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Looking at the research undertaken last year, identify the themes and issues that are contained in 'The Rivals' and how they relate to 18th Century Society.

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Introduction

Looking at the research undertaken last year, identify the themes and issues that are contained in 'The Rivals' and how they relate to 18th Century Society Comedy of Manners was the prominent style of comic theatre in the 18th Century. Comic playwrights would look at the behaviour of different social groups and the society around them. The manners observed are particularly those of the upper classes and courtly circles. The tools of a playwright are acute observation and exaggeration, a great deal of humour is shown with contrasts. For example in 'The Rivals' there is a contrast between town and country, young and old and abstract ideas and reality. Romance is also a prominent theme in the play and is used as the main plot of the play. Deceit however is the important element of the plot and what the majority of the character participate in and develops onto different themes. The role of women in 'The Rivals' is significant as during the period of Restoration theatre, more and more women actors were taking to the stage. This allowed playwrights to develop men and women's relationships more deeply. ...read more.

Middle

very quickly' Sheridan uses Faulkland and his relationship with Julia to mock the trend of sentimentality that was around at the time. Faulkland's sensitivity is exaggerated greatly to created humour within the play and his relationship with Julia which brings out his jealous nature again parodies the conventions of romance. Again in the times of Restoration anything that contradicted the conventions of society was seen as a target for humour. The play is a comedy of manners and these are exploited in the play and exaggerated to present exaggerated characters for comedy. Mrs Malaprop is a great example of an exaggerated character, through her own dialogue and her inflated used of words she is subject to ridicule, again creating effective comedy. Her name comes from mal � propos meaning inappropriate, which is appropriate for her nature with words. Fag is another character who shows a lot of wit in his 'manners'. In the opening scene we are introduced to his disillusioned nature of him being higher than his station in society. Firstly he is very peevish and arrogant in his manner towards a 'fellow servant'. Then he brings his gloves into the dialogue; Sheridan could have used this for a number of reasons, one being for Fag to boast the fact he has gloves as the higher classes was seen to wear gloves. ...read more.

Conclusion

Playwrights wrote to please audiences. The Restoration audiences were both smaller and standardized, composed mainly of the upper classes of London. The audience structure provided many reoccurring themes in Restoration Comedy: pursuit of love, cynical manipulation and the condemnation of marriage, the manipulation and deceit between characters in 'The Rivals' reflects this. The element of deception is what the plot is based on, and every character is involved. Fag deceives Captain Absolute, Jack deceives his father, Mrs Malaprop and Lydia, Lydia deceives her aunt and Jack, Faulkland deceives Julia, Mrs Malaprop deceives Sir Lucius and Lucy deceives anyone she can. The fact that the characters all deceive each other for different reasons again shows how manners feature more important than morals. For example Lydia is a romanticist and wants to live the life of a book; to do this she purposely creates an argument between Beverley and herself. As we can see from the research, playwrights are influenced, by the culture and society around them, and use this as a basis of the characters and themes. Many critics discuss the efforts of contemporary playwrights 'to represent the actual manners of times and to show real characters in familiar settings' from my research I have found this to be very true. Theatre Studies ...read more.

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