Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Bath. Resort 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.

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

High Georgian Theater
Theater in Sheridan’s time appealed to everyone who could afford to attend. Prices ranged from one to...

(The entire section is 1058 words.)

Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

The Comedy of Manners
The Comedy of Manners hails from the Restoration period (1660–1700), but was revived a hundred years...

(The entire section is 372 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

Eighteenth Century: A small group of women intellectuals, nicknamed ‘‘bluestockings,’’ claims to be the equal of male...

(The entire section is 459 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

Read one of the sentimental novels of the eighteenth century, such as Laurence Sterne’s Sentimental Journal through France and...

(The entire section is 181 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

In 1961, The Rivals was transformed into a musical with words by Bruce Geller and music by Jacques Urbont. The show starred a then new...

(The entire section is 54 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

In Samuel Richardson’s 1740–1741 Pamela, Or Virtue Rewarded, a young servant girl fights to repulse the advances of her...

(The entire section is 198 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Auburn, Mark S., Sheridan’s Comedies: Their Contexts and Achievements, University of Nebraska Press, 1977, pp....

(The entire section is 361 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Auburn, 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.