The Matchmaker - Study Guide Act 4 Summary & Analysis

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Act 4 Summary

The final act of The Matchmaker takes place at the home of Miss Flora Van Huysen.

Flora is upset and worried about Ermengarde, who has not arrived as scheduled. Flora is also angry with Horace and "everyone else who tries to separate young lovers." Someone interfered with her and her fiancée's relationship years ago, and she has never been married. She wants to help Ermengarde escape her uncle and in order to marry Ambrose.

The cabman and Malachi arrive with their two prisoners, the man and "woman" who came back to the cab after dinner. However, these two are not Ermengarde and Ambrose, but Cornelius and Barnaby. Barnaby is still dressed as a woman. Flora mistakes him for Ermengarde, kisses his cheeks and assures him she will not interfere with the marriage. The arrival of Ermengarde and Ambrose in another cab completely confuses Flora.

Horace, Dolly, Irene and Minnie arrive now, all in the same cab. Flora tells Horace to "behave" in her house and to forgive Cornelius and Ambrose, though she is still confused about who is who. Dolly also encourages Horace to forgive them, telling him, "You've had a hard day…you can start quarreling with them tomorrow." This is one way of saying that, sometimes, we are being kinder to ourselves by not insisting that life be exactly as we want it to be.

Then Flora, at Dolly's suggestion, takes everyone else into the kitchen for coffee. This gives Dolly time to "talk" with her deceased husband, asking his blessing to marry Horace. Dolly then addresses the audience and tells her story. Two years after the death of her husband left her alone, Dolly realized that the only way to be truly alive is to be involved in the lives of other human beings. She also realizes that in order to be happy, it is necessary to have money, but not too much. She intends to help herself be happier by enjoying some of Horace's money, and to make him happier by helping him to let go of his surplus.

Horace comes in from the kitchen, with a cup of coffee for Dolly, and says a lot of "foolishness" has been going on in the kitchen. He has forgiven his niece and her fiancée. He has made Cornelius his partner and now he wants Dolly to marry him. Dolly pretends to struggle with the decision, until he assures her that she can do with his money as she pleases.

Barnaby bursts in to tell the two that Cornelius and Irene will marry. Horace sends him back into the kitchen to tell everyone that he and Dolly will also be married. Everyone who was in the kitchen comes out to offer congratulations. The play closes as Barnaby is pushed forward to tell the moral of the play: everyone needs the right balance of security and adventure.

Act 4 Analysis

The way Wilder ends this play suggests that, if someone's life includes love and fun, not just work and money, the he or she will be more charitable with others, in terms of both money and judgment.

A familiar proverb says, "A fool and his money are soon parted." However, Dolly has learned, and she teaches Horace, that there is no escape from with the common human needs for affection, fun and money. Man can either be a fool among fools, or a fool amongst none other than his self. Being a fool among fools involves letting go of one's grip on money. It is safe to let go of security and pursue balance, because, as Dolly says, "The difference between a little money and no money at all is enormous…and the difference between a little money and an enormous amount of money is very slight." In other words, one needs enough money to be happy, but too much money does not make one happier.

This section contains 667 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Drama for Students
The Matchmaker from Drama for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.