Study Guide Compiled by
Michael J. Cummings © 2009
of Work and First Performance
Brinsley Sheridan's The School for Scandal is a comedy of manners,
a play satirizing the behavior and customs of upper classes through witty
dialogue and an intricate plot with comic situations that expose characters'
shortcomings. Characters generally consist of stock types—such
as the bore, the flirt, the gossip, the wastrel, the rich uncle, etc.—rather
than individuals with unique qualities. Comedies of manners in Sheridan's
time typically avoided the romantic sentimentality that characterized many
other stage dramas of the eighteenth century. In The School for Scandal,
the author mainly satirizes malicious gossip and hypocrisy in the fashionable
society of London in the 1770s. The play was first performed in London
on May 8, 1777, in Drury Lane Theatre.
action takes place in London in the 1770s.
Joseph Surface, Lady Sneerwell
Surface: Young bachelor notorious for his extravagance and dissipation.
However, his dissolute behavior may only be a passing phase. At heart,
he is a good and generous person. He and Maria are in love.
to Mrs. Crewe
Surface: Young bachelor who pretends to be an honorable gentlemen but
is really a double-dealing scoundrel. He is the older brother of Charles
Surface. Joseph is in love with the fortune Maria is to receive. He plots
with Lady Sneerwell to break up Charles and Maria. Meanwhile, he attempts
to seduce the wife of Sir Peter Teazle.
Desirable and wealthy young ward of Sir Peter Teazle. She is a woman of
principle who refuses to gossip.
Peter Teazle: Upright gentleman of about age fifty who has recently
married a young woman. Fooled by Joseph Surface's pretensions, he promotes
a marriage between Joseph and Maria.
Teazle: Young wife of Sir Peter. She and her husband have their little
spats. When he visits Joseph Surface one day, he discovers his wife hiding
behind a screen and at first thinks she has been having an affair with
Joseph, whom he now brands as a villain.
Sneerwell: Young widow of a knight. She is attracted to Charles Surface
and plots with Joseph Surface to break up Charles and Maria.
Cat's paw of Lady Sneerwell. He spreads false rumors designed to help Lady
Sneerwell achieve her goals.
Oliver Surface: Wealthy uncle of Charles and Joseph Surface. After
returning to England from the East Indies, he disguises himself to find
out the truth about his nephews.
Candour: Prolific gossip who says how wrong it is to spread rumors,
then indulges in her favorite pastime—spreading
Benjamin Backbite: Annoying young man who pursues Maria and engages
in slanderous conversation.
Crabtree: Backbite's uncle and a tale-bearer.
Helpful servant and friend of Sir Peter Teazle and a former servant of
the father of the Surface brothers. He is an upright fellow who sees through
Joseph's hypocrisy. Aware of Snake's nefarious behavior, he pays him to
reveal that the stories he has been spreading for Lady Sneerwell and Joseph
Rowdy friend of Charles Surface.
Harry Bumper: Friend of Charles Surface.
Servant of Charles Surface.
Servant of Joseph Surface.
Moneylender who assists Sir Oliver in his scheme to find out the truth
about Charles and Joseph Surface.
Stanley: Dublin merchant who was ruined by business reversals. He is
related to Charles and Joseph Surface, to whom he wrote for financial assistance.
Sir Oliver assumes Stanley's identity when he is investigating his nephews.
Gentlemen, Maid, Servants
the prologue is a tribute to Mrs. John Crewe, a beautiful woman who was
a friend of Sheridan. The tribute, written by Sheridan, is entitled “A
Portrait Addressed to Mrs. Crewe, With the Comedy of the School for Scandal."
The tribute says that she is of such exemplary character and grace—possessing
“all of bright or fair that can to woman fall"—that even the gossips who
are the subject of the play can do nothing but praise her.
the tribute to Mrs. Crewe is a prologue written by David Garrick (1717-1779),
a prominent actor and co-manager of Drury Lane Theatre, where the play
opened on May 8, 1777. The prologue discusses the difficulty of preventing
people from spreading scandal via tongue or written word. The prologue
says, “Cut scandal's head off, still the tongue is wagging."
