The Rivals, Sheridan's first play, is a portrait made from material of his own life; his scandalous marriage to a popular singer of the age and the characters he had come to know in the town of Bath. A romance told with great wit and emotion, The Rivals is one of the funniest jewels of late-Restoration comedy.

In order to woo the idealistic Lydia Languish, to whom wealth means little, Captain Absolute offers himself to her as a poor Army officer. Standing between the two lovers are an extraordinary collection of comic characters: the captain's acrimonious father, Sir Anthony Absolute; Lydia's quick-tongued aunt, Mrs. Malaprop; and the affable Bob Acres, the captain's friend turned rival.