The School for Scandal

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Jews and Anti-Semitism Symbol Analysis

Jews and Anti-Semitism Symbol Icon

This symbol as portrayed in the play is obviously racist and morally reprehensible. Nonetheless, it exists in the play and should be analyzed. In The School for Scandal “Jewishness” generally represents the foreign and the morally unacceptable. Although the play’s Jewish character is described as an “honest Hebrew” and is not caricatured and made to look ugly, ill-mannered, or evil, he is seen as the exception, not the rule, for the Jewish people. Generally, the play suggests, Jews are selfish and ungenerous, willing to take advantage of those in need of money by asking for huge amounts of interest. The generous behavior of the “Man of Sentiment” is contrasted to the behavior of the calculating moneylender, who only gives when he can expect to receive more in return. Mentions or portrayals of Jewishness, then, are symbolic of lifestyles and attitudes that Sheridan condemns.

Jews and Anti-Semitism Quotes in The School for Scandal

The The School for Scandal quotes below all refer to the symbol of Jews and Anti-Semitism. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The School for Scandal published in 1991.
Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

SIR OLIVER. Sir, I understand you have lately had great dealings with my nephew, Charles.

MOSES. Yes, Sir Oliver, I have done all I could for him; but he was ruined before he came to me for assistance.

SIR OLIVER. That was unlucky, truly; for you have had no opportunity of showing your talents.

MOSES. None at all; I hadn't the pleasure of knowing his distresses till he was some thousands worse than nothing.

SIR OLIVER. Unfortunate, indeed! –But I suppose you have done all in your power for him, honest Moses?

Related Characters: Sir Oliver Surface / Mr. Premium / Mr. Stanley (speaker), Moses (speaker), Charles Surface
Related Symbols: Jews and Anti-Semitism
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

Moses is a moneylender who has lent money to the extravagant Charles. Sir Oliver is recruiting Moses’s help because he wants to understand his nephew’s true character. At the time when the play was written, Jews were often caricatured as selfish moneylenders who preyed on financially irresponsible, upper-class Christians, especially young men, by giving them loans on unfavorable terms. They were thought to ask for especially high rates of interest from young men who lacked the presence of mind to refuse these bad terms, often in the hopes that their families would later bail the young men out. Sir Oliver makes a joke about this caricature, suggesting that if Charles was already deeply indebted by the time Moses met him, then Moses has been unable to do what he does best: cheat and ruin him.

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Act 3, Scene 3 Quotes

CHARLES. Not much, indeed; unless you have a mind to the family pictures. I have got a room full of ancestors above, and if you have a taste for paintings, egad', you shall have 'em a bargain.

SIR OLIVER. Hey! what the devil! sure, you wouldn't sell your forefathers, would you?

CHARLES. Every man of them to the best bidder.

SIR OLIVER. What! your great-uncles and aunts?

CHARLES. Ay, and my great-grandfathers and grandmothers too.

SIR OLIVER. Now I give him up. [Aside.] What the plague, have you no bowels for your own kindred? Odd's life, do you take me for Shylock in the play, that you would raise money of me on your own flesh and blood?

CHARLES. Nay, my little broker, don't be angry: what need you care if you have your money's worth?

SIR OLIVER. Well, I'll be the purchaser: I think I can dispose of the family canvas. Oh, I'll never forgive him this! never!

Related Characters: Charles Surface (speaker), Sir Oliver Surface / Mr. Premium / Mr. Stanley (speaker)
Related Symbols: Jews and Anti-Semitism, Heirlooms
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Sir Oliver is visiting Charles, disguised as a broker and moneylender named Mr. Premium who is interested in lending money to Charles. “Mr. Premium” has asked if there is anything that Charles can sell to him in exchange for money, but Charles tells him that he has sold all the heirlooms that he had. He finally says that he can sell Mr. Premium the family portraits. Sir Oliver is so shocked by this proposal that he forgets for a moment to stay in character as Mr. Premium. He thinks that for Charles to sell the family portraits represents a grave sin against the respect due to the Surface family name.

As Sir Oliver expresses his indignation, he refers to Shylock, a Jewish moneylender in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. In this play, Shylock gives a loan on the condition that if it cannot be repaid, he will ask for a pound of the indebted man’s flesh. Shylock was a potent archetype among those prejudiced against Jews. The real Mr. Premium, who is a moneylender—although he is not Jewish, but Christian—would likely have seen nothing unusual in accepting this deal from Charles. But Sir Oliver says that selling the family portraits is akin to selling “one’s flesh and blood.” He is offended by Charles’s disrespect for the Surface family and, like many in his society at the time, sees this deal as one that only a Jew would be dishonorable enough to take.

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Jews and Anti-Semitism Symbol Timeline in The School for Scandal

The timeline below shows where the symbol Jews and Anti-Semitism appears in The School for Scandal. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
...against his brother. Crabtree responds that Charles, at least, has an excellent reputation among the Jewish moneylenders. Sir Benjamin says that despite his financial difficulties and the creditors who try to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
...Peter and Sir Oliver that he has also arranged for them to meet with a Jewish moneylender, Moses, who can give them a sense of Charles’s financial position. Rowley says that... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
...turned to him. Sir Oliver says this meant Moses “had no opportunity of showing your talents.” Moses tells them that he plans on introducing Charles to a broker named “Mr. Premium”... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
Sir Oliver asks how he will be able to pass for a Jew, but Moses replies that Mr. Premium is Christian. Sir Oliver says that is a shame,... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
Trip enters and Charles says he must excuse himself to talk to a Jew and a broker who have come to see him. The others urge him to have... (full context)