Michael J. Cummings...©
at a dressing table in her London home is Lady Sneerwell, a widow who enjoys
spreading gossip. With her is Snake, a man who does her dirty work. He
is updating her on the status of a rumor he is sowing about Lady Brittle
and Captain Boastall. Within twenty-four hours, Snake says, the rumor will
reach Mrs. Clackit, a formidable scandalmonger who has caused numerous
breakups, disinheritances, elopements, and divorces. Once her tongue begins
to wag, Lady Brittle and Boastall will be the talk of the town.
Mrs. Clackit lacks “that delicacy of tint—and mellowness of sneer—which
distinguish your Ladyship's scandal," Snakes says. Lady Sneerwell accepts
the compliment with false modesty and then observes that she truly enjoys
ruining reputations. It is a kind of therapy for the slander she says she
endured early in her life.
to another matter, Snake asks why she wishes to break up the amorous relationship
between Charles Surface and Maria, the ward of the wealthy Sir Peter Teazle.
Charles has a tainted reputation as a gambler and rake. On the other hand,
his brother Joseph has a sterling reputation. Rather than wasting her time
driving a wedge between Charles and Maria, Snake says, she ought to be
trying to snare Joseph.
Sneerwell then informs Snake that she has no interest in Joseph—nor he
in her. She fancies Charles, and Joseph wants Maria. But it is not love
that motivates him; rather, it is the large inheritance she will one day
receive. Consequently, says Lady Sneerwell, Joseph “has been obliged to
mask his pretensions, and profit by my assistance." Sir Peter is under
the impression that Joseph is an honorable man who loves Maria.
break up Charles and Maria, Lady Sneerwell and Joseph (with Snake's help)
are spreading rumors that Charles is having an affair with Lady Teazle,
the young wife of Sir Peter. Joseph himself then enters and tells Lady
Sneerwell that their rumors are beginning to have an effect on Maria and
that Charles's “dissipation and extravagance exceed anything I have heard
later, Maria enters. She complains that the annoying Sir Benjamin Backbite
and his uncle, Crabtree, have just called at the home of her guardian,
Sir Peter. To avoid them, she sneaked out to seek refuge with Lady Sneerwell.
servant then announces the arrival of Mrs. Candour. She tells Maria that
she was sorry to hear stories about trouble between her and Charles and
between Sir Peter and Lady Teazle. In reality, Mrs. Candour is only too
happy to have something to gossip about.
then comes in with his nephew, Backbite, and brags up the young man as
a great wit and poet who wrote a commendable epigram the previous week
on “Lady Frizzle's feather catching fire." Crabtree then reports that Sir
Oliver Surface, the uncle of Charles and Joseph Surface, is returning to
England from the East Indies after sixteen years. How sad it will be for
him, Crabtree says, to learn what a good-for-nothing Charles is. Sir Oliver
is wealthy, and his nephews stand to benefit from his fortune—if they measure
at Sir Peter's home, Sir Peter is upset with his young wife, who is about
half his age. In a short soliloquy, he describes himself as “an old bachelor"
who was made a happy man when the young woman married him. Now, however,
“her part in all the extravagant fopperies of the fashion and the town"
greatly vex him. His servant Rowley then enters. He once was a steward
to the father of Charles and Joseph Surface. After Mr. Surface died, Rowley
entered Sir Peter's service. Sir Peter moans to Rowley about his wife's
“teasing temper," then complains that she refuses the attentions of Joseph
but welcomes those of her “profligate brother," Charles. Rowley defends
Charles as a worthy gentleman who will eventually reform.
Sir Oliver arrives in London, he visits his old friend, Sir Peter, in the
latter's home and congratulates him on his marriage. When they discuss
Sir Oliver's nephews, Sir Peter notes that “everyone speaks well of Joseph"
but that no one speaks well of Charles.
is a lost young man," Sir Peter says.
everyone praises Joseph, Sir Oliver observes, “then he has bowed as low
to knaves and fools" as he has to honest folk. As for Charles, Sir Oliver
says that it is only natural for a young man to “run out of course a little."
