The Matchmaker - Act 3 Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 45 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Matchmaker.
This section contains 813 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)

Act 3 Summary

Act 3 takes place in the late afternoon on the veranda of the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant in New York. Horace and his new clerk, Malachi, are at the restaurant arranging for Horace's dinner with Miss Simple.

Ambrose and Ermengarde arrive at the restaurant in a cab chaperoned by Dolly. Malachi pulls Horace behind a folding screen, so that they can hear the other three characters as they insult Horace. Dolly, however, becomes aware of Horace's presence and quickly changes her tone from insult to praise and sympathy. She then leads the young people upstairs for their dinner.

Horace bribes Malachi and the cabman, who is still outside, giving instructions that, when the young couple come out of the restaurant, the cabman is to take them to Flora Van Huysen's address and keep them there until Horace arrives. Meanwhile, Horace leaves to prepare for dinner and instructs Malachi to make sure no one else uses the veranda. Malachi and the cabman have a humorous exchange about employers, retiring finally to the kitchen to find whiskey to brace their selves for the kidnapping.

Irene, Minnie, Cornelius and Barnaby arrive and seat themselves on the veranda. They order an extravagant meal, including champagne. The women dance, and Barnaby even scores a kiss from Irene. There is conflict, however, when Malachi returns and tries to clear the room for his employer. A waiter resolves the issue by unfolding the screen between the two tables, so that when Horace arrives, he grumbles about having other people in the room, but he does not know who they are. He sits down to read a newspaper and waits for Dolly to arrive with "Miss Simple," dropping his purse on the floor.

Malachi finds the purse and "returns" it to Cornelius, who is thereby spared the humiliation of not being able to pay for the extravagant meal. Cornelius learns that Malachi's employer is Horace and that Horace is on the other side of the screen. He then sits down to tell Irene everything.

Dolly arrives and claims that Miss Simple ran off to marry someone else. She then pretends that Horace has suggested he marry Dolly, but she says that she would not marry him. Cornelius and Barnaby try to get past Horace, by disguising themselves as women as they leave the restaurant, but Horace discovers Cornelius and fires them both.

As the curtain closes, Horace has fired his clerks and lost his purse. His niece has fainted, and Ambrose has carried her out. Noting all that Horace has lost, Dolly chases him out of the restaurant saying, "Will you marry me now?"

Act 3 Analysis

Just as Malachi uses the screen to force Horace to listen to harsh words spoken about his self, Thornton Wilder uses conversation between employees to make his middle class audience "overhear" some hard truths. In the first act, it was Cornelius and Barnaby who spoke of the subject of rich people. In this act, Malachi and the cabman make fun of employers. When the women dance, Minnie tells Irene that all the girls in the workroom dance when their employer is not looking. Irene is moved to say, "You thought I'd be angry! Oh dear, no one in the world understands anyone else in the world." Again, Wilder is using an employee to teach that human nature dictates that all people have similar needs, including leisure, companionship and enjoyment of the arts.

When Malachi "returns" the purse he thinks Cornelius has lost, he explains to the audience that there was a time when he would have kept it, but that he is no longer in the business of "re-distributing wealth." Ironically, that is exactly what he is doing by handing over Horace's purse to Cornelius. The audience enjoys watching Cornelius receive some money from Horace's purse, because there seems to be justice in that act, and because we do not want him to be humiliated in front of Irene. However, Cornelius' natural integrity comes into play, and he tells Irene everything. By this, Wilder is showing his audience that a true gentleman is not necessarily the one with the money.

Irene and Minnie try to help Cornelius and Barnaby, and as the act ends, it becomes clear why Dolly has arranged for all the characters to meet in the same restaurant. She wants Horace to see that by trying to keep things in order, he has made his life unnecessarily chaotic. She shows him that his money has bought him neither happiness nor the admiration of others. She also wants him to believe he needs her in his life to bring some real order to it.

The playwright's motives in this act are similar to Dolly's. He is showing his audience that a life, which is centered on acquisition and cut off from other people, can never bring real order and security.

This section contains 813 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
The Matchmaker from Gale. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.