Classic of the Week: The Rivals by Robert Brinsley Sheridan

Especially for freshers’, Lucy Holden puts a modern twist on a wonderfully comic classic.

A fine treat for you Freshers is this raucous eighteenth-century comedy of lies, disguise and the inevitable romance. Not unlike your first week at Leeds I would have imagined. In the 18th Century though boys and girls things were a little different; allow me to translate.

A young lady catches your eye in the Terrace Bar. Your eyes meet across the Jagermeister, etc etc. Her name is Lydia Languish, yours is Captain Absolute. You introduce yourself, but she’s not interested. That student loan of yours has left you pretty flush and Lydia is only swayed by pure, idealised love – that raunchy prospect of no electricity and pot noodles.

You disappear, ruffling your hair and dirtying your clothes before reintroducing yourself as the broke but charming Ensign Beverly. All you can offer her is love. You have not even a penny to put towards a cheap drink. She’s impressed.

But what’s this? Her father wants the wealthy Captain Absolute back; a much more suitable match for his darling daughter. Suddenly you’re in competition with yourself for the hand of a young Charles Morris maiden. What on earth do you do next?

The Rivals is included in The School for Scandal & Other Plays: available from Oxford World’s Classics.

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