One of the main instances of dramatic irony in the play is the fact that the man that people think is "Ensign Beverley" is actually the alter ego of Jack Absolute. While the audience learns in the first scene that Jack has adopted a second identity, many of the characters remain in the dark throughout the play, most notably Lydia Languish, who is the reason Jack is pretending to be an ensign in the first place. Lydia wants to marry someone poor to prove that love is more important than money, so Jack pretends to have a humble income as an ensign in order to convince her that he is worthy of her affections.
Anthony wants Jack to marry Lydia (Dramatic Irony)
Mrs. Malaprop and Anthony Absolute cook up a plan to have Jack marry Lydia Languish. This is ironic in multiple ways. For one thing, neither of these elders realize that Jack and Lydia are already in love. Furthermore, when Anthony tells Jack that he has chosen a bride for him, he does not tell Jack who the bride is, and Jack rebels. The audience knows that Anthony is trying to get Jack to marry the woman he loves, but Jack believes he is being forced into an unwanted marriage.
Lucy has given Lucius' letters to Lydia (Dramatic Irony)
Lucy the maid of Mrs. Malaprop is one of the characters who creates much of the confusion in the plot. Her main offense is taking Lucius O'Trigger's love letters meant for Lydia, and giving them to Mrs. Malaprop, who accepts them as directed at her. Before any of the characters know about this mix-up, Lucy confesses her scheme to the audience.
Faulkland's Test Backfires (Situational Irony)
Faulkland is exceedingly insecure about Julia's love for him, and so devises a plot to test her love. He tells her that he has been exiled and asks if she will come with him. When she agrees, passing his little test, he reveals that he made up the scenario to test her love. Instead of solidifying their bond, however, the test makes Julia feel used, and she breaks off their engagement. It is ironic that Faulkland's plan to understand more about Julia's love for him ends up backfiring and causing her to push him away.
The Rivals Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Rivals is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.