The Rivals

Mrs. Malaprop / Delia Character Analysis

Lydia Languish’s aunt and guardian, Mrs. Malaprop is a self-important and pretentious woman of around fifty, and the comedic heroine of the play. Her speech is garbled by malapropisms (ridiculous misuses of words), as she tries to use sophisticated language, the meaning of which she does not understand, making for some of the play’s funniest moments. She lectures Lydia on obedience and proper behavior for a young lady, claiming that it is Lydia’s duty to marry someone her elders choose for her. Meanwhile, Mrs. Malaprop herself has fallen in love with Sir Lucius O’Trigger, with whom she is corresponding under the pen name Delia. Unfortunately, Sir Lucius actually has no interest in Mrs. Malaprop, but has been led by the wily maid Lucy to believe that Delia is Lydia’s pen name.

Mrs. Malaprop / Delia Quotes in The Rivals

The The Rivals quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Malaprop / Delia or refer to Mrs. Malaprop / Delia. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Publications edition of The Rivals published in 1998.
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

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:

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Mrs. MALAPROP
I would have her instructed in geometry, that she might know something of the contagious countries;—but above all, Sir Anthony, she should be mistress of orthodoxy, that she might not mis-spell, and mis-pronounce words so shamefully as girls usually do; and likewise that she might reprehend the true meaning of what she is saying. This, Sir Anthony, is what I would have a woman know;—and I don't think there is a superstitious article in it.
Sir ANTHONY
Well, well, Mrs. Malaprop, I will dispute the point no further with you; though I must confess, that you are a truly moderate and polite arguer, for almost every third word you say is on my side of the question.

Related Characters: Mrs. Malaprop / Delia (speaker), Sir Anthony Absolute (speaker)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

Sir LUCIUS
[Reads.] Sir—there is often a sudden incentive impulse in love, that has a greater induction than years of domestic combination: such was the commotion I felt at the first superfluous view of Sir Lucius O'Trigger.—Very pretty, upon my word.—Female punctuation forbids me to say more, yet let me add, that it will give me joy infallible to find Sir Lucius worthy the last criterion of my affections. Delia. Upon my conscience! Lucy, your lady is a great mistress of language. Faith, she's quite the queen of the dictionary!—for the devil a word dare refuse coming at her call—though one would think it was quite out of hearing.

Related Characters: Sir Lucius O’Trigger (speaker), Mrs. Malaprop / Delia, Lucy
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur s

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Mrs. Malaprop / Delia Character Timeline in The Rivals

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Malaprop / Delia appears in The Rivals. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...and that Sir Anthony will arrive soon to present himself to Lydia’s aunt and guardian Mrs. Malaprop . Lydia hurries to fill her cousin in on developments in her love affair with... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...that she provoked a quarrel with Beverley before she was cut off from him by Mrs. Malaprop . Lydia started the quarrel because she realized that they had never fought before, so... (full context)
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...Julia departs, and Lydia and her maid hurry to hide Lydia’s books. Sir Anthony and Mrs. Malaprop enter and immediately begin lecturing Lydia on her determination to marry Beverley when her elders... (full context)
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Left alone, Sir Anthony and Mrs. Malaprop debate the value and utility of education for women, with Sir Anthony hinting that books... (full context)
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...then turns to Lydia: Sir Anthony Absolute proposes that she should marry his son, and Mrs. Malaprop agrees, expressing the hope that Lydia will prefer Absolute to Acres, the first match she... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
Left alone, Mrs. Malaprop reflects that she would be glad to no longer be required to serve as her... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
After Mrs. Malaprop has left, Lucy goes over all the tips and presents she has been given while... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...elope and lose Lydia’s fortune in the process, and so Faulkland advises Absolute to ask Mrs. Malaprop and Sir Anthony for Lydia’s hand in marriage. Absolute says he is not sure that... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
Gentlemanly Honor and Dueling Theme Icon
...him, she assumes her guise of being a simple messenger. Sir Lucius reads the letter Mrs. Malaprop sent, which begins with the puzzling declaration that “there is often a sudden incentive impulse... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
...that Sir Lucius 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.... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Sheridan and His World Theme Icon
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
Absolute visits Mrs. Malaprop , who welcomes him with flattering remarks about his pedigree and “the ingenuity of his... (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.... (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... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
At that moment, Mrs. Malaprop sneaks in and begins to eavesdrop. She misinterprets the lovers’ speech and thinks that Lydia... (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.... (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... (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... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...Beverley’s voice, she turns around and exclaims her surprise at seeing Beverley. Sir Anthony and Mrs. Malaprop are dumbfounded and think that Lydia has gone insane. Sir Anthony says, “the girl’s mad!... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...son may be behind this confusion and demands to know what’s going on from Absolute. Mrs. Malaprop also begins to suspect. In an eloquent speech, Absolute tells Sir Anthony that he is... (full context)
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...he acted like a dutiful son who was indifferent to whether his bride was beautiful. Mrs. Malaprop , however, is shocked to realize that Absolute was the author of the letter calling... (full context)
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
Sir Anthony and Mrs. Malaprop enter, anticipating the sight of two lovers whispering sweet nothings to one another, but instead... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Language and Pretension Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Gentlemanly Honor and Dueling Theme Icon
Mrs. Malaprop , Fag, and David now burst into the room, Mrs. Malaprop shrieking incoherently about “suicide,... (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.... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Gentlemanly Honor and Dueling Theme Icon
Mrs. Malaprop interjects that all this dueling talk is inappropriate conversation for ladies: it is terrifying Lydia.... (full context)
False Identities and Artifice Theme Icon
Courtship and Generational Conflict Theme Icon
...Lydia will deny her own handwriting and pulls out letters written to him by “Delia.” Mrs. Malaprop tries to interject, but Sir Lucius tells her not to interfere and asks Lydia if... (full context)
Sheridan and His World Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Gentlemanly Honor and Dueling Theme Icon
...men should drink a toast to 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... (full context)