However, to learn the truth about his nephews, he says he will go under
cover and speak to Charles and Joseph separately. How they respond to his
questions will tell him what he wants to know.
he will disguise himself as a moneylender and assume the name Mr. Premium.
Later, he will assume the identify of real person, Mr. Stanley, a Dublin
relative of Charles and Joseph whom they have never seen. Stanley has written
each of them a letter requesting financial assistance. So far, Joseph has
provided nil. Charles, however, "has done all that his extravagance has
left him power to do," Rowley says.
Oliver first visits Charles (at the house of Charles's late father) as
Mr. Premium. With him is a Jewish moneylender, Moses, whom Sir Oliver has
hired. Moses had previously lent money to Charles. A servant, Trip, greets
them. Charles, meanwhile, is in another room drinking and singing with
friends as a prelude to a night of gambling. While Sir Oliver waits for
Charles to receive him and Moses, Trip tries to borrow twenty pounds from
Moses. Sir Oliver remarks to Moses, “If the man be a shadow of the master,
this is the temple of dissipation indeed!"
Trip takes them to see Charles, the latter is with a man named Careless.
Both have been drinking heavily. Charles immediately asks Mr. Premium for
money, saying he is “blockhead enough to pay fifty percent" interest. Though
he has no collateral to put up, he says he has a rich uncle in the East
Indies from whom he will receive a generous sum upon the uncle's death.
Mr. Premium then says he has heard that the uncle is in excellent health.
Consequently, he does not wish to wait indefinitely for repayment of the
loan. However, he is willing to purchase household goods such as silverware.
But Charles has sold everything of value except family portraits. When
Mr. Premium expresses an interest in buying them, Charles asks Careless
to act as an auctioneer and Moses as an appraiser.
by one, Charles sells the portraits—those of a great-uncle, a great-aunt,
his mother's grandfather, and others. But Charles always passes over a
portrait of Sir Oliver. When Mr. Premium tries to buy it, saying that “I
have somehow taken a fancy to that picture," Charles refuses to part with
old fellow has been very good to me, and, egad, I'll keep this picture
while I've a room to put it in."
Premium then offers as much for the portrait as he paid for all the other
pictures combined. Still, Charles refuses to part with it. Convinced that
Charles has a good heart, Sir Oliver and Moses leave. A short while later,
Rowley appears, and Charles gives him a hundred pounds for Mr. Stanley.
After Rowley shows the money to Sir Oliver, the latter pledges to pay Charles's
debts and then says he will visit Joseph.
a servant informs Joseph that Lady Teazle has arrived at the door of his
apartment. Before marrying Sir Peter, she was a country girl. Her fascination
with sophisticated London life and its mischiefs has caused her to consider
a dalliance with Joseph, who welcomes her attentions. But she has not made
up her mind on the matter. Joseph tells his servant, William, to pull a
screen in front of a window to prevent a lady in the opposite dwelling
from looking in. After Lady Teazle enters, she complains that her husband
has become cranky with her lately and that he frowns on Charles's fondness
wish he would let Maria marry him," she says.
that Lady Teazle suspects him of desiring Maria, Joseph says he also wishes
Sir Peter would allow the marriage, adding, “for then my dear Lady Teazle
would also be convinced, how wrong her suspicions were of my having any
design on the silly girl."
makes a play for Lady Teazle, but she rebuffs his advances. Apparently,
the gloss of illicit romance has suddenly worn off. Only further “ill usage"
by Sir Peter would make her consider cheating on him, she says.
then informs Joseph that Sir Peter is in the building and on his way up
the stairs. Lady Teazle hides behind the screen.
