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To insist on the acceptance of his words, Durant mentions the
assertion of some critics who declare that The School for Scandal “succeeds
more in generating illusions of wickedness than in confronting wickedness
itself.” We can see that Joseph Surface is way worse than Charles, but both
brothers are sympathetic. In a way the quality of the characters put together
with the properties of the play do not allow to be any active love between them,
not even between Charles and Maria; so in a way Durant concludes that “while
the play makes its people seem more wicked than indeed they are, it does not
therefore minimize the brooding threat of evil; for evil in The School for
Scandal is dangerously imminent, as the characters engage in practices
certain to corrupt their essential good natures” (49). Not only can this be
seen in their actions but also their words and comments, a good example is when
Snake congratulates Lady Sneerwell on her scandals (47-49).

In a closer look we can see that The School for Scandal is
Sheridan’s show-off on account of witty dialogue, in fact he constructed the
play around it, and this might have caused him to ignore flaws of
characterization and plot. The first scene at “Lady Sneerwell’s house, the
testing of Joseph Surface, the quarrel between Sir Peter and Lady Teazle, and
the flirtation between Lady Teazle and Joseph Surface,” are worthy examples
although there may be better scenes which can serve the purpose more vividly
(Jackson 601-602). It is in the dialogue of the play where lies the greatness
of Sheridan’s skills. The unthoughtful and impatient responses, the fabrication
of lies, generosity, irony, satire, the sympathy, and so much more are witness
to this occurrence (Jackson 602-604). As mentioned above Sheridan had to ignore
some flaws but it is actually the plot that connects the scenes together
(Jackson 607).

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In the eyes of Leonard J. Leff, “the disguise motif,” is an
important subject to criticize. He declares that there are two groups of
characters in the play; those who wear masks, which themselves are divided into
two groups, the ones who have a good intension “(Lady Teazle, Sir Peter Teazle,
and Sir Oliver Surface),” and the ones with a bad intention “(Snake, Lady
Sneerwell and the scandalmongers, and Joseph),” and those who don’t wear masks,
which consists of “Rowley Sir Oliver’s servant, Maria, and Charles Surface.”
The important matter here is Sheridan’s purpose, as Leff says “though all the
characters who wear masks are eventually unmasked, the reader suspects that
Joseph, the scandalmongers and Lady Sneerwell, and snake who actually says his
bad reputation is the way he makes money will once again disguise themselves,
and that Sir Oliver and the Teazles will avoid disguise” (Leff 351).

            As mentioned above
we established that there was a big change in comprehending and expressing
emotion in Europe in the eighteen century that not only impacted literature and
philosophical arguments but it also significantly influenced the mentality,
attitude, and behavior of people toward each other (Slothe 220-221). And the
differences between the terms we have given this change was cleared with the
attitude we now have and had then toward the interpretation of “having a
virtuous heart”, or “to shed a sympathetic tear for another’s grief”; which was
sensibility then and is sentimentalism now, with a negative connotation, in
other words, an excess of emotion to an occasion” (Abrams 360-363).

            As you cans see
what Sheridan does is that he uses his skills as a great satirist, his belief
about the prevalence of evil, and his desire to affirm the goodness of
humankind (Durant 46), to evoke from the audience the “maximum pleasurable
tear,” by employing middle class characters and everyday occurrences put
skillfully in the plot with an elevated dialogue (Abrams 361). That is to say;
being one of the best it its witty dialogue, The School for Scandal has
been criticized somewhat weak in terms of its plot and characterization; which
are minor errors Sheridan squashes with the satire, sympathy, scandal, lies,
and the irony of the dialogue of the play. To put it another way, all those
characteristics put together with the moral focus and the disguise motif in
this extraordinary play gives it the clearance to be considered a “drama of
sensibility” or as you may call it a work of “sentimental comedy” (Jackson
601-604; Abrams 361).

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