The Matchmaker - Act 2 Summary & Analysis

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Act 2 Summary

Act 2 takes place in Irene Molloy's hat shop in New York, where she works with her assistant, Minnie. Irene calls people "fools," just as Horace does. However, Irene plans to marry Horace, because she is tired of working and being lonely. Like Cornelius, however, she longs for adventure.

Barnaby and Cornelius enter Irene's shop in an attempt to hide from "Wolf-trap," as they call Horace, who is exiting a cab outside. Cornelius and Irene seem attracted to each other, and Cornelius leads her to believe he is a wealthy man. When Dolly and Horace walk toward the hat shop, Barnaby hides underneath a table, as Cornelius hides in the wardrobe.

Irene takes Dolly and Horace to her workroom, allowing the two clerks the time they need to get out of her shop. However, Cornelius has fallen for Irene, and he is in no hurry to leave. Dolly returns to the room, discovering the men, but she says nothing about it as Irene and Horace join her.

Irene asks Horace about Cornelius, thinking that surely they know each other from Yonkers. When Horace says that Cornelius is his clerk, she does not believe it is the same man whom she has met. Dolly advances the idea that Cornelius is leading a double life, as a quiet clerk by day and a wealthy man-about-town by night. She suggests to Horace that he should make Cornelius a partner in his business.

Then, the two clerks start sneezing from the dust and perfume in their hiding places. Horace is shocked and insulted to realize that there are two men hiding in the room, though he still does not know who they are. Dolly escorts Horace out for his dinner with "Miss Simple," pretending to be as shocked as he is by Irene's "impropriety." Secretly, though, she encourages Irene to take advantage of this opportunity for a little fun. Irene, who still thinks Cornelius is wealthy, insists that he and Barnaby take her and Minnie out to dinner. The act closes as the four leave for the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, even though Cornelius barely has enough money to get himself back to Yonkers.

Act 2 Analysis

In this second act, the audience is introduced to the dilemma of working women like Irene. She is a successful businesswoman, and therefore she is not considered a proper lady. She spends all her time at work, among her employees. However, if she were to go out for fun without a chaperone, it would damage her business. No proper lady would patronize her shop.

The meeting of Irene and Cornelius is a meeting between equals. They are not equals in status, but in their humanity. Both are hungry for love and adventure. They are only able to feel their equality because of the illusion that Cornelius is a wealthy man. The audience realizes, too, that if Irene marries Horace simply to be more comfortable, she will not be happier.

Yet, when Horace arrives, Irene plays the role assigned to women in 1900's middle class culture by pretending to need his advice on business. This is further evidence of her quandary. Obviously a successful businesswoman, she must be exhausted by her work and loneliness to pander to Horace's ego in this way.

Wilder foreshadows part of the resolution of this comedy when Dolly suggests that Horace makes Cornelius a partner in his business. This is the second time the idea has been mentioned in the play. The audience knows that women will be partnered with men in marriage, and men will be partnered with one another in business.

This section contains 592 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Matchmaker from Drama for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.