Discuss how Sir Oliver discovers the moral quality of his two nephews in School for Scandal.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sir Oliver has been away sixteen years and amassed a fortune in India that he wants to give to the more worthy of his two nephews, his brother's sons. He has heard reports that Charles is a gambler and a wastrel and that Joseph is admired by all, which raises Sir Oliver's suspicions because, as he says, only a man with no morals can please everyone. Sir Oliver, Sir Peter, Rowley, and Mr. Moses put together a plan for Sir Oliver to go to Charles disguised as a moneylender named Mr. Premium whom Charles has never met. Mr. Premium is to buy Charles's family portraits so Charles might get the money he needs.

SIR PETER. What! One Charles has never had money from before?

MOSES. Yes-—Mr. Premium, of Crutched Friars.

SIR PETER. Egad, Sir Oliver a Thought strikes me! Charles you say does'nt know Mr. Premium?

MOSES. Not at all.

SIR PETER. Now then Sir Oliver you may have a better opportunity of satisfying yourself than by an old romancing tale of a poor Relation—-go with my friend Moses and represent Mr. Premium and then I'll answer for't you'll see your Nephew in all his glory.

This charade impresses Sir Oliver for two reasons. Firstly, Charles refuses to sell the portrait of his Uncle Oliver, not knowing, of course, that it is Sir Oliver himself standing before him in disguise. Secondly, Charles immediately send a large sum of money to Stanley, his poor relation who has been imprisoned for debt and for whom Charles has sold the family portraits.

Sir Oliver, favorably impressed by Charles's heart despite his drinking and gambling, goes to see Joseph but in a different disguise. This time he presents himself as Stanley, the poor relation. Joseph rudely dismisses him without any help.

SURFACE. Dear Sir—there needs no apology—He that is in Distress tho' a stranger has a right to claim kindred with the wealthy— I am sure I wish I was of that class, and had it in my power to offer you even a small relief.
SIR OLIVER. Dissembler! Then Sir—you cannot assist me?

SURFACE. At Present it grieves me to say I cannot—but whenever
I have the ability, you may depend upon hearing from me.

SIR OLIVER. I am extremely sorry——

Furthermore, it is discovered that Joseph has almost successfully seduced Sir Peter's wife, Lady Teazle. When Sir Oliver calls for Charles and Joesph to come to him because he has returned, he reveals all he knows and awards the fortune to Charles. Sir Peter also awards his permission to marry his daughter Maria.

lit24 | Student

Sir Oliver has been away in the East Indies for the past 16 years,consequently his two nephews Joseph and Charles will not be able to recognize him. As soon as Sir Oliver arrives in London he decides to test their character. In Act II sc 3 Sir Oliver clearly establishes the standard by which he intends to judge his nephews:"if Charles has done nothing false or mean, I shall compound for his extravagance."

In order to do this, he has to play the role of 1. Mr.Premium a broker whom Charles has never  seen before  2. a poor relation Mr.Stanley whom both Joseph and Charles have not seen before.

  Sir Oliver arrives at Charles' house in the guise of Mr.Premium to test his character. Charles passes the test for the following reasons:

1. Sir Oliver is happy that Charles inspite of his financial difficulties has bought the ancestral house from Joseph who had no qualms in selling it.

2. He  is delighted that Charles who readily disposes of all the family paintings refuses to sell  his portrait.

3.Sir Oliver is touched that Charles in spite of his financial difficulties has sent some of the money he raised by auctioning the family paintings to Mr. Stanley leading him to remark: "Well, well, I'll pay his debts, and his benevelonce too." Act IV Sc.2.

In Act V 'Mr.Stanley' meets Joseph to test Joseph's character. Joseph refuses to help Sir Oliver who  is now convinced that Joseph is an ungrateful 'dissembler.'