First performed at London’s famous Drury Lane theater in 1777, The School for Scandal was staged a total of 261 times before the end of the eighteenth century and has been revived hundreds of times since, making it one of the most enduringly popular comedies in the English language. Accounting for the play’s popularity is not difficult: Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who had succeeded the great David Garrick as manager of the Drury Lane theater in 1776, was blessed with a keenly theatrical imagination and an instinctive sense of how best to please an audience. These talents are nowhere more evident than in The School for Scandal, which is, above all else, first-rate theater—a play graced by sparkling dialogue, a cast of memorable characters, and a complex plot that combines elements of high comedy, intrigue, and genuine feeling.
The ingredients that guarantee success on the stage, however, do not always guarantee critical esteem. Although critics have over the years had a great deal to say about William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: Or, What You Will (pr. c. 1600-1602, pb. 1623) and Ben Jonson’s Volpone (pr. 1605), they have had relatively little to say about The School for Scandal. Most discussions of the play, in fact, have focused less on literary analysis than on the question of Sheridan’s success in rebelling against the sentimental comedies of his day and in recovering the spirit of such earlier...
(The entire section is 1052 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of School for Scandal Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!