Account for the popularity of Sheriden's play School for Scandal.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In 1777 when Sheridan's School for Scandal was first introduced, the stage was mostly monopolized by dramas, so a comedy was a welcome change. Being a comedy of manners, School for Scandal drew an accurate picture of the behavior of the era within the higher classes of society. The manners and self-made problems of society were widely and well understood, so audiences found the ironic switches and complicating situations funny and engaging. Sheridan's play is different from Shakespeare's plays which also draw heavily on audience comprehension of the ways of the times and Jane Austen's comedy of manners novels in that there is no central main character to "drive" the plot and there are no universal values and truths woven in with the era-specific elements of School for Scandal. As a result, even though Sheridan's play was wildly popular with audiences of the late 18th century, it works much less well with an audience today. Nonetheless, it is still considered among the best of plays of comedy of manners, is a standard, and the best representative of Sheridan's plays and a defining work.