In Act 3, Scene 3, Mrs. Malaprop reads aloud to Absolute a letter in which Mrs. Malaprop herself is compared to an “old weather-beaten she-dragon.” This metaphor is a clear insult that demonstrates how the younger generation in the play views the attempts of the older characters (like Mrs. Malaprop and Absolute’s father) to meddle in their affairs:
Absolute: As for the old weather-beaten she-dragon who guards you – who can he mean by that?
Mrs. Malaprop: Me, sir – me – he means me there – what do you think now? But go on a little further.
The letter-writer’s metaphorical comparison of Mrs. Malaprop to a she-dragon is vivid and rich. These creatures of legend are heavily associated with habits of greed and hoarding. By describing Lydia’s guardian in these terms, the letter implies that Mrs. Malaprop is excessive in her efforts to manage her ward’s life and future.
There is an additional layer of dramatic irony in this letter-reading scene due to the fact that Absolute is the one who wrote this letter. As Mrs. Malaprop reads his insulting words back to him, it becomes clear that Absolute’s many layers of deception are starting to pile up around him to a height that will soon become unmanageable. Later, in Act 4, Scene 2, this very metaphor comes back to haunt him when Mrs. Malaprop realizes who Absolute truly is, and he must answer for yet another of his lies.
In Act 4, Scene 1, Squire Bob Acres anxiously frets over his decision to issue Ensign Beverley a challenge to duel for his honor and the hand of Lydia Languish. Summoning Absolute to his aid in sending out the message (unaware that Absolute is, in fact, also Ensign Beverley), Acres asks him to inspire fear in his would-be opponent through the use of metaphors:
Acres: Stay – stay, Jack. If Beverley should ask you what kind of a man your friend Acres is, tell him I am a devil of a fellow – will you, Jack?
Absolute: To be sure I shall. I’ll say you are a determined dog – hey, Bob!
In the quote above, Acres metaphorically refers to himself as a “devil,” while Absolute plays along, comparing him to a “determined dog.” Both metaphors are made with the apparent intent to intimidate Acres’s duel opponent, but instead they only reveal Acres’s lack of gentlemanly honor. Acres’s desire to preemptively scare the man on the receiving end of his challenge before the challenge has even been issued or accepted is supremely unchivalrous, displaying his cowardice and his unwillingness to fight fairly. This scene is also an instance of dramatic irony because the audience knows that Acres’s chosen fearsome messenger is actually the very man he wants to scare off. Therefore, Absolute is agreeing in this scene to deliver Acres’s not-so-intimidating message to himself, and the effect of Acres’s devilish metaphors are thus succinctly nipped in the bud.