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Discuss the presentation of two charactersIn scene one and what this reveals about social context When Richard Brinsley Sheridan wrote the play "The School for Scandal" in 1777

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Discuss the presentation of two characters In scene one and what this reveals about social context When Richard Brinsley Sheridan wrote the play "The School for Scandal" in 1777, it was a satire of popular fashionable life. He managed to criticise society in a humorous way, by confronting the audience with a mirror image of themselves. Evidently the play is meant to be about how the middle-aged and wealthy bachelor, Sir Peter Teazle has married the young and comely daughter of a country squire. The fashionable society of which Lady Teazle through her marriage becomes a part, occupies itself mainly with malicious gossip whose arrows no one, however chaste can escape. Lady Sneerwell is the lead of the most dangerous of these backbiting cliques. Brother's Joseph and Charles Surface, and their cousin Maria are orphans in the care of their uncle Teazle. Both of the brothers wish to marry Maria. Lady Sneerwell who is introduced in Act one scene one is a malicious gossip and founder of The school for scandal. She wants to marry Charles and spreads false rumours about an affair between Charles and Lady Teazle in an attempt to make Maria reject Charles. Even by her name, we get the impression that she is conceited but devious, she loves gossip and to stir trouble and she 'sneers' at people, particularly at Maria in this scene. ...read more.


a gender division and women were seen as inferior, and for men to 'slander' or 'gossip' brings men down to the level of women. We as the reader also see that the effects of the scandal mongering are evident on Maria who is upset by the tales told about her and Charles and by Miss Letitia Piper's repuatation, which was ruined by confusion over her sheep having twins. There are lots of references to scandals and gossip stories which are being circulated orally amongst the fashionable and wealthy, idle, privileged class, which the play focuses on for example Miss Gadabout eloping with Sir Filigree Flirt; Miss Prim being stopped by her uncle in running off with her dance teacher; Mrs Festino's affair with Colonel Cassino; Mr and Mrs Honeymoon's long overdue marriage ceremony. All of the gossip-mongering focuses on the love-lives of their peers and speculation on future liaisons. Act one, scene one gives us a good insight into all the characters and Lady Sneerwell plays a significant role as she introduces themes, which run throughout the play. She informs the audience and snake that Joseph is a hypocrite. She is also determined to break the affection of Charles for Maria, for, although she accepts him as 'that libertine', she is herself in love with him. Snake on the other hand is also very significant, as together Lady Sneerwell and her henchman Snake plot a means to break up the romance between Charles and Maria. ...read more.


The audience is introduced to the theme of 'Man of Sentiment'. Sneerwell alludes to Joseph as a 'sentimental knave' and Snake quotes Teazle's belief that Joseph is the 'Man of Sentiment'. Here a paradox is presented as each person uses the term in a different sense. A 'sentimental knave' is a person who makes moral generalisations. Overall Lady Sneerwell and Snake are two interesting characters and Act one scene one already reveals a lot about their personalities. Lady Sneerwell is more significant in the rest of the play, but in Act one scene one, Snake is essential to encourage Lady Sneerwell to talk about her affair with Sir Peter and his family and the relationship between Mr Surface and Maria, and why she is so interested in him. They image society of that time and are quite humorous. Many people also believed in Lady Sneerwell's view, that to be witty it involves a degree of malice and she obviously enjoys creating mischief and scandals. For her, the activity is revenge as someone wrote about her in the newspaper, she says " I have since known no pleasure equal to the reducing others to the level of my own injured reputation," even at the end of the act, she leaves the audience feeling intrigued and curious as to what she is going to do when she says "I'll go and plot mischief-and you shall study sentiments." ...read more.

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