The Rivals


Richard Sheridan

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on The Rivals makes teaching easy.

The Rivals: Act 3, Scene 1 Summary & Analysis

Strolling on the North Parade, Absolute reflects on his luck: he has heard from Fag that his father wants to force him to marry the girl he already loves. He determines to 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 then runs into his father, who is still furious. Absolute tells his father he has reflected on the matter and decided that Sir Anthony is right—it is his duty as a son to agree to marry whichever woman his father chooses without knowing who she is.
Unlike Lydia, Absolute is perfectly happy to marry with his father’s consent, but he has too much self-respect to simply explain to his father that he has already been courting Lydia. Instead, because Sir Anthony had been trying to force him to give up all autonomy, Absolute stretches out his deception. This way he can point out Sir Anthony’s hypocrisy while getting (mostly) back into his good graces.
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
Sir Anthony, pleased with Absolute’s 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 her beauty, so long as he can please his father. Sir Anthony gets mad at Absolute for not being excited to hear that his future wife is so beautiful. He proclaims that he never would have married an old or ugly woman when he was his son’s age. “Not even to please your father?” Absolute asks. Stumped, Sir Anthony grumbles that he hopes his son is only pretending not to care if his wife is beautiful or not, but Absolute persists in professing that he only cares about pleasing his father. Sir Anthony says he will write to Mrs. Malaprop and Absolute will soon pay Lydia a visit.
Sir Anthony wants to control his son absolutely, but also to be thanked for it once he reveals that he is controlling him in a way that he thinks his son is sure to like. Sir Anthony is not only controlling of his son, though—he is also nostalgic for young love and lust and wants to live vicariously through his son, who refuses him this satisfaction by failing to show any excitement at the prospect of a beautiful wife. Instead Absolute gets his father to face down his own hypocrisy by admitting that he defied his own father to marry Absolute’s mother.
Sheridan and His World Theme Icon
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
Literary Devices