"His [Sheridan's] comic muse does not go about prying into obscure corners, or collecting idle curiosities, but shows her laughing face and points to her rich treasure--the follies of mankind...The 'School for Scandal' is, if not the most original, perhaps the most finished and faultless comedy which we have."
-William Hazlitt, The English Comic Writers
|Rowlandson's print based on The School for Scandal|
Well, mostly none of it. Charles is spendthrift, Lady Teazle is unhappy, and one of the Surface brothers is trying to seduce Lady Teazle; only it's the hypocritical Joseph who's trying, and he hasn't yet succeeded.
This will all need to be made right, of course: fortunately Charles and Joseph have a rich, wise, and tolerant uncle in the background, just now returning from the Orient; Charles has a beloved in the foreground, Maria; and Sir Peter and Lady Teazle are still really in love. It's helped along by the clever servant, Rowley, straight out of Plautus.
I found the opening acts a little broad in their comedy, though I imagine it would work on stage, particularly Mrs. Candour, who kept saying that sure it was terrible about all that gossip, though somebody (who knows who?) would be repeating it, so she might as well. But then when it got to the fourth act, first with Charles selling off the family portraits unknowingly to his rich uncle, and then in Joseph's drawing room, with multiple people hidden in various corners, I was laughing out loud even reading it on the page, and I have to imagine it would be a great hoot on stage. I've seen productions of Sheridan's The Rivals (perhaps better known as The One With Mrs. Malaprop) twice on stage, and now I'm going to hope for a production of this one.
In the meantime I made do with this silent version, with Basil Rathbone (!) as the hypocritical Joseph. It's only ten minutes, and by no means all the play, nor it seems all the movie either, though maybe all that survives. I'm not quite sure it would work if you hadn't just read the play, but I enjoyed it:
This is my entry for the Classics Club Spin #20.