The School for Scandal

The School for Scandal Act 4, Scene 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The auction of the family portraits is conducted in the picture room in Charles’s house. Charles asks Careless to serve as the auctioneer and, laughing, gives him a rolled-up parchment of the family tree to use as a hammer. Charles first displays a portrait of his great-uncle and gives him a detailed description of the man’s prominence. Mr. Premium asks what he wants for it, and Charles says ten pounds. To himself, Sir Oliver marvels angrily that Charles wants to sell “his famous uncle Richard for ten pounds.” Charles then sells six other portraits of illustrious relatives.
Charles is breaking a taboo against disrespecting his family history and seems to relish it, laughing at the irony of selling these family relics while using the family tree as an auction hammer. At the same time, his detailed knowledge of the lives and achievements of the ancestors whose portraits he is selling reflects interest in, and respect for, his family’s history.
Themes
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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Charles proposes that the remaining family portraits be sold wholesale for three hundred pounds. “Mr. Premium” agrees, but points out one portrait that Charles has always passed over. Charles explains that that is the portrait of his uncle, Sir Oliver, and says he is too grateful to his uncle to sell his portrait. Sir Oliver offers Charles large sums for the portrait, but Charles refuses every offer. Sir Oliver says to himself that he forgives Charles everything. Deeply touched, Sir Oliver writes Charles a check for even more than they agreed on and leaves with Moses. Charles asks that Mr. Premium make sure the paintings are handled carefully when they are picked up.
Despite selling family heirlooms, Charles shows that he is moved to take a stand by exactly the honorable sentiment of gratitude that his uncle hopes to find in an heir. He also shows that he cares about the portraits (and likely hopes to buy them back when he has more money) when he asks Premium to handle them with care. Charles has given no eloquent speeches, but even in the act of disrespecting heirlooms his behavior shows that he values his family heritage.
Themes
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
Rowley approaches and Careless leaves the room, first telling Charles not to let his father’s old steward persuade him to pay his debts with the money received from Mr. Premium. Rowley enters and Charles instructs him to bring a hundred pounds immediately to old Stanley. Rowley tries to dissuade him, saying he is in too much debt himself to be generous, but Charles refuses to listen, saying Rowley must hurry before a debt-collector comes and takes the money he wants to send his impoverished relative, then goes to join his friends in the other room to play cards.
Despite the bad influence of Careless, who urges Charles to spend all the money from Premium on parties, Charles’s first impulse is to send money to Mr. Stanley. With this impractical gesture, he shows himself to be the true man of sentiment. His first priority is to generously help a struggling family member, his second priority is to have fun hosting parties, and his last consideration is to pay off his massive debts.
Themes
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon