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In simple terms, plot is the story that tells the progress of the conflict and the complications of the conflict. A standard and commonly taught plot construction describes an inciting event, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
In Sheridan's play, School for Scandal, the inciting action opens Act I with Lady Sneerwell conspiring with Snake to use scandal and slander to break up the romance between Charles and Maria, so that she, Lady Sneerwell, can have Charles to herself. Charles is a hero a little on the order of the hero in Tom Jones: he is in possession of one or two faults.
The protagonists in School for Scandal are Charles and Maria, although the inciting action opens with one of the conflict complications in the persons of Lady Sneerwell and Snake. The conflict, simply put, is whether or not Charles is worthy of Maria. Charles, without being aware of of it, is sent by Sheridan on something of a journey to prove himself, somewhat reminiscent of Greek epics.
Therefore the rising action comprises the main conflict point in which he is tested by his uncle, Sir Oliver, who is disguised as a moneylender, and all the complications that cross his path, like Lady Sneerwell's plan; Sir Peter's suspicions of him and his wife lady Teazel; Sir Peter's delivery of a unfavorable opinion of him to Sir Oliver; being defamed to Maria by her scandal mongering friends.
The climax occurs when Sir Oliver meets face-to-face with Charles and Joseph. The falling action and resolution occur when Joseph realizes he is recognized by all as a hypocrite and leaves and Sir Oliver with Sir Peter give Charles and Maria their blessing in marriage.
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