Study Guide

Castle Rackrent

by Maria Edgeworth

Castle Rackrent Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

After the death of Sir Patrick O’Shaughlin, his fine and generous master, Honest Thady Quirk finds himself working at Castle Rackrent for the heir, Sir Murtagh, a penny-pinching owner with a vicious temper. Lady Murtagh is also more interested in money than in the happiness of her tenants. After Sir Murtagh dies in a fit of temper, she strips Castle Rackrent of its treasures and goes to live in London. The estate passes to her husband’s younger brother, Sir Kit Rackrent, a wild, carefree man. Finding the estate in debt and heavily mortgaged, Sir Kit goes to England to marry a rich wife who will repair the estate and bring a dowry for his support.

At last, Sir Kit comes back with a wealthy wife, a Jew he married while staying in Bath. It is soon apparent to Honest Thady that there is no love between the honeymooners. One serious difficulty arises over the presence of pig meat on the dinner table. Lady Kit insists that no such meat be served, but Sir Kit defies her orders. When the meat appears on the table, Lady Kit retires to her room, and her husband locks her in. She remains a prisoner for seven years. When she becomes very ill and appears to be dying, Sir Kit tries to influence her to leave her jewels to him, but she refuses. It is assumed she will die shortly, and all eligible ladies in the neighborhood hope to become the next Lady Kit. Amid the controversy over his possible choice, Sir Kit is challenged and killed in a duel. Miraculously recovering from her illness, Lady Kit goes to London. The next heir is Sir Condy Rackrent, a distant cousin of Sir Kit.

Sir Condy Rackrent is a spendthrift but a good-natured master. Although the estate is more deeply in debt than ever, he makes no attempt to improve the condition of his holdings. Sir Condy soon begins a steadfast friendship with the family who lives on the neighboring estate. The youngest daughter, Isabella, takes a fancy to Sir Condy, but her father will not hear of a match between his family and the owner of Castle Rackrent. Sir Condy really loves Judy, the niece of Honest Thady. One day, in Thady’s...

(The entire section is 853 words.)