delia
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

Absolute has just met and utterly charmed Mrs. Malaprop. He has led her to believe that he knows about Lydia and Beverley, but sees himself as Mrs. Malaprop’s ally in trying to break that couple up. Of course, he is tricking Mrs. Malaprop, because he is Beverley, but he also wins Mrs. Malaprop’s trust completely by suggesting they should be co-conspirators in a plan to deceive Lydia. Thus Absolute further entangles himself in deception and trickery here, and Mrs. Malaprop further allows herself to be taken in by any who wish to manipulate her. In his own life, Sheridan himself carried out a complicated elopement involving many separate deceptions, so the process of scheming before an elopement would have been a familiar one to him.

ABSOLUTE
Ah! my soul, what a life will we then live! Love shall be our idol and support! we will worship him with a monastic strictness; abjuring all worldly toys, to centre every thought and action there. Proud of calamity, we will enjoy the wreck of wealth; while the surrounding gloom of adversity shall make the flame of our pure love show doubly bright. By Heavens! I would fling all goods of fortune from me with a prodigal hand, to enjoy the scene where I might clasp my Lydia to my bosom, and say, the world affords no smile to me but here—[Embracing her.] [Aside.] If she holds out now, the devil is in it!
LYDIA
[Aside.] Now could I fly with him to the antipodes! but my persecution is not yet come to a crisis.

Related Characters: Captain Jack Absolute / Ensign Beverley (speaker), Lydia Languish (speaker)
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Absolute puts his skill as an eloquent speaker who knows exactly what people want to hear to good use. He speaks with the lyrical language used by lovers in the sentimental novels that Lydia loves to read and pledges to make love the most important aspect of his life, and to prioritize it over comfort and money, as those romantic characters generally did. Although his speech does move Lydia, she is determined to draw out their situation and enjoy the drama of being kept cooped up in the house and separated from her lover. True to her name, Lydia Languish enjoys languishing, because it makes her feel that her life is a passionate adventure like that of a lady in a novel. In going so far overboard with his language, Absolute also seems to be subtly mocking his lover, suggesting that Lydia probably wouldn’t really enjoy living in poverty with only love to comfort her—she just likes the idea of it.

Act 4, Scene 2 Quotes

Then he's so well bred;—so full of alacrity, and adulation!—and has so much to say for himself:—in such good language, too! His physiognomy so grammatical! Then his presence is so noble! I protest, when I saw him, I thought of what Hamlet says in the play:— "Hesperian curls—the front of Job himself!— An eye, like March, to threaten at command!— A station, like Harry Mercury, new——" Something about kissing—on a hill—however, the similitude struck me directly.

Related Characters: Mrs. Malaprop / Delia (speaker), Captain Jack Absolute / Ensign Beverley , Lydia Languish
Related Symbols: Foreign Words
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Malaprop is praising Absolute to Lydia, in the hopes of convincing Lydia to fall in love with him over Beverley. Absolute’s eloquence and flattery of her have prompted Mrs. Malaprop to reach for the most elevated language she can think of: the language of Shakespeare’s plays. But, of course, she misquotes the lines from Hamlet horribly. These lines are: “Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove himself, / An eye like Mars to threaten and command, / A station like the herald Mercury / New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill.” Mrs. Malaprop’s mispronunciation of the names of ancient Roman Gods is a particularly hilarious instance of her pretentiousness pushing her to use words she does not understand. For instance, she confuses Jove, the Roman king of the Gods, with Job, the biblical character who loses all of his prosperity and everyone he loves.

So, while I fondly imagined we were deceiving my relations, and flattered myself that I should outwit and incense them all—behold my hopes are to be crushed at once, by my aunt's consent and approbation—and I am myself the only dupe at last!—[Walking about in a heat.]

Related Characters: Lydia Languish (speaker), Captain Jack Absolute / Ensign Beverley , Mrs. Malaprop / Delia
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

Absolute’s deception has been uncovered, and Lydia is furious to learn that Beverley was a fictional persona that he made up. She is explicitly angry that her hopes to deceive her relatives will come to naught, and instead she finds that she has been deceived herself. This moment shows that the play has just as satirical a view on the position taken by the young as the old in the conflict surrounding courtship between the older and younger generation. Just as Sir Anthony hopes to control his son Absolute’s future absolutely, Lydia puts an undue emphasis on her desire to rebel against her aunt. By showing that both sides of the generational gap were prone to foolishness when trying to settle the important matter of sons and daughters’ marriages for the best, Sheridan takes a conservative position on whether marriages ought to be arranged or not. Ridiculing both Lydia and Sir Anthony, the play treats the topic humorously, but mounts no real criticism to the social practice of the time.

Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

FAULKLAND
What can you mean?—Has Lydia changed her mind?—I should have thought her duty and inclination would now have pointed to the same object.
ABSOLUTE
Ay, just as the eyes do of a person who squints: when her love-eye was fixed on me, t'other, her eye of duty, was finely obliqued: but when duty bid her point that the same way, off t'other turned on a swivel, and secured its retreat with a frown!

