Study Guide

A Traitor's Kiss

by Fintan O’Toole

A Traitor's Kiss Essay - Critical Essays

A Traitor’s Kiss

In A TRAITOR’S KISS: THE LIFE OF RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN, 1751-1816, Fintan O’Toole argues that Sheridan was a man full of contradictions brought about from climbing the British social ladder and remaining loyal to his Irish roots: Sheridan was Irish and English, both.

Sheridan, whose major plays were all written by the time he was twenty-eight, is primarily remembered for three brilliant comedies of manners: THE RIVALS (1775), THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL (1780), and THE CRITIC (1781), similar to Restoration comedies. Three of the most successful plays of the eighteenth century, they draw on autobiographical occurrences—feuds with fathers, elopements with beautiful women, infighting with sibling rivals, romances with illicit lovers, duels with antagonistic interlopers, and political intrigue. Sheridan eloped with the young singer Elizabeth Linley, one of the most beautiful women in England after fighting two duels with a rival for her.

While still in his twenties, Sheridan took control of London’s great Drury Lane theater. This biography, however, is concerned primarily with Sheridan’s political career.

Sheridan served in the Whig opposition party for thirty-two years in the House of Commons. His oratory remains legendary. Sheridan campaigned vigorously for Irish rights, at one point coming under scrutiny for treason. As O’Toole argues, it was Sheridan’s dearest wish to return to Ireland in a position of power to help the Irish. Throughout his whole Parliamentary career, Sheridan remained liberal and radical supporting, besides the Irish, the rights of the American colonies and the revolting French. However, his life ends in the shadows—void of family, friends, and finances.

Sources for Further Study

The Atlantic. CCLXXXI, November 1, 1998, p. 137.

Library Journal. CXXIII, November 1, 1998, p. 84.

New Criterion. XVII, December, 1998, p. 21.

New Statesman. CXXVI, November 28, 1997, p. 50.

The New Yorker. LXXIV, December 7, 1998, p. 190.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, September 7, 1998, p. 73.

The Spectator. CCLXXIX, November 1, 1997, p. 48.

The Times Literary Supplement. November 21, 1997, p. 10.

The Wall Street Journal. November 20, 1998, p. W6.