The Critic "An Oyster May Be Crossed In Love"
by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Start Your Free Trial

"An Oyster May Be Crossed In Love"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Download The Critic Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Context: A criticism of drama that remains as fresh today as when originally performed is The Critic, or A Tragedy Rehearsed, with its playwright, Mr. Puff, the Prince of publicity agents, and Sir Fretful Plagiary (of course suggesting plagiarism). The latter is a caricature of Cumberland, who insulted Sheridan during rehearsals of the latter's Battle of Hastings in 1778. The Critic is a treatise on dramatic art. Four months after the Spanish Ambassador brought a declaration of war to the Court of St. James, Sheridan put on the stage with its play within a play, this exaggerated historical tragedy, The Spanish Armada by Mr. Puff. After introductory matter, the play begins as Act II. The actors utter their lines; those in the audience, especially Sneer, comment on them and criticize both plot and dialogue. This device provided Sheridan with the opportunity to introduce timely comments on contemporary problems of England. In Act III, enter Tilburina "stark mad in white satin," and her confidante "stark mad in white linen," the white because "when a heroine goes mad, she always goes mad in white satin." Another proof of her madness is her speech. Don Wiskerandos is a Spanish sailor whom Tilburina loved. He had been a prisoner in England, and his execution has driven her mad.

TILBURINAThe wind whistles–the moon rises–seeThey have kill'd my squirrel in his cage!Is this a grasshopper!–Ha, no, it is myWiskerandos–you shall not keep him–I know you have him in your pocket–An oyster may be crossed in love!–Who saysA whale's a bird?–Ha, did you call, my love?–He's here! He's there!–He's everywhere!Ah, me! He's nowhere.