Sir Oliver Surface
Sir Oliver Surface, a gentleman whose problem it is to discover which of two nephews is more worthy of the Surface fortune. Posing once as Mr. Premium, a moneylender, and also as Mr. Stanley, a poor relation, Sir Oliver is finally able to decide that Charles Surface is the worthier nephew.
Joseph Surface, the unworthy nephew. He is a double dealer and in the famous screen scene is discovered in several falsehoods by people upon whose influence his future depends. Joseph is one of two people who are left unhappy when the denouement takes place.
Charles Surface, Sir Oliver’s worthy nephew. Charles’ only real fault seems to be extravagance with money. He is well-intentioned and even kind and honest. Discovered by Sir Oliver to be the better of the two nephews, he wins the girl of his choice and receives his uncle’s inheritance.
Sir Peter Teazle
Sir Peter Teazle, an elderly nobleman and Sir Oliver’s friend, whose lot in life it is to be married to a young wife who almost plays him false with Joseph Surface. Sir Peter is pleased at his part in helping to expose Joseph.
Lady Teazle, Sir Peter’s young, country-bred wife, who relishes the pleasure of living in London. She treats her long-suffering husband with disdain until she learns that Joseph has simply been toying with her affections. Her lesson learned, she is a better wife to Sir Peter.
Lady Sneerwell, Lady Teazle’s friend, who ruins women’s reputations to make them more closely match her own. Her plan to expose Joseph for the person he is, wreck Charles’ love for Maria, and gain Charles and the family fortune goes awry when her confederate, Snake, sells her out.
Maria, Sir Peter’s ward, who is a girl with a good head on her shoulders. Her guardian selects Joseph to be her husband but, loving Charles, she keeps putting Joseph off, biding her time. Her patience is rewarded when Joseph overreaches himself; with his downfall, she gains Sir Peter’s permission to marry Charles.
Snake, Lady Sneerwell’s intimate, who takes money from two factions, thus aiding Sir Oliver by exposing Lady Sneerwell’s plan to ruin Joseph, scandalize the Teazles, and win Charles and his uncle’s money.
Sir Benjamin Backbite
Sir Benjamin Backbite, a slanderer, Lady Sneerwell’s friend.
Rowley, Sir Peter’s servant, who believes from the beginning that Charles has a better character than Joseph.
Lady Candour, a lady whose defense of a reputation is certain to ruin it.
Moses, a Jew who concerns himself with Sir Oliver’s money matters.
Auburn, Mark. Sheridan’s Comedies: Their Contexts and Achievements . Lincoln: University of...
(The entire section is 672 words.)