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What is the significance of the title "The School for Scandal"?

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mouneeta | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 10, 2009 at 4:48 PM via web

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What is the significance of the title "The School for Scandal"?

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lit24 | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted April 11, 2009 at 12:24 AM (Answer #1)

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Scandal mongering was a very common vice during Sheridan's life time and he decided to attack it in his satirical play "The School for Scandal." The latent irony in the title is expressed straightaway in the 'Prologue' itself:

"A school for Scandal! tell me, I beseech you,
Needs there a school this modish art to teach you?
No need of lessons now, the knowing think;
We might as well be taught to eat and drink."

The vice is so ubiquitous that Sheridan says that there is no need to 'teach' how to spread scandal. Sheridan in two scenes(Act I sc.2 and Act II sc.2) reveals to us the various ways in which scandal can be spread throughout society. His aim in doing so is to expose the vice in all its glory in the hope that society might reform itself and put an end to scandal mongering. But Garrick informs us in the 'Prologue' that this is a futile task:

"Alas! the devil's sooner raised than laid.
So strong, so swift, the monster there's no gagging:
Cut Scandal's head off, still the tongue is wagging."

However, one eager 'pupil' of this 'School for Scandal' does learn her lesson and is finally 'cured' of this vice. Lady Teazle, who after she marries Sir Peter Teazle and enrolls herself in this school, willingly and eagerly learns to speak ill of others. Her husband tries to cure her of this vice but she refuses
to listen to him. Finally, after a narrow escape from being molested by Joseph Surface she realizes the foolishness of her ways and is reformed: "No Sir--she has recovered her Senses." (ActIII Sc.3)

Sheridan in the concluding lines of his 'Prologue' seems to say
that although society itself is a 'school for scandal' it is still possible to reform the scandal mongerers:

"Bless'd were the fair like you; her faults who stopp'd,
And closed her follies when the curtain dropp'd!
No more in vice or error to engage,
Or play the fool at large on life's great stage."

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