Sir Peter enters, he tells Joseph that he suspects his wife of having an
affair with Charles. (The rumor concocted by Lady Sneerwell and Joseph
and spread by Snake has apparently reached Sir Peter's ears.) Joseph pretends
to defend the honor of Charles and Lady Teazle, but he is no doubt pleased
that his nefarious scheme is working. After expressing regret for the strained
relationship between himself and his wife, Sir Peter shows Joseph proof
of his affection for his wife: two legal documents, one that grants his
wife a generous allotment while he lives and another that bequeaths her
most of his possessions upon his death. Then, to Joseph's horror, Sir Peter
asks Joseph about his progress with Maria. When Joseph tries to avoid the
subject, Sir Peter says, "And though you are so averse to my acquainting
Lady Teazle with your passion for Maria, I'm sure she's not your enemy
in the affair."
announces that Charles is on his way up. Sir Peter then says he will hide
while Joseph questions Charles about whether he is having an affair with
Lady Teazle. When Sir Peter makes a move for the screen, he sees a petticoat.
seems to be one listener there already," he says.
admitting that he is only human, says it is “a little French milliner"
he has been seeing. She hid behind the screen, he says, to conceal her
identity and safeguard her reputation.
rogue!" Sir Peter says. Then he hides in a closet.
Charles arrives and Joseph questions him, he denies upon his honor of having
any relationship with Lady Teazle. It is Maria whom he fancies, he asserts.
Then he says, “I always understood you were her favourite."
a hushed voice, Joseph tells Charles that Sir Peter has overheard their
conversation. Joseph points to the closet. Without hesitation, Charles
calls out to Sir Peter. The latter comes forth and says to Charles, “I
believe I have suspected you wrongfully." To protect his brother, Charles
tells Sir Peter that what he said about Joseph and Lady Teazle was a joke.
William comes in and whispers to Joseph that he has another visitor. When
Joseph goes downstairs to greet the person, Sir Peter informs Charles that
another person is in the room, a “French milliner" behind the screen. “Oh,
egad, we'll have a peep," Charles says.
enters just when Charles pulls down the screen. Sir Peter is shocked when
he sees his wife. Joseph fabricates a story to explain her presence. But
Lady Teazle says there is not “one syllable of truth" in it. She came to
Joseph's apartment, she says, to listen to his “pretended passion" for
her but found him “truly despicable." She also says she now has new respect
for her husband, then leaves. After declaring Joseph a villain, Sir Peter
is now alone, but a short while later William announces the arrival of
Mr. Stanley (Sir Oliver pretending to be Stanley). When Stanley requests
financial assistance, Joseph says he is unable to provide it.
your uncle, Sir Oliver, were here, I should have a friend," Stanley says.
“I imagined his bounty would enable you to become the agent of his charity."
then says his uncle is hardly charitable. In fact, Joseph claims, “what
he has done for me has been a mere nothing."
truth, Sir Oliver had previously given him 12,000 pounds. Sir Oliver leaves.
A short while later, Rowley calls upon Joseph with a letter informing him
that Sir Oliver has returned to London.
Mrs. Candour calls at Sir Peter's home to see Lady Teazle, but the maid
tells her Mrs. Teazle is not seeing anyone. Sir Benjamin then arrives,
followed by Lady Sneerwell and Crabtree. All of them have heard about the
confrontation between Joseph and Sir Peter and are now prying for more
news. According to Sir Benjamin, Joseph wounded Sir Peter in a fight with
swords; according to Crabtree, Charles wounded Sir Peter in a pistol duel.
Sir Oliver comes in, and they address him as a doctor and ask about Sir
Peter's condition. When they learn that he is not a doctor, they give their
differing reports about the “duel." Sir Peter then arrives home, unhurt,
and banishes all the gossips. Rowley arrives just as they are leaving.
Oliver tells Sir Peter that he knows all about the goings-on at Joseph's
and that he is going back to Joseph's apartment “to expose hypocrisy."
Sir Peter and Rowley say they will follow him shortly.
