Describe the setting of the The Rivals.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Richard Brinsley Sheridan's classic Restoration comedy, The Rivals, is set in the city of Bath, a location long famed for its warm-water spa, where the wealthy and fashionable once came to "take the waters" in the same way as they might now vacation in a resort such as Gstaad.

Thus, it serves as an ideal backdrop for a comedy which lampoons the frivolous pastimes of the upper classes, whose prime goal is to see and be seen, and makes more gentle sport of one Lydia Languish, whose amorous fantasies have been fueled by the consumption of popular romances. Swept away by the belief that only a poor soldier can be the object of her passion, she falls in love with a commoner, Ensign Jack Absolute, who seems the embodiment of her dream. But is he?

Bath was an excellent choice for a play like The Rivals because it was a common vacation destination for the British upper classes, whose behavior is its comic subject.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The poster above is correct. Bath was the hot vacationing spot (and continues to be) for the elite of London. There, women would show off the latest fashions, worn around town and to elaborate parties. Marriage proposals were often made in Bath and many couples honeymooned there as well. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial