Themes and Issues
The School for Scandal Sheridan presents his audience with a picture of gossips and scandalmongers. This company and its brittle repartee can be used to amuse: hence The School for Scandal is a comedy. It is, however, more than this, for Sheridan does not simply record, he also states his own response. In the portraits he draws of Backbite, Crabtree, Sneerwell and Candour it is evident he is ridiculing the participants of the monstrous academy he has set up, and so the playwright creates a satire. It would be possible to condemn the vice of slander in a direct fashion, but this would make Sheridan a moralist, and in his portrayal of Joseph Surface, Sheridan draws attention to the pitfalls awaiting the moralist. Satire is more deadly that direct condemnation, for it draws to its aid biting wit and it places the subjects of its attack in a dreadful position, that of ridicule. Men can stand criticism or condemnation; but ridicule, the undermining of human dignity, is almost impossible to bear.
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