The Rivals


Richard Sheridan

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Rivals can help.

The Rivals: Act 5, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis

Absolute awaits Faulkland, who is late, on the South Parade, with a sword hidden in his coat. He sees his father coming and muffles up his face in hopes of going unrecognized. Still at a distance, Sir Anthony remarks how strange it is: he could have sworn that this was Absolute, but it must be a stranger, as the man does not greet him. Sir Anthony goes up to the man and, despite Absolute’s attempts to disguise himself as a “Mr. Saunderson,” Sir Anthony recognizes his son.
Absolute does not want his father to know that he is going to a duel, as Sir Anthony would certainly interfere, so he resorts to yet another act of disguise. In this case, though, his father has already seen him, and even the clever Absolute cannot deceive the eyes of his own father with just a scarf.
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
His attempted disguise gone, Absolute tells his father he was just joking and scrambles to come up 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, and as he does so reaches out and touches Absolute’s chest. Feeling the hard sword, he becomes suspicious. Absolute says it is merely a small gift for Lydia, but Sir Anthony asks to see what it is. When he sees the sword, Sir Anthony demands to know why Absolute is armed. After buying time for a moment, Absolute laughs as he comes up with the perfect excuse: he intends to threaten to kill himself if Lydia will not take him back. Approving of this as likely to win over Lydia’s romantic heart, Sir Anthony lets Absolute depart.
Absolute can deceive his father by letting him in on a (made-up) story about how he will once again deceive Lydia in order to gain her forgiveness. His father believes that Lydia will be won over by the sentimental scene created when his son threatens suicide out of despair for the loss of her love. At the same time, by letting his father in on this (fabricated) plan, Absolute indulges Sir Anthony’s desire to live vicariously through his love affair with the young and beautiful Lydia.
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
David runs up to Sir Anthony, screaming about murder. He tells Sir Anthony that Absolute is headed to a duel with Sir Lucius, and Sir Anthony angrily exclaims at being tricked again, as the two set off to stop the duel.
Sir Anthony is angry to have been deceived again. He does not realize, though, that he is so easily deceived because of his son’s canny ability to know what lie he wants to hear.
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon