Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 910
Act 5 begins inside the Hardcastle manor. Hastings enters, followed by a servant. The servant confirms that Constance and Mrs. Hardcastle have driven off and that Sir Charles Marlow has arrived on the premises. Hastings then expresses hopelessness over his situation. The two exit.
Sir Charles and Mr. Hardcastle enter, joking about Marlow’s mistake good-naturedly. They then express their excitement over the imminent union of their families. Marlow enters. He extends an apology to Mr. Hardcastle for his behavior, which the latter accepts readily. Mr. Hardcastle then teases him about his feelings for Kate, to which Marlow reacts by denying that he and Kate ever shared any sort of connection or intimacy. This confuses Mr. Hardcastle, because he saw Marlow and Kate (whom Marlow thought was a maid) flirting only a few hours earlier. Mr. Hardcastle presses Marlow, but the latter insists that he and Kate had but one meeting, which was formal and brief. Marlow exits.
Kate enters. Sir Charles Marlow and Mr. Hardcastle immediately ask her about Marlow’s advances towards her. Kate affirms that she and Marlow have had several meetings and that he has already professed his love for her. This confounds Sir Charles and Mr. Hardcastle, as they had just heard Marlow deny anything of the sort. Kate assures them that if they hide behind the nearby screen, they will hear Marlow confess his feelings for her.
Scene 2 takes place at the back of the Hardcastle garden. Hasting enters, muttering to himself that Tony is late for their meeting. Tony enters. Hastings asks him where Constance and Mrs. Hardcastle are, as Tony is their travelling companion. Tony reveals to him that he has deceived the two. Constance and Mrs. Hardcastle have been led to believe that they are travelling forward when they have actually been travelling around and back to the manor. At present, Tony says, the two believe that they are forty miles from the estate when they are really at a horse-pond in the bottom of the garden. Hastings thanks Tony for his help and exits.
Mrs. Hardcastle enters. Tony scares her by saying that they are at Crackskull Common, one of the most dangerous spots in the country. Seeing Mr. Hardcastle approaching, he then pretends he senses imminent danger and bids Mrs. Hardcastle to hide behind a tree. Mr. Hardcastle enters.
Mr. Hardcastle questions Tony about Mrs. Hardcastle’s journey, and Tony responds with glib lies. Mr. Hardcastle becomes suspicious of him, and the two have a heated altercation. Sensing that something is wrong, Mrs. Hardcastle jumps up from her hiding place and is surprised to see her husband wrestling with Tony. The Hardcastles learn that Tony had deceived Mrs. Hardcastle and that she and Constance had been at their estate all along. Mrs. Hardcastle chases Tony in a rage. The three exit.
Hastings and Constance enter. Hastings begs Constance to leave with him at once. Constance, however, is adamant about claiming her inheritance. Hastings concedes.
Scene 3 takes place inside the Hardcastle manor once more. Kate enters, followed by Marlow. Sir Charles and Mr. Hardcastle, meanwhile, are shown eavesdropping behind the screen.
Marlow announces to Kate that he has come to say goodbye. Kate implores him to stay a while, but Marlow replies that staying will only torture him with the knowledge that they can never be together. Kate then points out that, since Marlow is so concerned with fortune, she will have to concede to his departure and content herself with the “slight approbation” he has given her. Touched by Kate’s words, Marlow resolves to stay, insisting that her simple beauty and grace take precedence over mere fortune. Kate, however, tells him that his infatuation with her is a fleeting passion she dare not take advantage of, to which Marlow replies that happiness—not mere passion—is what he has found with her. He then kneels before her and professes his commitment.
At this point, Sir Charles and Mr. Hardcastle come out from hiding. It is then revealed to Marlow that the maid he had professed his love to is actually Kate herself. He is, at first, deeply embarrassed. However, Mr. Hardcastle assures him that all has ended well, because everyone approves of their union. Marlow and Kate exit.
Mrs. Hardcastle and Tony enter. Mrs. Hardcastle, under the impression that Hastings and Constance have ridden off, consoles herself with the fact that she still has Constance’s jewels. Mr. Hardcastle berates her for being so “mercenary,” but she dismisses this. Mr. Hardcastle then reminds her that once Tony comes of age and formally denounces his engagement with Constance, Mrs. Hardcastle will cease to be the caretaker of Constance’s inheritance.
Constance and Hastings then enter. Hastings apologizes for their plans to elope and clarifies that his intentions with Miss Neville are pure and resolute; he even secured Constance’s father’s consent before he died. Constance adds that she wishes to claim her inheritance. Mr. Hardcastle, sensing the couple’s sincerity, calls Tony forward and urges him to formally refuse Constance’s hand in marriage. He then reveals that Tony had been of age for three months but that this fact was kept secret from him by Mrs. Hardcastle. Rejoicing, Tony then denounces Constance.
Marlow congratulates Hastings for their union, and Hastings congratulates Marlow and Kate for theirs. The play ends happily, with Mr. Hardcastle announcing that they will formalize their unions at the parish tomorrow morning.