“My pretty darling, Kate.”
Mr Hardcastle dotes on his only daughter, but that doesn’t stop him berating her about her liking of fine clothes. “What a quantity of superfluous silk thou hast got about thee, girl!”
“I could never convince the fools of this age that the indigent world could be clothed out of the trimmings of the vain!”
Mr Hardcastle has important news for his daughter. He is expecting a visit that very evening from the young gentleman that he has chosen to be her husband. Kate is less than impressed!
However, as soon as Mr Hardcastle explains that the young Mr Marlow is not only the son of Sir Charles Marlow, but is also young, generous, very handsome and “designed for an employment in the service of his country.” Kate starts to warm to the idea.
Having settled his daughter’s future, Mr Hardcastle goes off to train the servants in preparation for the visit of the young gentleman from London. “Since we seldom have company, they want as much training as a company of recruits, the first day’s muster!”
In the meantime, Kate confides with her cousin, Constance, that she has been “threatened with a lover.”
Constance tells Kate that she is acquainted with the young Mr Marlow, who is the best friend of her own suitor, Mr Hastings, with whom she plans to elope.
She then reveals the feature of Mr Marlow’s behaviour towards women that underpins the rest of the comedy of the play. “He’s a very singular character,” explains Constance. “Amongst women of reputation and virtue, he is the modestest man alive, but his acquaintance give him a very different character among creatures of another stamp, you understand me.”
The scene changes.