The Rivals is an artificial or antisentimental comedy of manners." Discuss.

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is clear that Sheridan in this witty and hilarious comedy of manners is holding up the cult of sentimentality, and in particular the impact of the novel on women, in this drama. Note the name that is given to Lydia Languish, suggesting the swooning of women because of intense emotion. In addition, it is clear from the list of books that Lydia sends her maidservant out to get for her in Act I scene 2 that Sheridan is attacking sentimentality. The novels listed are actual titles very popular among women at that time featuring sentiment and hackneyed romance. As the scene continues, it becomes evident that Lydia is such a woman of sentiment that she will settle for nothing less than the kind of romance depicted in these books, even if she has to create it herself. Note how she explains to Julia how she had to create a quarrel so that she and her beloved Beverley could go through this important (to her) rite of passage:

So, last Thursday, I wrote a letter to myself, to inform mysel fthat Beverley was at that time paying his addresses to another woman. I signed it your Friend unknown, showed it to Beverley, charged him with falsehood, put myself in a violent passion, and vowed I'd never see him more.

Sentiment is thus upheld to public scrutiny and ridiculed, and this is demonstrated once again when Beverley reveals his true, much more socially acceptable identity, and Lydia expresses massive disappointment that they will not be able to elope after all. The play can therefore be correctly described as "antisentimental" in the way that it mocks and ridicules sentiment throughout.

shewa55 | Student

I am still confused because my teacher taught me that anti sentimental comedy means a comedy without means discovers those elements which prove it that it is only comedy of describes only the behaviours,manners of peoples in the society. They only interesting in fashion dancing duels playing .they artificial immoral like restoration comedy.while to give reference of novel reading it is sentimental elements .there is no original feelings.true love,pathos and emotions.And according to you it to mock sentiments.

please explain. What is the difference between artificial comedy and antisentimental comedy.If they are same terms then i am confused if they are different terms then my mind is clear about the question.However our teacher toldĀ  us that it is the same .