Samuel Johnson called The Rivals and Sheridan’s The Duenna ‘‘the two best comedies of the age.’’ Indeed, as reported in Walter Sichel’s 1909 biography of Sheridan, Sheridan: From New and Original Material, the play ‘‘never left the stage’’ from its inception until a slowdown in the latter nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, revivals have been sporadic, but successful. The first night, however, was a disaster. The theater was packed; the London Chronicle of January 21–24, 1775, as noted in Sichel, proclaimed ‘‘there had not...
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