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Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1) (1751–1816)

Author of The School for Scandal

For other authors named Richard Brinsley Sheridan, see the disambiguation page.

59+ Works 2,983 Members 35 Reviews 2 Favorited

About the Author

The son of Thomas Sheridan, the Irish actor and theater manager, Richard Brinsley Sheridan began writing plays as a youngster in Bath. He went on to become one of the most successful playwrights of the later eighteenth century, manager of the Drury Lane Theater, and also a politician and orator of show more some note in the House of Commons. Along with his friends David Garrick (seeVol. 3) and Oliver Goldsmith, Sheridan was a member of the Literary Club of Samuel Johnson, having been proposed for membership by Johnson himself. Like Goldsmith, Sheridan also attacks "The Sentimental Muse" of weeping comedy. In his best-known play, The School for Scandal (1777), Sheridan revives the Restoration comedy of manners with its portrait of the beau monde and its deflation of hypocrisy. The play is indebted to William Congreve as well as to Moliere (see Vol. 2), and the picture of society is based on Bath and London. In The Rivals (1775), Sheridan amuses himself with the language games of Mrs. Malaprop and her "nice derangement of epitaphs." The allusions are consistently literary, as in her simile "as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile." Sheridan's acute ear for banalities and truisms is best seen in The Critic (1779), a burlesque of sentimental and inflated plays as well as self-important criticism. The play ridicules "false Taste and brilliant Follies of modern dramatic Composition." Sheridan's sparking dialogue, lively scenes, and masterful dramatic construction have proved to be enduringly popular. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: From Wikimedia Commons. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, by sir Joshua Reynolds.

Works by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

The School for Scandal (1777) 1,024 copies
The Rivals (1775) 512 copies
The Critic (1779) 53 copies
Plays (1931) 14 copies
The Duenna (1775) 8 copies
The Plays of Sheridan (1926) 6 copies
St. Patrick's Day (1775) 3 copies
A Trip To Scarborough (2004) 3 copies
Poems 1 copy
The Rivals AUDIO (1988) 1 copy

Associated Works


Common Knowledge

Legal name
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley Butler
Date of death
Burial location
Westminster Abbey, London, England, UK
Dublin, Ireland
Place of death
London, England, UK
Places of residence
Dublin, Ireland
London, England, UK
Bath, Somerset, England, UK
Harrow School
Manager, Drury Lane Theater
Member of Parliament (Whig)
Sheridan, Frances (mother)
Blackwood, Helen Selina Sheridan (granddaughter)
Norton, Caroline (granddaughter)
Lefanu, Alicia Sheridan (sister)
Sheridan, Betsy (sister)
Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan (great-nephew) (show all 11)
Dufferin, Lord (great-grandson)
Broughton, Rhoda (great-great-niece)
Blackwood, Caroline (descendant)
Sheridan, Caroline Henrietta (daughter-in-law)
Sheridan, Thomas (father)
Garrick Club, London, England, UK
Literary Club, London, England, UK
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London
Short biography
Richard Brinsley Sheridan is still popular today for his satirical, witty comedies of manners such as The Rivals (1775) and The School for Scandal (1777). He also served as a Member of Parliament for 32 years. He was part of an acting and literary dynasty: His mother Frances Sheridan, née Chamberlaine, was a playwright and novelist, and his father Thomas Sheridan was an actor-manager who went on to write several books on education. Many of his descendants, his two sisters, and some of their descendants also became writers.



Money and love, and their interaction are often a matter for comedy, and this play is a classsic of that genre. the Surface brothers are engaged in the pursuit of both money and love, and are trying to swim in the society of upper class England in the 1760's. Joseph is an unlikeable hypocrite and his brother Charles has an amount of familial and emotional honesty. Very few of the characters get any mercy from the author, who as an Irish outsider, in his own life, has a clear vision of the the people he had to deal with in reality. Sheridan gives us the pleasure of condemning others for their weaknesses while insulating us from too much introspection. The play is quite witty and plays well on the stage.… (more)
DinadansFriend | 16 other reviews | Nov 17, 2023 |
I fell in love with Restoration comedies through these two plays (though Oliver Goldsmith's "She Stoops to Conquer" was quickly added).

