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“The cleverness and subtlety of Sheridan's use of language in ‘The Rivals’ is too easily overlooked.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?

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Introduction

"The cleverness and subtlety of Sheridan's use of language in 'The Rivals' is too easily overlooked." To what extent do you agree with this statement? In The Rivals, Sheridan uses a mixture of very basic humour, for instance in the way the names of the characters reflect their personalities. This might suggest a basic humour in the play, but on closer analysis of the language, it is both subtle and humorous. The stereotyping used in The Rivals forms much of the reason for the play's success, but beneath this rather crude and basic humour lies a subtle and extremely intelligent use of language that can be overlooked in the play. Captain Absolute is a good example of how Sheridan uses his language in a clever yet subtle way. Jack Absolute is adept and changeable in his character, and this is reflected in the language he uses. Absolute is under the guise of Ensign Beverly whilst he is in Bath, in order to impress Lydia Languish, who thinks that it is far more romantic to be in love with an Ensign then a Captain, and wishes to elope with him. Absolute plays the part of the romantic hero very successfully, addressing Lydia in a letter intercepted by Mrs Malaprop as 'My soul's idol, my adored Lydia'. ...read more.

Middle

Sheridan's clever use of excessive language in order to stereotype and parody sentimental comedy was overlooked by some members of the original audience who saw Lydia as a genuine romantic heroine rather then the somewhat absurd character that she comes across as in a modern performance. Lydia's cousin, Julia, comes across as a very level headed character, who shows genuine feeling and common sense throughout the play. This manner is reflected in the sensible and rational language that she uses for much of the play; 'I do not love even his faults'. This language, and indeed sensible manner, disappears, however, when Julia is with Faulkland. As with all of the other characters in the play, Julia is prone to using the language of sentiment when she is with Faulkland; 'My heart has long known no other guardian...we will fly together'. The differences between the language of everyday life and the romantic language used by the characters are clear, and Sheridan uses this stark contrast to comic effect within The Rivals. Faulkland is a comical figure throughout the play due to his obsessive behaviour and his constant worrying about Julia, for instance in Act II, Scene III where he frets about the state of her health, and is then upset when Acres informs him of her good spirits. ...read more.

Conclusion

She displays a completely different attitude when she is on her own or with other servants then she does when she is in the company of someone like Mrs Malaprop, and is able to use simple language and ideas in order to fool her superiors into thinking that she in unintelligent. In The Rivals, Sheridan uses basic, obvious humour, such as the use of the character's names to describe their personalities, and the simple jokes such as Mrs Malaprop's inappropriate use of language. The play is based on stereotypes, and Sheridan uses ridiculous and over the top characters and events in order to parody sentimental comedy. All of this can, however, overshadow Sheridan's more subtle use of humour which can be found in the language of the characters, and in how easily the characters can be defined by closer observation of their speech, for instance Julia's down to earth attitude, Acres' rustic simplicity and Absolute's ability to deceive. An audience can be easily distracted by the many other humorous aspects of the play and easily overlook this cleverness of language. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 4 "The cleverness and subtlety of Sheridan's language in The Rivals is too easily overlooked." To what extent do you agree with this statement? Louise Phillips LVI ESY ...read more.

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