Peter and Rowley turn their attention to Lady Teazle, whom they see crying
through the open door of another room. Sir Peter notes that he found a
letter she wrote that was intended for Charles. But Rowley says the letter
was a forgery. He will produce Snake, he says, to confirm what he says.
Lady Sneerwell meets with Joseph in his apartment and tells him it now
appears that Sir Peter will reconcile with Charles and “no longer oppose
his union with Maria." She blames Joseph for this turn of events. He admits
his blunder but says all is not lost. All they need to do is get Snake
to swear that Charles "is at this time contracted by vows and honour to
Sir Oliver knocks, Lady Sneerwell goes into another room. After Sir Oliver
enters, Joseph thinks he is Stanley and orders him out. Joseph's servant,
William, attempts to push him out the door. But at that moment, Charles
enters and thinks Sir Oliver is Premium. Still unaware that Stanley/Premium
is Sir Oliver, they both try to get rid of him before their uncle (Sir
Oliver) appears. But when the Teazles, Maria, and Rowley arrive, they all
address the visitor as Sir Oliver.
gets his comeuppance and loses the promise of a generous bequest from Sir
Oliver. Charles apologizes to Sir Oliver for his behavior at the portrait
“auction." Sir Oliver, previously convinced of Charles's basic goodness,
shakes his nephew's hand. Lady Teazle then says, “Sir Oliver, here is one
whom Charles is still more anxious to be reconciled to."
is Maria, of course. But Maria believes the rumors that Charles has been
involved with Lady Sneerwell. Lady Sneerwell and Snake then enter the room.
Snake tells Lady Sneerwell, "[Y]ou paid me extremely liberally for the
lie in question; but I unfortunately have been offered double to speak
Teazle then tells Lady Sneerwell,
[L]et me thank you
the trouble you and that gentleman have taken, in writing letters from
me to Charles, and answering them yourself; and let me also request you
to make my respects to the scandalous college [school for scandal, figuratively],
of which you are president, and inform them, that Lady Teazle, licentiate,
begs leave to return the diploma they gave her, as she leaves off practice,
and kills characters no longer........Lady
Sneerwell and and the disinherited Joseph leave, and all is well now with
Charles and Maria.
climax occurs near the end of Act 5 after Rowley brings in Snake. He and
Lady Teazle then testify against Lady Sneerwell (and, by implication, against
Joseph). Here is the dialogue:
in, Mr. Snake.
I thought his testimony
might be wanted: however, it happens unluckily, that he comes to confront
Lady Sneerwell, not to support her.
Lady Sneerwell. A
villain ! Treacherous to me at last ! Speak, fellow; have you too conspired
against me ?
Snake. I beg your
ladyship ten thousand pardons: you paid me extremely liberally for the
lie in question; but I unfortunately have been offered double to speak
Sir Peter. Plot and
counter-plot, egad !
Lady Sneerwell. The
torments of shame and disappointment on you all.
Lady Teazle. Hold,
Lady Sneerwell, before you go, let me thank you for the trouble you and
that gentleman have taken, in writing letters from me to Charles, and answering
them yourself; and let me also request you to make my respects to the scandalous
college, of which you are president, and inform them, that Lady Teazle,
licentiate, begs leave to return the diploma they gave her, as she leaves
off practice, and kills characters no longer.
the epilogue—written by George Colman, a playwright who managed the Haymarket
Theatre—Lady Teazel resigns herself to adapting to a life with her middle-aged
I, who was late
so volatile and gay,
Like a trade wind must now
blow all one way,
Bend all my cares, my studies,
and my vows,
To one dull rusty weathercock
Defamation of Character
the comedy is a serious theme: condemnation of the odious practice of slander
and, in the case of the written letters, libel. Spreading scandal was commonplace
in London's high society of the 1770s, when conversation—in drawing rooms,
at balls, in spas, and across card tables—was a form of entertainment.
Surface has a reputation as a scoundrel. But beneath his flawed veneer,
he is a decent fellow. Joseph Surface has a reputation as an upright man.
