The European reputation of the playwright Richard Sheridan was based primarily on his top work – the comedy “The School for Scandal.” The main aspects of Sheridan’s play were the portrayal of gossip and slander as a widespread social vice, revealing their role in the life of society and the destinies of individuals. In “The School for Scandal,” a miniature model of English upper-class society, a world in which gossip is the spring of action, has been created in the image of Lady Sneerwell ‘s salon. Its inhabitants are a bunch of envious and malicious people, distributors of vile slander. They consider themselves the arbiters of other people’s destinies and enjoy their power, but all this is nothing more than a delusion, masquerade, and hypocrisy.
Sheridan masterfully reconstructed the mechanism of the birth of gossip, which shows the real origins of the imaginary power of the upper world. The motive for the formation of rumors is deployed in Act 5 of “The School of Scandal” (Black et al., 2011). The regulars of the salon, led by Lady Sneerwell, one by one appear at Sir Peter’s house to find out the details of the scandalous incident involving the Teazle spouses and the Serfes brothers (Black et al., 2011). No one really knows anything, but this does not prevent gossip from filling in the missing information with the fruits of their wild imagination. Then the gossip is growing like a snowball, overgrown with truly incredible details. It does not matter who started it first, who picked it up and developed it. Thus, the author shows that, in fact, the people of high society are not omniscient but only deluded.
Deafness plays a significant role in spreading gossip in Sheridan. In the salon of Lady Sneerwell, in the same scene, they tell a story about how an old deaf lady, having not heard the news being discussed, monstrously changed them (Black et al., 2011). The next morning, a vile slander spread in the city, costing the reputation of a certain young person. The use of deafness as a motive for scandal is another proof that the entire upper class is mired in hypocrisy and masquerade. Thus, in his play, Sheridan brings to the fore the strategy of exposing hypocrisy and masquerade through gossip and scandal.
Black, J., Conolly, L., Flint, K., Grundy, I., LePan, D., Liuzza, R., … Waters, C. (Eds.). (2011). The Broadview anthology of British literature. Broadview Press.