Richard Brinsley Sheridan

The School for Scandal

Despite their best efforts, the rumormongers of 18th-century London are disappointed by their targets.

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One of the most celebrated English comedies of manners, Sheridan’s The School for Scandal was first produced in 1777 at London’s Drury Lane Theatre. It opened just a year after Sheridan succeeded the famous actor/manager David Garrick as manager and, after Garrick had read the play, he even volunteered to write the prologue—lending his much desired endorsement to the production. The School for Scandal was extremely well received by its audiences as well as by many contemporary critics.

The plot revolves around members of London’s Georgian society who delight in rumor and gossip and the infelicities and flaws of others. Although they draw their victims from their own membership, they let no action go un-noted or uncriticized. But as the plot unfolds events don’t always prove quite so titillating, and not a few find themselves victims of their own love of scandal.

The comedy of manners was a staple of Restoration theatre with William Congreve and Molière being its most famous proponents. After it fell out of favor it was revived in the later part of the 1700s when a new generation of playwrights like William Goldsmith and Richard Sheridan took up writing them again. Praised for its tight writing and razor wit, The School for Scandal skewered high-society with such spirited ridicule and insight that it earned Sheridan the epithet of “the modern Congreve.”