Initially honor seems to be in short supply in School for Scandal: the gossips are completely without honor; Lady Teazle is considering abandoning the lessons about honor that she learned growing up in the country; Joseph is ready to betray his brother to secure a wealthy wife; and Charles is hopelessly in debt to moneylenders. Even Sir Oliver, whose honor should be above question, is ready to assume a disguise to test his nephews' honor.
By the conclusion of the play, however, it is clear that only the gossips have no true honor. Lady Teazle realizes that she values her husband and that she has more honor than her friends had supposed. Charles, though foolish and intemperate with gambling and money, is honorable. He pays his debts, if slowly, and he is willing to help a poor relation without being asked. Sir Oliver's deception unmasks Joseph's hypocrisy. And the moneylender Moses is a man of so much honor that he assists Charles in managing his debts.
Sheridan asks his audience to question the morality of society in this play. Slandering one's neighbors, acquaintances, and friends is an entertainment. There is no real interest in the truth—and even less consideration is given to the damage that such gossip causes.
In the early acts of School for Scandal, the subjects of such gossip are not known to the audience, who cannot determine the truth of Lady Sneerwell and Mrs. Candour's observations. But by the last act, it becomes clear that these gossips need absolutely no element of truth to fuel their stories. The felling of...
(The entire section is 676 words.)