Short summary - The Rivals - Richard Brinsley Sheridan

British literature summaries -

Short summary - The Rivals
Richard Brinsley Sheridan

The brave captain Jack Absolute is in love with the charming Lydia Langwish, and his friend Fokland has a passion for cousin Lydia Julia. Girls respond to fans with passionate reciprocity, and it seems that nothing interferes with the heroes' cloudless happiness. But this happiness was in jeopardy, as the characters in the comedy managed to thoroughly confuse themselves.

On the other hand, it was the confusion that created a lot of hilarious situations and helped to understand that often the main rival of his happiness is the man himself ...

So, you need to start with the fact that Lydia is too well-read and romantic person to put up with an ordinary lot, namely to marry a rich and noble seeker of her hand. Therefore, Jack Absolute involuntarily had to look after her under the fictitious name of the poor ensign Beverley. The idea was a success. Lydia gave Beverly her heart and now dreams of living with him in an amazing poverty. Strict aunt Mrs. Madaprop monitors every step of her niece, so lovers meet secretly, exchange letters through servants and prepare to escape. Suppose that in such a case, the minor Lydia will lose two-thirds of her fortune - for her this is nothing compared to the opportunity to survive her own abduction. All the comedy takes place in the spa town of Bath, where event participants come one after another. Among them are the cousin of Lydia Julia. She is engaged to Fokland, but the wedding is all postponed. And the reason is the «unfortunate character" of the groom, who plagued both himself and the bride with doubts and jealousy.


The next visit to the house of Lydia and her aunt is made by the baronet Sir Anthony Absolute. Mrs. Malaprop - she constantly uses scientific words out of place and therefore considers herself very smart and educated - complains to the baronet that the obstinate niece rejects profitable suitors. For example, she is cold to the venerable Devonshire Esquire Acre, but she «rushes to the neck» of some kind of rootless ensign. During this conversation, Sir Anthony comes up with a happy idea - why not woo Jack's son for Lydia! Mrs. Malaprop picks up this idea and promises in this case to give Acre an official refusal.

Fokland comes next to Bath. Captain Absolute dedicates him to the details of his romance with Lydia, and when Fokland asks if his friend has too tightened his Beverly game, Jack replies with a sigh that he is afraid to admit Lydia to his wealth. «For this trouble I must prepare it gradually; before revealing the cruel truth to her, I will try to become her absolutely necessary ... "

Fokland, in turn, is in a nervous melancholy: he is constantly tormented by anxieties for Julia. "I constantly tremble for her mood, health, life ... Midday heat, evening dew - all this poses a danger to her life, and my life is precious, only as long as she is alive ..." Jack assures a friend that Julia is in good health and now also located in Bath. Just at this time, Acre is visiting, Julia’s neighbor in Devonshire, and after meeting Fokland, he joyfully confirms that the girl is quite cheerful and cheerful. This is where the «unhappy character» of a jealous man makes itself felt: now Fokland is tormented that the bride was cheerful, despite being separated from him. «She chirped, sang, had fun - and not a single thought about me ... Oh demons! ..»

And Acre complains to the captain about the coldness of Lydia, who is rumored to be in love with some Beverly. Esquire hastened to Bath to get a secular gloss, dress up and win the heart of a wayward beauty. And here is Sir Anthony. He is extremely surprised to find his son in Bath, but proceeds without further ado: he categorically informs his son that he has decided to marry him, and when the captain is equally categorically opposed to his parental will, he puts down noisy curses on Jack and retreats in anger.

«But he himself married for love! And they say that in his youth there was a desperate rake and a real prowler, »the captain thoughtfully notes after him.

Meanwhile, from the servant of Lydia, the captain's footman learns that Beverley has a dangerous rival - Captain Absolute, on behalf of whom Lydia has already made an offer to Sir Anthony. This news immediately reaches the Absolute itself - Beverley.

So, the marriage that his father persistently proposed to Jack turns out to be the very party to which the captain is passionately striving. The son decides to correct his mistake sooner and at a new meeting with Sir Anthony takes a penitential look. At the same time, he, of course, pretends to hear the name of Lydia for the first time, and only submissively submits to the parental will. The Baronet is triumphant.

Fokland, meanwhile, arranges the scene of poor Julia. He is so plagued by reproaches and suspicions of insufficient love for him, that even the girl’s angelic patience bursts. «Oh, you torment my heart! I can no longer endure this, »she throws the woe to the bridegroom. After her departure, Fokland, as usual, begins to scourge himself and frantically curse his temper. However, he sees in his behavior a certain spiritual «refinement» and refinement of feelings.

