Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Lady Sneerwell, who in her youth was the target of slander, has set her life upon a course to reduce the reputations of other women to the level of her own. Aided by her intimate, Snake, she intrigues to involve the Teazles in scandal, to bring Joseph Surface’s true character to light, to wreck the love between Charles and Maria, and to gain Charles for herself along with Sir Oliver’s fortune. To her the world consists of nothing but scandal and scandalous intrigues, and she does her best to make her vision a reality. She is not successful, however, when she abuses Charles Surface to Sir Peter Teazle’s ward Maria, who refuses to listen to her. Instead, Maria trustingly confides in Lady Candour, whose defense of a reputation ensures its complete annihilation.
Sometimes Sir Peter Teazle ponders the wisdom of his marriage to Lady Teazle, doubting the judgment of an old bachelor in marrying a young wife. Lady Teazle is a country-bred girl who is enjoying London life extravagantly and to the full. Sir Oliver Surface is concerned about his two nephews, his problem being the disposal of his great fortune. Sir Oliver has been abroad for the past fifteen years and feels that he does not know his nephews’ real natures; he hopes by some stratagem to catch them unawares and thus be able to test their characters.
One day, Sir Peter and Lady Teazle quarrel because Sir Peter violently objects to her attendance at the home of Lady Sneerwell. Lady...
(The entire section is 1352 words.)
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School for Scandal opens with Lady Sneerwell and her henchman, Snake, plotting a means to break up the romance between Charles Surface and Maria. It is Snake'sjob to assist in disseminating the gossip that Lady Sneerwell creates, and when he asks why she wishes to destroy this romance, Lady Sneerwell reveals that she wants Charles for herself. Maria's hand would then go to Charles's brother, Joseph.
In the first act, the audience is introduced to the characters who surround Lady Sneerwell, and their true nature is revealed. Gossip and slander fill their time; they consider the destruction of marriages and reputations as entertainment.
Maria is the exception in this group. She condemns their gossip and refuses to be persuaded that Charles is unworthy of her. Sir Peter and his servant, Rowley, arrive on stage at the change of scene. Sir Peter is openly questioning his wisdom in marrying such a young wife. He thought that by marrying an innocent country girl, his happiness would be assured. Instead, Sir Peter reveals to the audience that his wife spends too much time with her friends and too much money on dresses and extravagances, Rowley tells Sir Peter that Charles and Joseph's uncle, Sir Oliver, is returning to London after a long absence. The audience also learns that it is Rowley's opinion that Charles has more potential than Sir Peter recognizes.
The second act opens...
(The entire section is 1170 words.)