But beneath his flawless veneer, he is a villain. Hence, this theme: Before
judging a person, look beneath his or her outward guise.
Surface pretends to be a paragon of honor and rectitude while attempting
to sabotage his brother and marry into a fortune. Mrs. Candour and others
of her ilk pretend to oppose gossip but delight in spreading it. When Maria
tells her that it is "strangely impertinent" for people to busy themselves
with the affairs of others, Mrs. Candour says,
Very true, child:
but what's to be done? People will talk—there's no preventing it. Why,
it was but yesterday I was told that Miss Gadabout had eloped with Sir
Filigree Flirt. But, Lord! there's no minding what one hears; though, to
be sure, I had this from very good authority. Steadfast Integrity
all the wrongdoing in the play, it is easy to overlook the moral resolve
of Maria—and to a lesser extent, Charles. Maria refuses to gossip and repeatedly
denounces the practice. For example, in Act 1, when Lady Sneerwell asks
her what Sir Benjamin Backbite has done to make her run from him, she replies,
"Oh, he has done nothing—but 'tis what he said: his conversation is a perpetual
libel on all his acquaintance." Later, in the same act, she tells Mrs.
Candour, "'Tis strangely impertinent for people to busy themselves so [with
gossip]." When Joseph Surface attempts to defend his tongue-wagging friends—saying,
"[T]hey appear more ill-natured than they are; they have no malice at heart"—Maria
replies, "Then is their conduct more contemptible; for, in my opinion,
nothing could excuse the intemperance of their tongues but an unnatural
and uncontrollable bitterness of mind." Maria also steadfastly refuses
to become involved with Joseph Surface even though her legal guardian,
St. Peter Teazle, pressures her to do so. For his part, Charles Surface—despite
his extravagance and devil-may-care lifestyle—refuses to compromise the
basic goodness that undergirds his character. In particular, he refuses
to sell the portrait of Sir Oliver even though the bidder, Sir Oliver in
the guise of Mr. Premium, offers him a large sum of money. Moreover, even
though he has little money left to support his wastrel ways, he contributes
a generous sum to the destitute Mr. Stanley.
Pitfalls of Idleness
implied theme in the play is that idleness breeds mischief. Most of the
characters live on inherited money and property, allowing them to devote
a good portion of their time to leisure activities. Telling or listening
to scandalous stories, as well as reading about them, is apparently one
of their favorite pastimes. Favored activities of the young include gambling
is a glossary of vocabulary words and allusions from the play. They are
in alphabetical order.
à la Chinois
(French): Like the Chinese; in the Chinese manner.
annuity bill: Legislation
that would cancel contracts with minors for annuities.
Battle of Malplaquet:
Battle on September 11, 1709, in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714).
cicisbeo: Man who
loves a married woman.
pronunciation: KON vehr satz ee O nee; Italian pronunciation: KON vehr
satz ee O nay): social gathering at which attendees discuss literature
and the arts.
Don Quixote: See
the Don Quixote Study Guide.
Duke of Marlborough:
John Churchill, first duke of Marlborough (1650-1722), a great British
general. He won major victories against France in the War of the Spanish
expressing surprise. It is a euphemism for “Oh, God!"
(pronounced GROVE ner): Exclusive residential section of London.
guinea: English coin
worth twenty-one shillings. (A shilling is worth one-twentieth of a pound.)
hazard regimen: Careless
speaks the phrase in the third scene of Act 3 in reference to his and Charles's
friend Sir Harry. Harry is on an alcohol-free diet to get in shape for
hazard, a dice game, or for any other game of chance.
Hyde Park: London
legal arrangement in which a husband wills real estate to his wife.
Kneller: Sir Godfrey
Kneller (1646?-1723), an important portrait painter in England.
Montem: See Salthill.
Old Jewry: Section
of London where moneylenders did business.
oons: See zounds.
pagodas: Gold coins
hall in London.
Phoebus: In Greek
mythology, Apollo, the god of prophecy, music, poetry, and medicine. When
referred to as Phoebus, he was regarded as the sun. In this role, he drove
a golden chariot across the sky.
