The Rivals

The Rivals Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Why does Lydia want to marry someone who is poor?

    Lydia is a wealthy 17-year-old girl who loves nothing more than to read dramatic romance novels at home. Given this literary preoccupation, she has decided that the noblest and steadfast union between lovers has nothing to do with money. She believes that true love transcends material concerns and is notable because it has nothing to do with money. As a result, she desperately wants to marry a poor man, because if she has his love even after forfeiting her fortune (which will be taken away from her because of a dishonorable union) she will know that their love is true.

  2. 2

    What was a duel?

    The Rivals is a play published in the late 18th century, a time when duels were still fashionable. In British society, it was considered of uttermost importance for a man to protect his honor. If a gentlemen’s honor was tarnished, then he could avenge it by challenging the offending party to a duel. During a duel, the two men used the same weapon and tried to kill their opponent as a way of reasserting their honor. Even though duels were illegal in Europe and in many other countries all over the world, they were extremely popular and a common practice.

  3. 3

    How does Lucy figure in to the main conflict of the play?

    The servants in The Rivals are privy to their masters' affairs, and often get involved, even when they shouldn't. Lucy, Mrs. Malaprop's maid, gets involved because she knows all of the romantic gossip taking place in Malaprop's house, and complicates matters by giving Lucius O'Trigger's love letters—meant for Lydia—to Mrs. Malaprop. As a result, Mrs. Malaprop spends the entire play thinking that Lucius O'Trigger is in love with her, while he believes he is keeping up a correspondence with Lydia. This leads Lucius to challenge Jack to a duel, even though he is the only one who believes that Lydia is in love with him.

  4. 4

    What does the epilogue mean?

    After the play is over, the actress who played Julia, and who appeared in the Prologue representing "the Muse," comes back onstage and delivers a direct address to the audience. She tells the audience that while the women seemed powerless in the play, they were actually in control of everything, because they inspire love in the male characters. Love, she tells us, is the most important thing.

  5. 5

    How does Faulkland's plan backfire?

    Throughout the play, Faulkland is exceedingly jealous of his lover Julia, and often worries that she is being unfaithful to him, even though she has professed her love to him sincerely. Towards the end of the play, he decides to devise a lie in order to test her once and for all. He tells her that he has gotten into a quarrel which has led to him having to leave the country, and asks if she will come with him. When she says she will come with him and marry him, he is satisfied that she truly loves him, and reveals that this story was actually a lie, but this upsets Julia. Julia is offended that Faulkland is so untrusting of her and calls off their engagement, so Faulkland's plan has the opposite effect of what he intended.