School for Scandal opened in May 1777 to enthusiastic audiences. Since it appeared at the end of the London theatre season, it played only twenty performances before the season closed, but Sheridan's play reappeared the following season for an additional forty-five performances. Since few plays enjoyed runs of more than fifteen performances, School for Scandal was, by prevailing standards, a success.
In the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Mark S. Auburn noted that "the play engendered wildly enthusiastic support. Passing by the outer walls of Drury Lane just as the famous screen fell and the audience exploded in laughter and applause, a journalist of that day claimed to have run for his life in fear that the building was collapsing."
The reason for the play's success, stated Auburn, is "the witty repartee of fashionable society, the Cain-and-Abel motif, and the delightful recitation of the May-and-December theme." Richard C. Taylor, writing in Sheridan Studies, noted a different reason for the play's success. Taylor stated that critics overlooked the play' s faults because they "recognized the topicality of Sheridan's moral concern and that Sheridan was targeting hypocrisy." Still, both Auburn and Taylor felt that...
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