Characters’ attempts to sound sophisticated or worldly are signaled in the play with the use of foreign languages, like French and Latin. When characters use foreign words they are often trying to project a certain image of themselves, despite the fact that their meaning may not be understood by the person they are speaking to. In other cases, foreign words used by some in Bath society provide a barrier to entry for those who are unaccustomed to them. So foreign words therefore become symbols of efforts to either project or protect an otherwise unearned reputation or social status. The characters whose speech the play portrays positively, like Absolute, focus more on the clarity and wit of their speech rather than on the “loftiness” of their vocabulary.
Foreign Words Quotes in The Rivals
I had forgot.—But, Thomas, you must polish a little—indeed you
must.—Here now—this wig!—What the devil do you do with a wig,
Thomas?—None of the London whips of any degree of ton wear wigs now.
More's the pity! more's the pity! I say.—Odd's life! when I heard how the lawyers and doctors had took to their own hair, I thought how 'twould go next:—odd rabbit it! when the fashion had got foot on the bar, I guessed 'twould mount to the box!—but 'tis all out of character, believe me, Mr. Fag: and look'ee, I'll never gi' up mine—the lawyers and doctors may do as they will.
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.