Published on October 17, 2007
Sheridan School for Scandal: Sheridan School for Scandal Jumping over 150 years after death of Shakespeare In 1642 the theatres had been closed down by the new puritan republican government Stayed closed till restoration of the monarchy in 1660 New theatre influenced by French theatre and culture Restoration Comedy: Restoration Comedy Theatre became a recreation for upper classes Still disapproved of by puritans Women actresses appeared Seen as whores by puritans Although a heroic type of tragedy thrived Restoration comedy has survived Restoration comedy: Restoration comedy Also known as Comedy of Manners Known at the time as Genteel Comedy Emphasis on style and wit Style of behaviour, dress and language Along with openess about sexual matters No nudity or simulated sex but sex is frankly though stylishly talked about Restoration comedy: Restoration comedy Scene normally in London, very small section of London Stereotypes; rakes and wits, young wives, old cuckolded husbands, country people as figures of fun Themes of sex and sexual conquest but also of marriage and finance Women often as witty as the men But ultimately not as powerful Restoration Comedy: Restoration Comedy Wit is the prerequisite of these sophisticated types But false wits were to be despised Typical is William Wycherley’s The Country Wife 1672 The protagonist Horner pretends to have become impotent so that he can be safely left with women Restoration Theatre: Restoration Theatre NB names Horner, Pinchwife, Mrs Squeamish, Lady Fidget Double-entendres heard in the China scene Arguments about the tone and purpose of these plays and indeed their decency and acceptability have long been a topic of argument Restoration Theatre: Restoration Theatre Are the plays holding the mirror up to their society? Are they models or satires? Are they obscene? Puritan criticism eventually led to stage plays being toned down Eighteenth century: Eighteenth century In the early eighteenth-century drama became more sentimental More didactic Less amusing In the second half of the century a move to bring humour back into the equation School for Scandal: School for Scandal Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer Plays of Sheridan particularly The School for Scandal Both Sheridan and Goldsmith born in Ireland NB The theatre itself had moved much closer to the nineteenth-century proscenium model School for Scandal: School for Scandal Scenery used The elegance and wit of the Restoration theatre is still used But less sexually explicit There is a searching for worthwhile human qualities beneath the surface Sheridan’s writing life short His best plays written in his twenties By the age of thirty he had gone into politics School for Scandal: School for Scandal Title refers to a little clique or coterie of gossips who deliberately try to destroy the reputations of others This clique is satirised but a lot of the energy of the play comes from their brilliant and vindictive dialogue As in the first scene with Lady Sneerwell, Snake, Crabtree and Backbite Surface School for Scandal: School for Scandal Maria and Surface are not quite of the main gossiping group though Surface’s name suggests his hypocrisy NB His brother Charles turns out to be more direct and worthwhile though he is by no means perfect. The story of the play is built round the contrast of the two brothers Joseph and Charles Surface School for Scandal: School for Scandal In the second act we are introduced Lady Teazle She is not dissimilar to Margery Pichwife in that she is married to an older husband, Sir Peter, and is trying very hard to adapt to the sophisticated London life We are introduced to the couple quarrelling He worries about her extravagance She wants to become fashionable School for Scandal: School for Scandal We are not sure whether Lady Teazle deserves our sympathy or opprobrium Or whether there is any future in the Teazles’ marriage They don’t seem to be able to avoid quarrelling There are two famous scenes of discovery School for Scandal: School for Scandal Sir Oliver Surface returning rich from the east sets a test for the Surface brothers He finds in ‘the auction scene’ that for all his faults Charles Surface is an ‘honest fellow’ - he will not sell his uncle’s portrait School for Scandal: School for Scandal Sir Oliver Surface returning rich from the east sets a test for the Surface brothers He finds in ‘the auction scene’ that for all his faults Charles Surface is an ‘honest fellow’ - he will not sell his uncle’s portrait School for Scandal: School for Scandal In a famous and beautifully wrought scene, the Screen scene, Sheridan charts the downfall of the hypocrite, Joseph Surface Sir Peter goes to Joseph Surface to talk to him about his wife’s supposed affair with Charles Surface In fact Lady Teazle is with Joseph at the time and has to hide behind a screen School for Scandal: School for Scandal The with Charles arriving Sir Peter hides so that Joseph can interrogate Charles He has to hide in a closet; Joseph tells him there is ‘French milliner’ behind the screen Eventually Lady Teazle is revealed Joseph tries to talk his way out of the situation School for Scandal: School for Scandal But Lady Teazle refuses to take part in any more trickery She has been moved by what she heard Sir Peter saying when she was behind the screen Joseph then discredits himself with Sir Oliver School for Scandal: School for Scandal Despite the efforts of the gossipers to muddy the waters, the Teazles are reconciled While not promising to reform Charles is pleased to be guided by his newly betrothed Maria School for Scandal: School for Scandal The plot of the play has sometimes been criticised as unbalanced A lot of of time is taken up with the scandal mongers To an extent the audience cannot help but find them amusing if not sympathetic School for Scandal: School for Scandal But in fact almost every other character is affected by them It should be easy to understand the kind of world they inhabit and the drives that energise them Very like the way in which celebrities are treated in our contemporary gossip magazines School for Scandal: School for Scandal Does this kind of destructive gossip exist in our normal private lives? One reason the scandal mongers are given such prominence is because Sheridan is looking at how we judge character How difficult it is to level with each other School for Scandal: School for Scandal Look at Teazles Sir Peter can only talk sincerely about his feelings for his wife to a third party Who ironically is a hypocrite Charles and Maria have difficulty in expressing their feelings for each other School for Scandal: School for Scandal The scandal mongers attempt to colour people’s perceptions of each other Interestingly the audience is put in the position of trying to make up their mind about one of the principle characters without seeing him for a long time. School for Scandal: School for Scandal Charles only appears in the third act Who is the protagonist of the play? He never becomes a ‘saint’ Throughout he has his faults He receives Sir Oliver’s approval because he refuses to sell the lattter’s portrait Vanity on the part of Sir Oliver? School for Scandal: School for Scandal NB Sheridan draws out the conclusion of the play to ensure the audience see the gossips getting their come-uppance Although the scandal mongers are indubitably the villains of the piece the other characters are much more credibly complex The Surface brothers offer an interesting pair School for Scandal: School for Scandal Joseph is a hypocrite yet he shares his own knowledge of his position with the audience Can be seen as a ‘normal’ self-seeking man on the make Charles is a bit of a rake, extravagant and dissipated But he has charm and candour School for Scandal: School for Scandal But he is irresponsible in many ways Joseph equally has an attractive candour exhibited in his asides to the audience Do the brothers represent two sides of a possible whole person? School for Scandal: School for Scandal One definition of a classic is that it can endlessly re-interpreted to new generations and audiences How does it speak to us?