The Rivals "I Own The Soft Impeachment"

Richard Brinsley Sheridan

"I Own The Soft Impeachment"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In this last scene of Sheridan's play each of the several strands of the plot is unwoven. Captain Absolute is revealed to be also the fictitious "Ensign Beverley," his own rival for the hand of Lydia Languish in marriage. He is accepted in his true identity by her, to be her husband. One of his real rivals, Acres, a bumpkin from the country, refuses to fight a duel with "Ensign Beverley" when he discovers who the "ensign" really is, his old friend Captain Absolute; young Acres gives up any claim he might have for Lydia in marriage, accepting the girl's decision. But Sir Lucius O'Trigger, another rival suitor, refuses to abdicate his suit for Lydia's hand, being a man of action and honor. He produces letters from "Delia," who is, he assumes, really Lydia Languish. However, it turns out that "Delia" is actually Mrs. Malaprop, Lydia's elderly guardian, who has been writing love letters to Sir Lucius. When Sir Lucius produces the letters, Mrs. Malaprop is forced to confess:


MRS. MALAPROP
O, he will dissolve my mystery!–Sir Lucius, perhaps there's some mistake–perhaps I can illuminate––
SIR LUCIUS
Pray, old gentlewoman, don't interfere where you have no business.–Miss Languish, are you my Delia or not?
LYDIA
Indeed, Sir Lucius, I am not. [Walks aside with Capt. Absolute.]
MRS. MALAPROP
Sir Lucius O'Trigger–ungrateful as you are–I own the soft impeachment–pardon my blushes, I am Delia.
SIR LUCIUS
You Delia–pho! pho! be easy.
MRS. MALAPROP
Why, thou barbarous Vandyke–those letters are mine.–When you are more sensible of my benignity–perhaps I may be brought to encourage your addresses.
SIR LUCIUS
Mrs. Malaprop, I am extremely sensible of your condescension; and whether you or Lucy have put this trick on me, I am equally beholden to you.–And, to show you I am not ungrateful, Captain Absolute, since you have taken that lady from me, I'll give you my Delia into the bargain.