Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Rival - Richard B Sheridan

Rich hero and even more richer heroine. However, heroine hate richness and wants to marry someone who do it not for her fortune, but some one who loves her. She is willing to leave every thing and live with him,if need be, in condition which are not of her status. Here come the suitors, most of them undoubtedly for her wealth. Knowing her intentions, hero comes in disguise as a no one, poor in wealth but rich in charm. He play the duality of characters in his impeccable style in front of the lady he love ( however the audience is aware of his disguise, but they like to see her falling for his conceit). The plot reveals itself ( you can invent any possible reasons), there is anger and sense of cheating and the lovers fight. In the end, every thing is clear and clean and they come together again and live together happily. Haven't we seen this in various forms and style and interpretation through out many generation of artists?

Richard Sheridan's master piece, written and originally performed in 1775, possibly would be the first of the same, which numerous other less capable artists and directors shamelessly tried to give their own version. Lydia Languish, heir apparent of a huge wealth, is determined to marry someone who is not doing it for her fortune. She is currently under the suppotr and guidance of her aunt Mrs. Malaprop. If she decides to disobey and marry on her accord, half of her wealth will be lost. Mrs. Malaprop is trying to find her the right boy, as the girl is grown and started showing tendencies of rebellion of girls of her age like reading books from libraries, Baron, Sir Anthony Absolute wants his son, currently serving the Royal Army to marry her and are in advanced discussion with Mrs. Malaprop. The overall confusion prevail as he speak to his sone about the proposal while he on the other side flirting with the same lady in disguise. There are other suitors, and a villainous Irish Baron Sir Lucious O'Trigger to cause further complication. As is expected, every thing clears out in the end for the lovers to join and live together.

Reading the book after nearly three centuries, still gives you the charm of a major works. However, the impact , I think, could be more on stage, for its dramatic moments and postures than one experience while reading. Sheridan wanted to write a comedy and including the selection of names, the plot, the schemes were obvious to have a comical effect. He might have crossed the line with the Irish back ground of Lucious O'Trigger, when his first show was interrupted by unruly audience and had be stopped. The same was modified, reducing some of his rhetoric, before re-launching the same in 15 days. Since then ,this has been one of the most staged plays in the modern era, changing his fortune forever.This book also gave a new word to English dictionary as 'malapropism'.
The book does not give you enough to justify the dual role of Ensign Beverly and Captain Absolute to the readers satisfaction. The conversations, however are to the true nature of the characters. The ploy is open in the first page and no curiosity is carried. However, the dramatic moments are galore, with various conversations between Anthony Absolute, Ensign Beverly, Mrs Malaprop and Lydia. As said before, an on stage version will have better appeal than the book.
The Rivals ( 1775)

Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Nick Hern Books

98 Pages
Encyclopedia Britannica , Project Gutenberg, Wiki Entry


Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

I am reading Wilkie Collins' No Name (1862) right now. It more or less begins with an amateur performance of The Rivals. Collins just assumes that his readers know the characters and the play. As they should.

Jayan Parameswaran said...

Thanks Tom, I will lok for this book as well.