The locale of this drama is London. The principal characters are the Hardcastle’s. In this household lives Mr. Hardcastle, and his wife Dorothy – Mrs. Hardcastle. By her former marriage, she has Tony Lumpkins, the only child of her marriage to Mr. Lumpkins. There is Miss Hardeastia (Kate), Miss Neville etc. The servants include Roger, Diggory, First and second servants respectively. The play opens with a dialog e between husband and wife. She complains that their house is old with old-fashioned things thus making it look like an inn.
“Here we live in an old rumbling mansion that looks for the entire world like an inn, but that we never see company” (pg. 11)
Mr. Hdrdcastle who is used to the hard jokes of his wife replies that he loves everything old… I love everything that’s old… I believe, Dorothy, you’ll own I have pretty fond of an old wife” (pg. 2) Apart train this nagging wife, Mr. Hardcastle has to grapple with the problems of his stepson, Mr. Tony Lumpkins, who is full of tricks and dubious acts. As the plot unfolds, Miss Hardcastle Kate comes to the fore. Being fully grown and beautiful, her father, Mr. Hardcastle, arranges for Mr. Marlow, the son of his old friend Charles Marlow, to marry her (Kate). She is initially impressed by the credentials or qualities of the prospective groom but is weakened by the mention of her prospective husband as “one of the most bashful and reserved young fellows in all the world” (pg.6)
For Miss Neville (Constance), her parents died and left her to the care of the Hardcastles. But for her costly jewelries, she would not have been of use to the Hardcastles. So, Mrs. Hardcastle is usually impressed each time she sees Tony (her son) playing with Miss Neville. She thinks that their relationship would turn into marriage so that all those costly jewelries would become her household property.
Another turning point is the arrival of Tony Lumpkins to a bar, his usual drinking place. While still in the bar, visitors came asking for the Hardcastles. Tony, a notable trickster apparently trying to pay back the Hardcastles for their unbecoming attitude towards him, directs the visitors (Young Marlow and his friend and companion Mr. Hastings) to the house of Mt Hardcastle as an ‘inn’. First, they mistake the way leading to the house of Mr. Hardcastle and on reaching the bar, Tony redirects them. Hence the sub-title of the play: ‘Mistakes of a night’.
The mistakes begin to manifest, Mr Hardcastle, Pie chief host is taken to be inn-keeper, Miss Hardcastle, the lady to be married is seen as one of the servants or maids serving in the inn. Hastings mistakes his own lover- Miss Neville for a visitor to the inn, Conversely, Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle take their guests as real and prospective in-laws but wonder why they lack appropriate manners befitting the English.
While every arrangement has been concluded to give the visitors a rousing reception, the visitors, still thinking that they are in an inn, request to inspect the chalets and their menu, Mr. Hastings tries to make them feel that Mr. Hardcastle lacks the right manners of an inn-keeper. Hastings and Young Marlow inspect the bill of fare and marvel at the content and filially settle for what is presented to them.
Mr. Hastings protests vehemently for seeing Miss Neville, his lover, in an inn but Miss Neville tells him h truth saying it must be one of the silly jokes of her cousin, Tony Lumpkins. Late Hastings proposes to elope with Neville to France. She almost accepts but remembers her jewelry which she is riot willing to leave behind. Hastings is now aware of the truth but Young Marlow is not.
When Miss Hardcastle is introduced, Young Marlow is so shy. So, instead of the lady, it is the man who looks down, and stammers. Hastings is on hand to prop his friend. Thus, instead of Young Marlow acting like a man, it is now Miss Hardcastle (Kate) who woos the man. Thus, she bends down to conquer her man.
To be certain of his son’s engagement with his friend’s daughter, Sir Charles Marlow arrives from France, His son is still very shy to admit that progress has been made, Again, Miss Hardcastle pretends that all is well and rather suggests that sir Charles Marlow hides while the wooing is made. This time, Young Marlow talks to Mrs. Hardcastle boldly as if his carriage has returned. This is because he still thinks that he is talking to a maid. This makes Mrs. Hardcastle ask why he could not talk to Miss Hardcastle the same way just a white ago. He makes a remark purporting that she, Miss Hardcastle, the lady she wants to marry is a maid in the inn.
The realization of the apparent lie told by Mr. Young Marlow appalls Mr. Charles Marlow and Mr. Hardcastle. They try to make him (Young Marlow) realize all these and he is utterly confounded. As the play ends, all these mistakes are realized. They are all happy except Dorothy – Mrs. Hardcastle.