And Jack appears in the living room of Mrs. Malalrop as the son of Sir Anthony and the bridegroom of Lydia. In this role, he is favorably greeted by an old vixen. She even shares her indignation with him about the intercepted letter from the unbearable Beverley to Lydia. The captain is forced to comment on his own message, pretending to be holding it for the first time, and hypocritically curse the arrogance of the ensign. But after that, the aunt at his request leaves, and the captain gets the opportunity to see Lydia in private. He convinces the girl that he has impersonated the Absolute. Lydia is thrilled. Lovers reaffirm their loyalty to each other and the determination to flee from the light. «Love, love alone will be our idol and support ... Proud of our hardships, we will rejoice in the shame of wealth,» promises the happy Lydia Absolute.

And what about an honest Devonian Acre? alas, no matter how hard he tried to succeed in panache, Lydia refused him. Now, at the hotel, Acre is complaining to the servant about the trickiness of secular science. "Pa there ... pa here ... pa, pa, and my leg is not stupid and does not want to dance to the French tune!" At that very moment, his acquaintance, the Irishman Sir Lucius O'Trigger, who had a very cocky disposition, came to the Devonshire . Upon learning that Acre has been rejected, Sir Lucius advises him to hurriedly defend his honor in a duel with his happy rival Beverly. The cowardly Esquire shy, but under pressure from the Irishman surrenders and writes dictated a letter to an unfamiliar ensign. Sir Lucius himself longs to fight the captain Absolute, who accidentally touched him with something.

«Why were you looking for me. Bob? »The captain inquires, entering his friend Acre. He replies that he invited the Absolute to transmit through him a challenge to the accursed Beverly. The captain, cursing himself, assures Acre that he will deliver the letter to its destination. «Thank you! That's what it means to have a friend! - Acre rejoices. «And you will not agree to be my second, eh, Jack?» To this, the captain firmly says that «he is not at all comfortable.» Then Acre asks to convey to Beverly that he has to fight with the famous brave man. «Tell him that I usually kill a person a week. Maybe he will be scared and nothing will happen. » «I will definitely say,» the captain promises, preoccupied with completely different problems.

He is overtaken by the inevitable moment of recognition in pretense. This happens during his meeting with Lydia in the presence of Sir Anthony. Seeing Beverly next to the baronet, Lydia does not hide her amazement. There is a general confusion. «Speak, you bastard, who you are,» growls Sir Anthony. «I don’t understand this very clearly, father, but I’ll try to recall it,» the captain mutters, calling for all his arrogance to help. He reveals to his involuntary deception and apologizes. Mrs. Malaprop and Sir Anthony are ready to exchange anger for mercy. But Lydia’s voice becomes icy. «So there will be no abduction?» She says dryly. And proudly returns to the captain - that is, Beverley - a portrait that before that she constantly wore behind the corsage. No, Lydia will not become the wife of this "low pretender"!

Cursing the whole world, the captain leaves Lydia and immediately encounters Sir Lucius. After several frankly warlike remarks of the Irish, the angry Absolute naturally abandons that he is ready to give him satisfaction at any time. They persuade to converge that evening in the Royal Glade - in the same place where the duel with Acre was appointed. «There will still be enough light for the swords, although it’s probably already a bit dark for the pistols,» the Irishman notes with importance. Having met Fokland after this, the captain gloomily informs him of the prospect of going to the other world and invites him in seconds.

Thirsty for comfort, Lydia rushes to her cousin. In excitement, she tells Julia how she became a victim of vile deception. Julia herself hardly holds back her tears - another attempt to communicate with Fokland led to a final break. «I know too well what vagaries can lead to,» she warns Lydia.


In this heat of ambition, it seems that only servants retain common sense. It is they who, despising all conventions, are in a hurry to prevent the meaningless fights of their masters. To their side they attract Mrs. Malalrop, who, together with them, bursts into Lydia and Julia and screams about the impending «apostrophe». In the face of real danger, everyone instantly unites and headlong rush to the Royal Glade, grabbing the expansive Sir Anthony along the road.

They ripen just at the moment when Captain Absolute and Sir Lucius drew their swords. Acre had already given up on the duel, having just learned that his friend Jack and Beverly were one and the same person. A friendly choir of exclamations and rebukes falls upon the duelists. It also clarifies all the misunderstandings. Loving couples are finally putting an end to rumors and grievances. Acre rejoices at the prospect of being a bachelor, especially since Sir Anthony suggests celebrating this event with a male company. Even Mrs. Malaprop is overwhelmed with general glee.

Only the servants keep silent, but, undoubtedly, they are also pleased with the peaceful outcome of the matter.