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The School for Scandal
The scope of this paper is to conduct a literary analysis of the late 18th century play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, called “The School for Scandal”. The play deals with topics such as hypocrisy and gossip in the higher class society of London in the 1770s and depicts the aristocracy's affectation by telling the story of Sir Joseph Surface, who is held in high esteem for his supposed sentiments.
A detailed classification of the play will make clear if “The School for Scandal” can therefore be categorized as Sentimental Comedy or as satiric comedy of the Restoration. The paper comprises an explanation and interpretation that will clarify characteristics of the two types and its connection to “The School for Scandal”. Does the play tend towards one of the two types or is it a transitional play?
2.Sentimental Comedy and its 'Evil Sibling', the Restoration Comedy
This chapter will deal with Frye's comedy classification, the genres of Sentimental and Restoration Comedy and its evaluation. For examining “The School for Scandal” and its comedy genre, a closer look on comedy in general is indispensable. In Northrop Frye's work “Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays” he defined comedies and divided them into different types, two of them being the major forms: Romantic Comedy and Satiric Comedy.
Tragedy and comedy contrast rather than blend, and so do romance and irony, the champions respectively of the ideal and actual. On the other hand, comedy blends insensibly into satire at one extreme and into romance at the other; romance may be comic or tragic; tragic extends from high romance to bitter and ironic realism” (Frye 162).
Accordingly, romantic comedy and satiric comedy are two types standing very much in opposition to each other. Satire can be specified by characters exposing their follies, obsessions, [ .] or events not understood by the character themselves [ .]. Romantic Comedy in contrast “is characterized by the acceptance of pity and fear, which in ordinary life relate to pain, as forms of pleasure” (Frye 37).
Concerning the figure conception, in Romantic Comedies “virtuous heroes and beautiful heroines represent the ideals and the villains the threats to their ascendancy”(Frye 186). This is why such comedies are also called “genteel comedy”, because of its gentleman-like characters. Interestingly Frye observes the high amount of fixed character types. He discerns that there is no complexity favoured in Romantic comedy as characters tend to be either for or against the quest, which is why he compares its characters to either black or white pieces on a chess game.
Another dissimilarity between the two comedy types is its motivation. While Romantic Comedy can be rather seen as entertaining, morally good comedy form with protagonists possessing good qualities to which the audience should identify and sympathize with, the motif of Satiric Comedy is rather corrective and didactic, dealing w.....[read full text]
Similar to romances, the figure conception is simple. It mostly consists of morally good characters and only a few, not as strong blocking characters or obstacles as in satires. The protagonists behave accordingly to the so called “code of sensibility”. Nettleton describes it as an “ideal code of behaviour that placed value on such qualities as sincerity, honesty, humility, self-knowledge; sympathy, kindliness, and charity displayed towards one's fellow man (Nettleton 150).
Accordingly it can be defined as the ability of displaying feelings and showing an ability of sentimentality, i.e. expressing sympathy with others including feelings such as love, pity, sadness, etc. Therefore such morally good people were also referred to as “men of sentiment”. According to Ellis, he objects of a man of sentiment to show his sentimen.....