Related Characters: Captain Jack Absolute / Ensign Beverley (speaker), Faulkland (speaker), Lydia Languish
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

Absolute has run into Faulkland and tells him that he has been rejected by Lydia after she found out his true identity. Despite his disappointment, Absolute can still speak with eloquence and wit about his predicament, coming up with a fine and detailed analogy for Lydia’s behavior in the condition of a person with a “lazy eye.” Often, if the two eyes do not work together properly, a person with a lazy eye will close one eye to block out the visual inputs from the eye which is not pointing in the correct direction. Lydia, Absolute contends, similarly cannot simultaneously see both her love for him and her duty to obey her guardians and act as she is expected to as a woman. This fine description is further evidence of Absolute’s command of the situation and his ability to handle his emotions. Sheridan, who wanted his audience to associate the character of Absolute with himself, was likely trying to spread the idea that he kept his own wits about him even when facing difficult moments in his love affair or life.

Act 5, Scene 1 Quotes

LYDIA
Why, is it not provoking? when I thought we were coming to the prettiest distress imaginable, to find myself made a mere Smithfield bargain of at last! There, had I projected one of the most sentimental elopements!—so becoming a disguise!—so amiable a ladder of ropes!—Conscious moon—four horses—Scotch parson—with such surprise to Mrs. Malaprop—and such paragraphs in the newspapers!—Oh, I shall die with disappointment!
JULIA
I don't wonder at it!
LYDIA
Now—sad reverse!—what have I to expect, but, after a deal of flimsy preparation with a bishop's license, and my aunt's blessing, to go simpering up to the altar; or perhaps be cried three times in a country church, and have an unmannerly fat clerk ask the consent of every butcher in the parish to join John Absolute and Lydia Languish, spinster! Oh that I should live to hear myself called spinster!

Related Characters: Lydia Languish (speaker), Julia Melville (speaker), Captain Jack Absolute / Ensign Beverley , Mrs. Malaprop / Delia
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

Lydia complains to Julia about her disappointment at finding out that Beverley was a false identity of Absolute’s. The picturesque elements of the elopement that she dreamed of are drawn from the sentimental literature Lydia reads, but also would have been familiar to Sheridan from his own experiencing wooing and eloping with Elizabeth Linley.

Lydia also disparages the trappings of a conventional wedding. She is especially bothered by the idea that her marriage will be approved of by society, which seems to her vulgar and unexciting, and she hates the unromantic idea that there will be a financial component to the arrangement of her marriage. But she dramatizes her situation to the extreme when she says that she never dreamed that she would become a spinster: someone as wealthy, beautiful, and young as Lydia would have had plenty of other opportunities to marry.

