The Critic "When A Heroine Goes Mad, She Always Goes Into White Satin"

Richard Brinsley Sheridan

"When A Heroine Goes Mad, She Always Goes Into White Satin"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Sheridan had a brief but at times brilliant career as a comic dramatist. In The Critic he is following the tradition of the play within a play technique as a means of satirizing both bombastic tragic drama and dramatic criticism. In the play, Dangle, a theatrical dilettante, and his friend, Sneer, go with their friend Puff, a hack playwrite, to see a rehearsal of a tragedy by the latter. As the rehearsal takes place the commentary of these three constitutes the satire of criticism while the play itself, as a ludicrous bombastic tragedy, satirizes the conventional tragedy of the day. Toward the end of the inner play the action suddenly accelerates as Puff explains it:


PUFF
True–Now enter Tilburnia!
SNEER
Egad, the business comes on quick here.
PUFF
Yes, Sir–now she comes in stark mad in white satin.
SNEER
Why in white satin?
PUFF
O Lord, Sir–when a heroine goes mad, she always goes into white satin–don't she Dangle.
DANGLE
Always–it's a rule.
PUFF
Yes–here it is–[looking at the book.] "Enter Tilburnia stark mad in white satin, and her confidante stark mad in white linen."
[Enter TILBURNIA and CONFIDANTE mad, according to custom.]
SNEER
But what the deuce, is the confidante to be mad too?
PUFF
To be sure she is, the confidante is always to do whatever her mistress does; weep when she weeps, smile when she smiles, go mad when she goes mad. . . .