The play The School of Scandal comes with the moral that people are not what they seen and that most people are wearing masks, literal and metaphorical ones. This is seen through the major characters of this plays Joesph Surface, Lady Sneerwell, and Mrs. Candour and snake. These characters spend most of the play talking about how they don’t like to gossip while spreading slander about others through out the newspapers. Mrs. Candour is ironically supposed to be someone who is honest but she spends the first two acts gossiping about other aristocratic women and men and their love lives. Lady Sneerwell and Snake take the act of slander farther by providing the papers with gossip and lies about people they know in London. I am still pretty certain that it is due to these two that gossip about Sir Peter and Lady Teazle is spread to the local papers after the screen scene. While, Joseph surface is able to parade around to others as a man of sentiment when he has more to hide than anyone else and rarely likes to show his true colors. He is not sentimental and only cares about maintaining the lifestyle that he has become accustomed to in London. (spoiler alert)
The flaws of these characters are revealed through the plots as Lady Teazle Sir Peters wife seems to be contemplating an affair with Joseph Surface. While Joseph is in love with Maria who is in love with Charles. This plot becomes further complicated because Lady Sneerwell is in love with Charles. Another wrench in this whole picture is that Lady Teazle and Sir Peter are not as one would describe as happily married, because she has become an aristocratic London women bent on spending all of Peter’s money. This marriage also faces difficulties because Lady Teazle and Sir Peter have a May-December romance.
However, I think that their is a point to all these plot complications is that it exposes the follies of aristocratic women in the 1770’s. I say this because in an ironic way these women spend most of the play gossiping about other women. This to me lower their class stature because they have become like the common folk that want to gossip about those that are rich and famous. So in the process in trying to lower themselves, they lower others in the process. These women continue to degrade themselves through their shallow values of caring about which coach they are riding in, attending certain events and wanting to be seen as people that are not lacking in morals. Also, it is the people who do not care about these things and are open and honest who end up with happy endings. Charles and Maria care more about being together than status. Lady Teazle and Peter in the end just want to be together after their foibles in the screen scene. Finally, Sir Oliver is able to learn what his nephew Charles really thinks of him.
Additionally, these play shows the merits of honest because the lying and deceit of these characters reminds me of Gossip Girl, Ugly Betty or the beginnings of a really bad soap opera. I think it because of the perks of being honest that I like this play so much enough to read it more than once. I have been one of those people who has had to hide what I am really thinking or flat out lie. I do not like it as I prefer to be straight with people. Also, I have known others who have engaged in the behavior of 18th century aristocrats and this does not thrill me. But this is a behavior that no one can control and I give Sheridan props for spending a whole play exposing it. I think that due to Sheridan’s exposure of gossip and bad behavior that is able to combine both lessons and laughter through out this play.