The Rivals

The Rivals Literary Elements


Comedic play, comedy of manners



Setting and Context

Bath, at the end of the 18th century

Narrator and Point of View


Tone and Mood

Comic, light-hearted

Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonist: Jack Absolute, Antagonist: Lucius O'Trigger

Major Conflict

One conflict is that Jack Absolute must keep his wealthy background a secret from his beloved, Lydia, while also obeying the wishes of his domineering father. Then later, the conflict becomes that Jack has been challenged to a duel by Lucius O'Trigger and Bob Acres.


The climax occurs when the duel is interrupted by Malaprop, Anthony, Lydia, and Julia.


The first scene, in which the servants gossip about their masters, foreshadows the fact that servants will meddle in the main characters' affair and contribute to the confusion.


When Jack Absolute learns that his father wants him to marry Lydia Languish, he understates his interest in her, much to Anthony's dismay.


Allusions to sentimental romance novels, to Roman mythology, to astrology.



When Faulkland tries to test Julia's love for him, he ends up betraying her trust by lying. Thus, a gesture that he thought would make him feel better about his relationship only causes him to lose the woman he loves. Additionally, Lydia wants to marry a poor man to prove that love conquers all, but little does she know that she has fallen in love with a wealthy captain, and is not actually rebelling against the wishes of her elders.


Jack and Lydia are parallel to the other young couple in the play, Julia and Faulkland.


Use of Dramatic Devices

There are many uses of the aside, in which an audience speaks a line that the other characters cannot hear, but the audience can. These moments only lend more tension to the dramatic irony of the plot.