Pope Joan: Card game.
post-obit: Note that
promises to pay a debt after the death of a person expected to will money
to the debtor.
Dorothy Sydney, countess of Sunderland, whom poet Edmund Waller (1606-1687)
wooed unsuccessfully. He praised her in poems such as “Song to the Rose"
and “Verses on a Girdle," addressing her as Sacharissa.
Mound about two miles from Eton, a prestigious English school for boys,
where students collected donations from passersby for the school's senior
scholar, who would use the money when he later attended Cambridge University.
The collection ceremony was referred to as the Montem (from the Latin phrase
montem, meaning to the mound). The collection was held once
a year in January until 1758. Between 1759 and 1777, the collection was
held every two years on the Tuesday after Pentecost. Beginning in 1778,
the collection was held every three years. In 1847, the collection custom
stool of repentance:
In a Scottish church, a stool in the front of the church reserved for sinners.
Restaurant or hotel meal of several courses with a fixed price.
arrangement in which participants pay equal shares into a fund and periodically
receive dividends. The investor who outlives all the other participants
receives all the invested money.
vestals: vestal virgins.
on the lower part of a wall.
on which the lord chancellor of England sat in Parliament in the House
worsted: Woolen cloth
with fibers combed to run in the same direction.
Interjection that abbreviates the phrase “by His wounds" (by the wounds
of Christ). It expresses surprise, anger, annoyance, disbelief.
England and other European countries in the late Middle Ages, laws required
Jews to wear identifying patches not unlike the yellow stars in Hitler's
Germany centuries later. During outbreaks of plague, Christians blamed
Jews for spreading the disease. England decided to solve the "Jewish problem"
once and for all by expelling Jews in 1290. Beginning in 1655, England
under Oliver Cromwell readmitted Jews. In 1753, Parliament approved legislation
granting the naturalization of Jewish immigrants. However, anti-Semitism
remained strong in the country. The School for Scandal, which debuted
in 1777, contains passages that reflect the attitude of many Englishmen
toward Jews. Several of these passages describe the Jewish moneylender
Moses as "the honest Israelite," "honest Moses," and "very honest fellow,"
implying that his honesty is rare among Jews. In the first scene of Act
3, Rowley refers to Moses as a "friendly Jew," implying that most other
Jews are unfriendly. Later in the same scene, Sir Oliver—in preparing for
his role as Mr. Premium—tells
Moses that he will ask eight
to ten percent in interest if Charles asks him for a loan. Here is the
the dialogue in that scene, clearly implying that Jewish moneylenders are
I'll ask him 8 or 10 per cent on the loan, at least.
Questions and Essay Topics
Moses. If you ask
him no more than that, you'll be discovered immediately.
Sir Oliver. Hey!
what the plague! how much then?
Moses. That depends
upon the circumstances. If he appears not very anxious for the supply,
you should require only 40 or 50 per cent; but if you find him in great
distress, and want the moneys very bad, you may ask double.
Sir Peter. A good
honest trade you're learning, Sir Oliver!
Which character in the play
do you most admire? Explain your answer.
Which character do you least
admire. Explain your answer.
In an essay, compare and contrast
School for Scandal with a modern situation comedy (film or TV program).
In an essay, discuss the similarities
between The School for Scandal and another comedy of manners, She
Stoops to Conquer.
In your opinion, why is Lady
Sneerwell attracted to Charles Surface?
Which role in the play do you
think poses the greatest challenge for an actor? Explain your answer.
Write an expository essay informing
readers of what a typical English theatre was like in the late 1700's.
Write an essay focusing on the
appetite for stories of scandal in present-day England and America. Include
in your essay a discussion of tabloid newspapers and television programs
that serve scandal as their main course.
Write a psychological profile
of Mrs. Candour. Use dialogue from the play—as well as book and Internet
research—to support your thesis.
Sir Peter Teazle is at least
twice the age of his wife. Why did she marry him?