October 2015 While I have reread them more than once, it has been some time since I revisited "The School for Scandal". It was a joy to discover that this satire still makes me laugh.

A big part of the fun for me were the names -- Lady Sneerwell, Sir Benjamin Backbite, Mr. Joseph Surface, Mrs. Candour, Miss Gadabout, Sir Filagree Flirt ... I could go on but the point has been made. This satire about gossip and hypocrisy may feel dated in its setting to some readers (though it is like home to me after all the Georgette Heyer I have read), but the situations are still relevant & still funny. As David Garrick (in the original production at Drury Lane Theater in 1777) said in his prologue:

"Thus at our friends we laugh, who feel the dart;
To reach our feelings, we ourselves must smart."

So true! Whether it is the slapstick pie in the face or slip on the banana peel or the more sophisticated comedy of manners presented here, we laugh at things that would not be funny if they were happening to us. Being talked about behind our backs is one of those situations.

A few funny bits (my underlining):

Joseph Surface: The license of invention some people take is monstrous indeed.
Maria: 'Tis so; but, in my opinion, those who report such things are equally culpable.
Mrs. Candour: To be sure they are; tale-bearers are as bad as the tale-makers -- 'tis an old observation, and a very true one" but what's to be done, as I said before? how will you prevent people from talking? To-day, Mrs. Clackitt assured me, Mr. and Mrs. Honeymoon were at last become mere man and wife, like the rest of their acquaintance. She likewise hinted that a certain widow, in the next street, had got rid of her dropsy and recovered her shape in a most surprising manner. And at the same time Miss Tattle, who was by, affirmed, that Lord Buffalo had discovered his lady at a house of no extraordinary fame; ... But, Lord, do you think I would report these things! No, no! tale-bearers, as I said before, are just as bad as tale-makers."


Mrs. Candour: They'll not allow our friend Miss Vermillion to be handsome.
Lady Sneerwell: Oh, surely she is a pretty woman.
Crabtree: I am very glad you think so, ma'am.
Mrs. Candour: She has a charming fresh colour.
Lady Teazle: Yes, when it is fresh put on.
Mrs. Candour: Oh, fie! I'll swear her colour is natural: I have seen it come and go!
Lady Teazle: I dare swear you have ma'am: it goes off at night, and comes again in the morning.

Hahahaha!! But the main theme of the play revolves around two brothers: Joseph and Charles Surface. Everyone (except Lady Sneerwell) thinks Joseph is the virtuous good brother and Charles is the profligate ne'er-do-well. But, as Sheridan has foreshadowed for us, we must look below the surface to find the true character of these two men.
… (more)
leslie.98 | 1 other review | Jun 27, 2023 |
I listened to this full audiobook via the L.A. Theatre Works website. I so do enjoy this play, especially Mrs. Malaprop! A wonderful way to spend a grey morning :)
leslie.98 | 6 other reviews | Jun 27, 2023 |
Prof. Cecil Price, head of English at Swansea University, edited Sheridan's letters and his complete dramatic works for Oxford before producing this scholarly paperback edition of the plays for advanced students. It features impeccable scholarship, minimal notes, a useful 20-page introduction and a helpful one-page chronology of Sheridan's life. Included with Sheridan's lesser known works are his three best and most popular plays: The Rivals (1775), The School for Scandal (1777), and The Critic (1979). These comedies of manners deserve their place between Moliere and Wilde and alongside Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer as among the best of the genre.

Sheridan's first dramatic accomplishment, The Rivals was "not well received" when first enacted. But after a quick revision in which the author shortened it and toned it down, it has been a notable success for centuries, not only for its familiar plot of a high-born lover (Capt. Jack Absolute) pretending baseness to woo his beloved (the sentimental Lydia Languish), but for the marvelously misspeaking Mrs. Malaprop, the most delightful misuser of language since Shakespeare's Dogberry. Despite other Shakespearean echoes from Lear, Macbeth, Falstaff, and Hamlet, in the end the titular rivals avoid tragic bloodshed from dueling just as in Much Ado and Twelfth Night to allow the appropriate heteronormative romantic couplings to flourish. Making the play more difficult for a modern audience are its story's class-ist, sexist and racist foundations.
… (more)
gwalton | 1 other review | Apr 15, 2023 |



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