The Rivals "An Allegory On The Banks Of Nile"

Richard Brinsley Sheridan

"An Allegory On The Banks Of Nile"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In this scene of Sheridan's play, Captain Absolute appears to Lydia Languish as "Ensign Beverley," which is a fictitious identity he has taken on to woo the fanciful, but beautiful, young heiress. He knows that with her romantic notions she wants to marry the penniless "ensign" for love, rather than the real Captain Absolute, who is heir to wealthy Sir Anthony Absolute. The situation is complicated further by the fact that Mrs. Malaprop, the girl's guardian, knows the suitor for Lydia is Captain Absolute, but she does not know that he is also the fictitious "ensign," whom she despises. During the interview between the young people Mrs. Malaprop enters unseen to eavesdrop. Hearing Lydia say that she will never marry Captain Absolute, Mrs. Malaprop comes forward to berate the headstrong girl. As usual when she speaks, Mrs. Malaprop uses wrong words, here saying "allegory" for "alligator":


MRS. MALAPROP
[Aside.] Ay, poor young man!–down on his knees entreating for pity!–I can contain no longer.–[Coming forward.] Why, hussy! hussy! I have overheard you.
CAPT. ABSOLUTE
[Aside.] Oh, confound her vigilance!
MRS. MALAPROP
Captain Absolute, I know not how to apologize for her shocking rudeness.
CAPT. ABSOLUTE
[Aside.] So all's safe, I find.–[Aloud.] I have hopes, madam, that time will bring the young lady–
MRS. MALAPROP
Oh, there's nothing to be hoped for from her! She's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of Nile.