The School for Scandal

Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface Character Analysis

A selfish, greedy hypocrite and liar, the older Surface brother pretends to be a “man of sentiment,” but is actually a “sentimental knave.” This means that he speaks eloquently about the proper, moral way to live, but does not practice what he preaches. Instead, Joseph is conspiring with Lady Sneerwell to prevent an engagement between his brother Charles and Maria, whom he wants to marry for her money. At the same time, he is trying to seduce Lady Teazle, even though Sir Peter Teazle is one of his greatest admirers. When tested, Joseph’s true character shows through, as he fails to show generosity to the poor or proper respect for family traditions.

Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface Quotes in The School for Scandal

The The School for Scandal quotes below are all either spoken by Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface or refer to Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface . 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Publications edition of The School for Scandal published in 1991.
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

ROWLEY. You know, Sir Peter, I have always taken the liberty to differ with you on the subject of these two young gentlemen. I only wish you may not be deceived in your opinion of the elder. For Charles, my life on't! he will retrieve his errors yet. Their worthy father, once my honoured master, was, at his years, nearly as wild a spark; yet, when he died, he did not leave a more benevolent heart to lament his loss.

SIR PETER. You are wrong, Master Rowley. On their father's death, you know, I acted as a kind of guardian to them both, till their uncle Sir Oliver's liberality gave them an early independence: of course, no person could have more opportunities of judging of their hearts, and I was never mistaken in my life. Joseph is indeed a model for the young men of the age. He is a man of sentiment, and acts up to the sentiments he professes; but for the other, take my word for't, if he had any grain of virtue by descent, he has dissipated it with the rest of his inheritance. Ah! my old friend, Sir Oliver, will be deeply mortified when he finds how part of his bounty has been misapplied.

Related Characters: Sir Peter Teazle (speaker), Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface , Charles Surface, Sir Oliver Surface / Mr. Premium / Mr. Stanley, Mr. Rowley
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

JOSEPH. A curious dilemma my politics have run me into! I wanted, at first, only to ingratiate myself with Lady Teazle, that she might not be my enemy with Maria; and I have, I don't know how, become her serious lover. Sincerely I begin to wish I had never made such a point of gaining so very good a character, for it has led me into so many cursed rogueries that I doubt I shall be exposed at last.

Related Characters: Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface (speaker), Lady Teazle, Maria
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2, Scene 3 Quotes

SIR PETER. Wild!—Ah! my old friend, I grieve for your disappointment there; he’s a lost young man, indeed. However, his brother will make you amends. Joseph is, indeed, what a youth should be. Everybody in the world speaks well of him.

SIR OLIVER. I am sorry to hear it; he has too good a character to be an honest fellow. Everybody speaks well of him!—Pshaw! then he has bowed as low to knaves and fools as to the honest dignity of genius and virtue.

SIR PETER. What, Sir Oliver! do you blame him for not making enemies?

SIR OLIVER. Yes, if he has merit enough to deserve them.

SIR PETER. Well, well—you’ll be convinced when you know him. ’Tis edification to hear him converse; he professes the noblest sentiments.

SIR OLIVER. Oh, plague of his sentiments! If he salutes me with a scrap of morality in his mouth, I shall be sick directly. —But, however, don’t mistake me, Sir Peter; I don’t mean to defend Charles’s errors: but, before I form my judgment of either of them, I intend to make a trial of their hearts; and my friend Rowley and I have planned something for the purpose.

Related Characters: Sir Peter Teazle (speaker), Sir Oliver Surface / Mr. Premium / Mr. Stanley (speaker), Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface , Charles Surface, Mr. Rowley
Page Number: 23-24
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

JOSEPH. Ah! my dear madam, there is the great mistake: 'tis this very conscious innocence that is of the greatest prejudice to you. What is it makes you negligent of forms, and careless of the world's opinion? why, the consciousness of your own innocence. What makes you thoughtless in your conduct, and apt to run into a thousand little imprudences? —why, the consciousness of your own innocence. What makes you impatient of Sir Peter's temper, and outrageous at his suspicions? —why, the consciousness of your innocence.

LADY TEAZLE. 'Tis very true!

JOSEPH. Now, my dear Lady Teazle, if you would but once make a trifling faux pas, you can't conceive how cautious you would grow, and how ready to humour and agree with your husband.

LADY TEAZLE. Do you think so?

JOSEPH. Oh! I am sure on't; and then you would find all scandal would cease at once, for, in short, your character at present is like a person in a plethora, absolutely dying from too much health.

Related Characters: Lady Teazle (speaker), Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface (speaker), Lady Teazle, Sir Peter Teazle
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

No, sir, —she has recovered her senses, and your own arts have furnished her with the means. —Sir Peter, I do not expect you to credit me—but the tenderness you expressed for me, when I am sure you could not think I was a witness to it, has penetrated so to my heart, that had I left the place without the shame of this discovery, my future life should have spoken the sincerity of my gratitude. As for that smooth-tongued hypocrite, who would have seduced the wife of his too credulous friend, while he affected honourable addresses to his ward—I behold him now in a light so truly despicable, that I shall never again respect myself for having listened to him.

Related Characters: Lady Teazle (speaker), Sir Peter Teazle, Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface , Maria
Page Number: 56-57
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 5, Scene 1 Quotes

SIR OLIVER. I was, sir —so nearly that my present poverty, I fear, may do discredit to her wealthy children, else I should not have presumed to trouble you.

JOSEPH. Dear sir, there needs no apology:—he that is in distress, though a stranger, has a right to claim kindred with the wealthy. I am sure I wish I was of that class, and had it in my power to offer you even a small relief.

SIR OLIVER. If your uncle, Sir Oliver, were here, I should have a friend.

