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Gary F. Taylor
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Playwright, poet, and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) did not produce many works--some sources note that he was frequently afflicted with writer's block--but among them were two titles that have remained constants of world theatre since the moment of their debut: THE RIVALS (1775) and THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL (1777.)
In may respects THE SCHOOL SCANDAL anticipates the slightly later novel LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES (1782) by de Laclos, for both works present portraits of a hypocritical social world that amuses itself--and fiercely manipulates others--through rumor, scandal, and extra-marital affairs. But where LIAISONS is essentially a portrait of evil machinations that succeed against virtue, SCANDAL is a witty portrait of evil machinations that fail when confronted by personal integrity. Witty and tone and sparkling with wickedly amusing malice, it is a gossamer farce that draws heavily upon the earlier Restoration styles of Wycherly and Congreve but molds them into a less uncompromising turn of mind.
The central plot turns upon two brothers, Joseph and Charles Surface, both of whom are wards of the wealthy but long absent Sir Oliver. Joseph appears to be an upstanding member of society; Charles appears to be a wild spendthrift--but appearances are deceiving, for in truth Joseph is miserly and vicious where as Charles is generous and open-hearted. The Lady Sneerwell has determined to have Charles for a lover; as such she works with Joseph to break Charles' attachment to Maria, who is the ward of Sir Peter Teazle.
Although the plot arises from Lady Sneerwell's determination to capture Charles Surface, the actual focus of the play falls on Sir Peter and Lady Teazle. Sir Peter sought and married a significantly younger and socially unstudied country girl--but once she set foot in London she unexpectedly transformed into a lady of fashion. Indeed, Lady Teazle has fallen in with Lady Sneerwell and her malicious circle, where talk consists almost exclusively of maliciously witty gossip that greatly damages its subjects. Thinking herself above suspicion, Lady Teazle determines to have an affair with Charles Surface... and becomes a victim of "the school for scandal" herself.
As it unravels the plot includes mistaken identities, impersonations, and farcical situations--the "screen scene" is particularly famous--but then as now the great thing about THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL is its dialogue. The play is in theory a moral lesson on the immorality of gossip and its attendant dangers, but most of its humor actually arises from the wildly funny nature of the malacious gossip that colors every scene. The lines are like rapiers, and whether on the page or in the hands of experienced players they ring with hilarity. It is a gossamer flyweight, true--but no less artful or influential for that. Strongly recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer