Friday, 16 August 2013

'The School for Scandal' as a Comedy


Sheridan’s admirers say that his comic characters go beyond others. His dialogue is wittier, is situations are funnier and his satire is more biting. ‘The School for Scandal’ is an excellent example of satirical and artificial kind of comedy, which depicts the manners, follies and hypocrisy of the age with the help of a well-constructed plot and witty dialogues.

Realism And Satire On Scandal Mongering

          Unlike the Elizabethan romantic comedy, ‘The School for Scandal’ is characterized by realism, social analysis and satire. Sheridan held a mirror to the finer society of his time and portrayed their Love-intrigues and hypocrisy. To destroy other’s characters was a favorite pass-time for the scandal mongers. In the words of Sir Peter Teazle:

            ‘Mercy on me! Here is the whole set! A character dead at every word.’

The ‘principals’ in this school for scandal are Lady Sneerwell and a man named Snake, who like to collect gossip about their neighbors and others in London society.

Witty Dialogues

          Comedy of manners depends on sparkling dialogues. In ‘The School for Scandal’ the conversation between the Teazles is one of the excellent examples of Sheridan’s wit.

          ‘Authority! No, to be sure, if you wanted authority over me, you should have adopted me, and not married me.’
Lady Teazle is one of the most important vehicles for Sheridan’s wit. Without her daily quarrel with Sir Peter, this would be a boring play.

Hypocrisy And Love Of Money

          Another striking feature of these comedies is the hypocrisy of characters. The most memorable quotes is Lady Fidget’s ‘Do not use the word naked’.

The four plots of ‘The School for Scandal’ are very skillfully connected by the agency of the arch hypocrite Joseph. Joseph is courting Maria; Joseph is making love to Lady Teazle; Joseph is plotting with Lady Sneerwell; Joseph is playing the false friend to Sir Peter; Joseph’s finger is in every pie.

Further, Joseph’s major vice is love of money. He has, apparently, no love for Maria, he only wants her fortune.

Comic Situations

          In Sheridan, all situations are comic. Many writers lose the comic touch when the business of the plots has to be move forward. In ‘The School for Scandal’ the Screen-Scene is one of the outstanding comic scenes in English Literature. Joseph’s attempt at seduction is interrupted by the arrival of Lady Teazle’s husband. She hides behind a screen, A number of laughter are produced by further situations in this scene.

Love Intrigues

          Lady Sneerwell is in love with Charles, and she joins hands with Joseph to hinder the marriage of Maria and Charles. Joseph helps her in this intrigue because he himself wishes to marry Maria. Such intrigues are an essential feature of the comedy of manners.

Craze For Fashion

          The craze for fashion receives a satirical treatment in the person of Lady Teazle. When Sir Peter criticizes her, she says

‘My extravagance! I’m sure I’m not more extravagant than a woman of fashion ought to be.’


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