Get the entire The Rivals LitChart as a printable PDF.
The rivals.pdf.medium

Lydia Languish Character Timeline in The Rivals

The timeline below shows where the character Lydia Languish appears in The Rivals. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...that she returns Absolute’s affections in his character of Beverley, and that her name is Lydia Languish. (full context)
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
...does not want to give his up. Then the two men spot Absolute and Lucy, Lydia Languish’s maid. Thomas notices that Absolute is paying Lucy money. Meanwhile, Fag rushes off to... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Lucy enters Lydia’s dressing room and reports on the outcome of her search for books for her mistress... (full context)
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
A moment later, Julia enters, much to the surprise of her cousin Lydia. They embrace and Julia explains that she came to Bath with Sir Anthony Absolute’s party... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Lydia’s worst piece of news is that she provoked a quarrel with Beverley before she was... (full context)
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
Julia reassures Lydia, saying that if Beverley deserves her, he won’t give up so easily, but asks Lydia... (full context)
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
Lydia counters that Julia’s fiancé Faulkland is capricious too and always picks fights with her. Julia... (full context)
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
Lucy now enters to tell Lydia that Sir Anthony has arrived. Julia departs, and Lydia and her maid hurry to hide... (full context)
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
The conversation then turns to Lydia: Sir Anthony Absolute proposes that she should marry his son, and Mrs. Malaprop agrees, expressing... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
...would be glad to no longer be required to serve as her niece’s guardian, because Lydia has discovered that she is corresponding with Sir Lucius. She wonders if Lucy has betrayed... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
...and presents she has been given while serving as a messenger for Acres, Ensign Beverley, Lydia, Mrs. Malaprop, and Sir Lucius O’Trigger. She has acted simple and uncalculating, but really she... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...whom he intends to tease about Julia. Faulkland soon enters, asks about Absolute’s quarrel with Lydia, and urges him to make up and elope with her. Absolute says he will not... (full context)
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...and heartsick the way that Faulkland does. Faulkland responds that Absolute is less invested in Lydia than he himself is in Julia; Absolute could love again if he lost Lydia, but... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
...more fashionably and has changed his hairstyle, and that he hopes this will win over Lydia. Absolute encourages him. Acres peppers his speech with unusual oaths. If he can find his... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
...is a rival. Lucy tells Fag that the letter is actually from Mrs. Malaprop, not Lydia, but that Ensign Beverley has an even more serious rival: Captain Absolute. Fag laughs at... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...make up with Sir Anthony, but at the same time to keep his relationship with Lydia a secret as a comeuppance for the harsh treatment he received from his father. Absolute... (full context)
Sheridan and His World Theme Icon
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...obedience, excitedly reveals that the match he wants to arrange is with the beautiful, young Lydia Languish. Absolute pretends never to have met Lydia and declares that he is indifferent to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...ingenuity of his appearance.” He flatters her by saying that since he has never met Lydia, his attraction to the family comes from what he has heard about Mrs. Malaprop’s “intellectual... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
Mrs. Malaprop pulls out a letter that Absolute had sent to Lydia in his character as Beverley. Under his breath, Absolute curses Lucy for betraying him to... (full context)
Sheridan and His World Theme Icon
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
Absolute suggests a plan: that Mrs. Malaprop should allow Beverley to correspond with Lydia, and then when the pair tries to elope together, Absolute will waylay Beverley and carry... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
While alone, Absolute reflects that he may lose Lydia if he reveals his true identity to her now. He turns his back to the... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
...Malaprop sneaks in and begins to eavesdrop. She misinterprets the lovers’ speech and thinks that Lydia has been rudely rejecting Absolute. Mrs. Malaprop comes forward, and Absolute fears that she has... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...to Bath. Acres explains that he has come for love. He describes his situation with Lydia, although he does not disclose her name. He says that he fell in love with... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
At Mrs. Malaprop’s lodgings, Mrs. Malaprop is trying to persuade Lydia to accept Absolute as a suitor. Isn’t he handsome, she asks Lydia. “The Absolute you... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
A servant announces that Sir Anthony and Absolute have arrived. Mrs. Malaprop begs that Lydia act as befits a young lady and show her good breeding, even if she has... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Mrs. Malaprop urges Lydia to turn around, while Sir Anthony begins to grow angry at Absolute for not speaking... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Absolute realizes he is about to be discovered. He addresses Lydia in his own voice, asking that she suppress her surprise. Hearing Beverley’s voice, she turns... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...son, Mrs. Malaprop that he is her admirer and hopes to become her nephew, and Lydia that he assumed the name of Beverley to test whether she loved him regardless of... (full context)
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...“weather-beaten she-dragon” and mocking her speech. Absolute pleads with his father to leave him and Lydia, saying he is overcome with embarrassment. Sir Anthony tells Mrs. Malaprop they should leave the... (full context)
Sheridan and His World Theme Icon
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
Lydia remains silent, and Absolute reflects that this does not bode well. He tries to convince... (full context)
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Lydia begins to feel badly for Absolute, but says he brought this on himself and she... (full context)
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...anticipating the sight of two lovers whispering sweet nothings to one another, but instead find Lydia screaming insults and sobbing. The two elders ask the meaning of this angry scene. Both... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
Gentlemanly Honor and Dueling Theme Icon
...of his love affairs. He sees Absolute, who is talking to himself angrily, complaining that Lydia’s romantic inclinations have gone to such extreme lengths that all his plans have come to... (full context)
Sheridan and His World Theme Icon
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
Gentlemanly Honor and Dueling Theme Icon
...gather the strength to explain what had happened. Faulkland questions Absolute, and Absolute explains that Lydia has rejected him now that she knows his true identity and Sir Lucius has challenged... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Lydia and a maid enter looking for Julia. Lydia reflects to herself that she hasn’t gotten... (full context)
Sheridan and His World Theme Icon
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
Lydia then says that her woes must surely surpass Julia’s: she has found out that Beverley... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...with a story for where he is going, finally saying he plans to go to Lydia and beg her forgiveness. Sir Anthony begins to opine about the hearts of the young,... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
Gentlemanly Honor and Dueling Theme Icon
Sir Anthony, David, Mrs. Malaprop, Lydia and Julia arrive, with David yelling for Sir Anthony to halt the combatants. Sir Anthony... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Gentlemanly Honor and Dueling Theme Icon
...Malaprop interjects that all this dueling talk is inappropriate conversation for ladies: it is terrifying Lydia. Absolute asks if Lydia is terrified that he will not be killed. Mrs. Malaprop urges... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
Acres gives up any claim to Lydia, saying he would rather remain a bachelor than fight for a woman. But Sir Lucius... (full context)
Sheridan and His World Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Gentlemanly Honor and Dueling Theme Icon
...the young couples and to an eventual husband for Mrs. Malaprop. Faulkland congratulates Absolute that Lydia came to her senses and reformed her own romantic inclinations, just as he has been... (full context)