Enduringly popular less for its plots than for its verbal brilliance and wit, The School for Scandal (1777) was the most frequently performed play of its time. Sir Peter Teazle has made the perennial mistake of elderly bachelors in English comedy and married a much younger wife in the hope that she will be too innocent to cross him. In fact, Lady Teazle spends her time with Lady Sneerwell and the worst set of scandalmongers in town, who have a beady eye on Charles Surface, the reckless young libertine, in expectation of seeing him ruined. Charles, however, turns out to possess the sterling virtues of generosity and loyalty to friends and family; and it is his hypocritical brother Joseph who ends up the villain of the piece. This edition discusses Sheridan's earlier drafts for the play and sets it into its theatrical context of anti-sentimentalism and its social context of the London High Society in which Sheridan had begun to move.
Lop. Past three o'clock!—Soh! a notable hour for one of my regular disposition, to be strolling like a bravo through the streets of Seville! Well, of all services, to serve a young lover is the hardest.—Not that I am an enemy to love; but my love and my master's differ strangely.—Don Ferdinand is much too gallant to eat, drink, or sleep:—now my love gives me an appetite—then I am fond of dreaming of my mistress, and I love dearly to toast her.—This cannot be done without good sleep and good liquor: hence my partiality to a feather- bed and a bottle. What a pity, now, that I have not further time, for reflections! but my master expects thee, honest Lopez, to secure his retreat from Donna Clara's window, as I guess.—[Music without.] Hey! sure, I heard music! So, so! Who have we here? Oh, Don Antonio, my master's friend, come from the masquerade, to serenade my young mistress, Donna Louisa, I suppose: so! we shall have the old gentleman up presently.—Lest he should miss his son, I had best lose no time in getting to my post.
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