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Explain the Comedy of Manners style as used in "School for Scandal."

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rinku | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 2, 2009 at 10:16 PM via web

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Explain the Comedy of Manners style as used in "School for Scandal."

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playsthething | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted March 2, 2009 at 11:54 PM (Answer #1)

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"School for Scandal" is an excellent example of a Comedy of Manners.  It is a blatant attack on the superficiality of the upper class, pointing up their lack of morals and misplaced attentions.  In a Comedy of Manners, the characters are very clear and you know exactly who they are the moment they appear, not just by their appearance and actions, but by their names.  Lady Sneerwell, Sir Benjamin Backbite, and Snake all carry their negative qualities in their names.  The Surface brothers are all about what's on the surface -- Joseph appears moral but really isn't while Charles presents the opposite.

Sheridan's satire goes one step further than the Comedy of Manners that preceded it during the Restoration.  In the 18th century, such foolishness required a consequence.  During the Restoration, the evil doers were often not punished if they were clever and witty enough.  In the 18h century, the evil-doers are punished.  So, in "School for Scandal," we see the "school" members ostracized, with the exception of Lady Teazle who is truly contrite and given a second chance to live an upright life.  It is for this reason that Sheridan's play is often labeled a Sentimental Comedy, to distinguish it from the Restoration Comedy of Manners.

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