Read one of the sentimental novels of the eighteenth century, such as Laurence Sterne’s Sentimental Journal through France and Italy. After reading it, identify several defining aspects of the sentimental man. You might also consider contrasting the qualities of the sentimental man with those of a sentimental woman, as portrayed in Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote.
At the end of the play, Lydia decides to marry Jack. Do you agree with her assessment of him as a marriage prospect?
What special considerations of the status of women in the eighteenth century, as opposed to that of women in the twenty-first century, might affect the female protagonist’s choices of suitable marriage partners?
What roles do Mrs. Malaprop and Bob Acres play in this comedy? How do their language difficulties reflect on the issues that cause con- flict between the lovers?
Read Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘‘An Essay on the Theatre; Or, A Comparison Between Laughing and Sentimental Comedy’’ (1773). Define ‘‘Laughing Comedy,’’ and then, find evidence in Sheridan’s play that supports the interpretation that The Rivals is a ‘‘laughing comedy.’’