The Critic "When A Heroine Goes Mad, She Always Goes Into White Satin"
by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

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

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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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:

PUFFTrue–Now enter Tilburnia!SNEEREgad, the business comes on quick here.PUFFYes, Sir–now she comes in stark mad in white satin.SNEERWhy in white satin?PUFFO Lord, Sir–when a heroine goes mad, she always goes into white satin–don't she Dangle.DANGLEAlways–it's a rule.PUFFYes–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.]SNEERBut what the deuce, is the confidante to be mad too?PUFFTo 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. . . .