OCR A2 The Rivals A03 and A04 Critics and Context

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The Rivals Revision
Comedy of Manners satirises sentimentalism and sophisticated pretensions
without the typical 18th century moralising
Oliver Goldsmith 1773 ­ "laughing comedy" in contrast with the "weeping
sentimental comedy" that dished out heavy handed moralising in every act
The Georgian public expected plays to remind them of their social and domestic
life
Society set value on delicate attentions, sympathetic and discerning
compliments, these arts were cultivated in order to maintain social supremacy
Sheridan was the first writer to make Drawing room diplomacy the essence of a
play
Like Bob Acres and Beverly, Sheridan also intended to have a duel with Thomas
Mathews
Hazlitt ­ Audiences find Georgian comedies better crafted, more continuously
dramatic "as good as a novel"
Unlike his contemporary Goldsmith, Sheridan does not seem to crystallise
memories of native Ireland into a bittersweet Eden
Sheridan chose Covent Garden because it had recently had notable success
with Goldsmiths She Stoops to Conquer
Virtually all major player in The Rivals had taken similar roles in She Stoops to
Conquer further demonstrating the intimacy and intensity of the Patent theatres at
this time
Sheridan knew Bath well, gone there on friendly terms at 20 with his father where
he met beautiful and pretentious ladies, including Mrs Miller who possibly
inspired Mrs Malaprop
Sentimental novels at this time were mainly wrote by women and consumed
substantially by them but Lydia (Reflecting her creators tastes) prefers those
wrote by men
Therefore it is likely that Lydia was reading on Stage what the audience was
reading off stage
The brothers in School for Scandal are both called `Surface'. Public life involved
elaborate surfaces of hair and clothes, in The Rivals deception abounds like the
civilisation that inspired it
The cult of sensibility began with little cellular movements of consciousness
observed be readers of Richardson's epistolary novel Clarissa 1747 (tragic
story of a heroine whose quest for virtue is continually thwarted by her family) who
like Lydia, her choice of Husband goes against the family's wishes and also
contains themes of deception
Devotees shuddered with sighs and dripped with tears and were fashionably
indisposed at every reversal of fortune like Faulkland wishes Julia to be
Sheridan wrote as a Man of Sentiment and as a scoffer of current fashion

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It is possible Sheridan based some aspects of Faulkland on his own behaviour
23 years before writing the play, when he eloped with Elizabeth Linley he was
20 and idealistic as Lydia Languish
Mrs Inchbald ­ considered Faulkland the most "original" character in the comedy.
His exchange with Julia at the beginning of Act 5 was praised by early reviewers
beyond the "pitch of sentimental comedy.…read more

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Love was a key convention that governed Restoration/Comedy of manners
particularly free love, Constancy in love (especially marriage) was seen as
boring links to Blake who used the theme of free love in his poetry
In CofM the characters are 1d often caricatured by their very name e.g.
Malaprop, Miss Prism and were driven usually by a single emotion ­ love, lust,
greed
In the 18th century comedy had become too watered down and sentimentalised.…read more

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Mary Wollstonecraft's influential book A Vindication of the Rights of
Women demanded equal rights with men. This was the first serious book written
by a woman
In Sheridan's plays women are written as importantly as the male characters but
their roles and restrictions reflect societies moral codes and values at the time
Sheridan reveals how women then become manipulators and mischievous
secret agents. Thus, the brilliance of the piece is the playwright's insight into the
behaviour of the times.…read more

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