School for Scandal Essay

1 January 2017

School for scandal is a clear example of a typical 18th century drama. Agree/Disagree with this statement. “School for Scandal” is an excellent example of a typical 18th century drama. The 18th century begins at the very end of the Restoration in England. After public stage performances had been banned for 18 years by the Puritan regime, the re-opening of the theatres in 1660 signalled a renaissance of English drama. Restoration comedy is characterized by its literary aesthetics and witty dialogue.

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Restoration comedy is generally plot focused and satirizes the manners and affections of a social class, often represented by stock characters such as the fop and the rake. “School for Scandal”, although it does not fall exactly within the time period of a restoration play, is a fairly typical example of this style of comedy, albeit purged of material considered “indecent”. Sheridan’s satire “School for Scandal” is a blatant attack on the superficiality of many of the upper class, pointing up at their lack of morals and misplaced attentions.

In a restoration comedy characters are often stock, and their personalities are apparent immediately, this may be to prevent confusion and clutter in complex scenes such as the “screen scene” that has Sir Peter locked in a trunk, and Lady Teazle hiding behind Joseph’s screen. The characters in “School for Scandal” are very clearly defined by their names. The gossips all have names that imply their mischievous or deceptive nature, Lady Sneerwell, Snake, Sir Benjamin Backbite.

The Surface family’s name is ironic because of the fact that on the surface Sir Oliver’s sons appear to be the opposite of their true nature. Joseph fancies himself an man of sentiment however he is a hypocrite, and Charles appears to be a drunken wastrel however he has appreciation for his uncle and is generous. In the words of the prologue, “Again our young Don Quixote takes the road,” and “seeks his hydra, Scandal, in his den,” Sheridan is armed in the true spirit of comedy to attack the faults and follies of society.

Typical of the restoration comedy “School for Scandal” contains many criticisms of the wealthier social class of the 18th century. The upper class and the sententious sentimental comedies of the time are held up to ridicule in the person of the hypocrite, Joseph Surface. “Joseph is indeed a model for the young men of the Age – He is a man of Sentiment – and acts up to the Sentiments he professes. ” He is so caught up in the false gallop of sentiment that he gives sentiment free reign even when it is entirely necessary. you are going to be moral, and forget that you are among Friends. ”

Is said by Lady Sneerwell after a unprovoked sentimental rant from Joseph, demonstrating his habituation to his false sentiment. Although “School for Scandal” follows many traditions customary of the Restoration, one key difference makes it more distinctly an 18th century play. After the boom of the Restoration, the sexual explicitness that restoration comedy was notorious for, and was greatly encouraged by Charles II and by the ethos of his court, was once again deemed indecent.

During the restoration, provided a character in a play was witty and charming enough, scandalous and morally reprehensible actions would not be punished. The 18th century was a period of moral puritanicalism and the audiences required that the characters deemed immoral could not go unpunished. This accounts for the revealing of Joseph’s hypocrisy and Lady Sneerwell’s exile at the end of the play.

The 18th century was a time where sentimental comedy was quite popular and Joseph was a jab at that style of sententious comedy. School for Scandal” is an extremely clear and typical example of an 18th century comedy. It is topical and satirizes social classes of the time period. The aestheticism of the language, and the flat stock characters are indicative of a restoration play. Restoration plays are classified as late as 1710, which is within the 18th century. The lack of lewd conduct onstage, although uncharacteristic of a restoration play, is due to the moral and religious view of the 18th century English and makes the play more emblematic of the period.

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