Places: The Rivals

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1775

First produced: 1775

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Comedy of manners

Time of work: Eighteenth century

Places DiscussedBath

Bath. Rivals, TheResort town in western England; it and its surrounding area would have been as familiar to London theater audiences as similar well-known resort areas would be to modern readers, and Sheridan capitalizes on well-known facts of the leisure lifestyles of the fashionable in Bath. For example, it was well known that dueling was forbidden in the city yet there were convenient places outside the city where duels were common. Sheridan refers to familiar places in the city such as the North Promenade and the New Rooms. Especially does he laugh at the well-known fashion of circulating libraries in the town. So, in order to do the play justice, audiences must see the world of the play as that of fashionable, leisure society removed for the summer to Bath.

North Parade

North Parade. Fashionable promenade in Bath that is a place of leisurely walks and fashionable encounters between lovers.


King’s-Mead-Fields. Location of the duel, a place well known for its duels outside the town walls on the Avon River.

BibliographyAuburn, Mark. Sheridan’s Comedies: Their Contexts and Achievements. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1977. Treats Sheridan’s comedies as exemplary manifestations of the comic aesthetic. Discusses The Rivals as a practical play, designed to appeal to a specific audience, and attempting no innovations or departures from popular stage practice.Mikhail, E. H. Sheridan: Interviews and Recollections. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989. A biography composed of excerpts from the writings of those who knew Sheridan. Includes contemporary accounts of The Rivals, opinions on the play from Sheridan’s friends, relatives, and other contemporaries. Shows the range of opinion that accompanied the initial run of the play; reveals the nature of Sheridan’s audience.Morwood, James. The Life and Works of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1985. Reassesses Sheridan’s political career and his management of Drury Lane for thirty-two years. Section on The Rivals comments on Sheridan’s use of autobiographical allusions, his revisions of the play after opening night, and his debt to William Shakespeare. Discusses the two plots and their equation of moral judgment with common sense.Sherwin, Oscar. Uncorking Old Sherry: The Life and Times of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. New York: Twayne, 1960. The chapter on The Rivals covers production history, the initial failure of the play, and Sheridan’s revisions, which led to the play’s later success. Includes a brief discussion of the play’s effect on Sheridan’s career as a playwright and theater manager.Worth, Katharine. Sheridan and Goldsmith. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992. Treats Sheridan and Goldsmith as two Irish dramatists whose work is firmly rooted in the eighteenth-century English theater. Discusses The Rivals in the context of the pantomime tradition.
Categories: Places