JOSEPH. I wish he was, Sir, with all my heart: you should not want an advocate with him, believe me, sir.

SIR OLIVER. I should not need one—my distresses would recommend me. But I imagined his bounty would enable you to become the agent of his charity.

JOSEPH. My dear sir, you were strangely misinformed. Sir Oliver is a worthy man, a very worthy man; but avarice, Mr. Stanley, is the vice of age. I will tell you, my good sir, in confidence, what he has done for me has been a mere nothing; though people, I know, have thought otherwise, and, for my part, I never chose to contradict the report.

Related Characters: Sir Oliver Surface / Mr. Premium / Mr. Stanley (speaker), Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface
Page Number: 60-61
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

SIR BENJAMIN. Aye, there; I told you Mr. Surface was the man.

MRS. CANDOUR. No, no, indeed; the assignation was with Charles.

LADY SNEERWELL. With Charles! You alarm me, Mrs. Candour!

MRS. CANDOUR. Yes, yes, he was the lover. Mr. Surface, to do him justice, was only the informer.

SIR BENJAMIN. Well, I’ll not dispute with you, Mrs. Candour; but, be it which it may, I hope that Sir Peter’s wound will not—

MRS. CANDOUR. Sir Peter’s wound! Oh, mercy! I didn’t hear a word of their fighting.

LADY SNEERWELL. Nor I, a syllable.

SIR BENJAMIN. No! what, no mention of the duel?

MRS. CANDOUR. Not a word.

SIR BENJAMIN. O Lord, yes, yes: they fought before they left the room.

LADY SNEERWELL. Pray, let us hear.

MRS. CANDOUR. Aye, do oblige us with the duel.

Related Characters: Lady Sneerwell (speaker), Mrs. Candour (speaker), Sir Benjamin Backbite (speaker), Lady Teazle, Sir Peter Teazle, Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface , Charles Surface
Page Number: 63-64
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface Character Timeline in The School for Scandal

The timeline below shows where the character Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface appears in The School for Scandal. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
...has a reputation for being an extravagant spender and good-for-nothing, while Lady Sneerwell and Mr. Joseph Surface, who has a good reputation, are known to be in love. Why, Snake asks... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
Lady Sneerwell explains that she is really in love with the bankrupt big-spender Charles, not Joseph. Joseph, meanwhile, wants to marry his brother’s beloved Maria (although only because she is a... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
Joseph Surface is then announced, and enters. Lady Sneerwell tells him that she has informed Snake... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Joseph says he only wishes it were in his power to help his brother, but Lady... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Snake leaves and Joseph tells Lady Sneerwell that she was wrong to place her trust in him, because he... (full context)
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
...his uncle Crabtree were there, and she hates listening to them gossip about their friends. Joseph agrees, saying that they gossip so much that they even gossip about people they do... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
...this is an affectation: Mrs. Candour does even more damage to people’s reputations than Crabtree. Joseph says that there is nothing worse for someone’s reputation than to be defended by Mrs.... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
Maria is indignant, but Mrs. Candour continues to gossip. Joseph says it is amazing what stories people will make up, and Maria replies that it... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
Mrs. Candour says she hates when people are attacked behind their backs, and then asks Joseph if it is true that his brother Charles is ruined. Joseph says that his brother’s... (full context)
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
Crabtree turns to Joseph and asks if it is true that his uncle, Sir Oliver, is returning soon from... (full context)
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
...telling him to follow Maria and recite his love poems to her. Sir Benjamin tells Joseph that he is sorry if he upset him, but it’s well-known that his brother is... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
...Charles as they go. Lady Sneerwell laughs at how eager they are to continue gossiping. Joseph says he thinks Lady Sneerwell must have also found it difficult to hear about Charles’s... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
...brother. Rowley says that he has a different opinion than Sir Peter on Charles and Joseph. Rowley says that his late master, the Surface brother’s father, was also badly behaved as... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
Lady Sneerwell, Mrs. Candour, Crabtree, Sir Benjamin Backbite, and Joseph Surface are drinking tea at Lady Sneerwell’s home. Maria and Lady Teazle arrive, and Lady... (full context)
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
The entire party leaves the room except for Maria and Joseph. Joseph says he can tell that Maria is not having a good time, and she... (full context)
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Joseph says that Maria worries about everyone’s feelings except his. She says she wishes he would... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Joseph kneels in front of Maria to beg her not to leave him on such a... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Joseph asks Lady Teazle if she will come to look at his library, as she has... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
...Rowley believes that if Lady Teazle has feelings for one of the brothers, it is Joseph, not Charles. Sir Oliver says he will not let himself be prejudiced against Charles by... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
...Oliver asks after Charles, and Sir Peter says that Charles is a lost cause, but Joseph is exactly as a young man should be and is well spoken of by everyone.... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
...has written to both brothers to ask for their help paying his debts, but while Joseph has only vaguely promised to help in the future if he can, Charles is currently... (full context)
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
...has been given permission to leave prison to ask for their help in person. Since Joseph and Charles have never met Stanley and do not remember Sir Oliver, Sir Oliver can... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
...this way. Sir Oliver likes this idea and says he will go afterwards to visit Joseph in the guise of Mr. Stanley. Rowley says that this may not show Charles in... (full context)
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
...hopes there is no affair between Charles and Lady Teazle. He plans to speak to Joseph about his suspicions. Maria approaches and Sir Peter asks her if she has changed her... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
...Oliver recognizes that the house used to belong to his brother. Moses tells him that Joseph sold the house and all its contents to Charles, and that Sir Peter thought this... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
In the library at Joseph Surface’s house, Joseph is waiting for Lady Teazle, who is late. Joseph reflects to himself... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Lady Teazle enters and sees Joseph looking serious. She complains that Sir Peter is ill natured and jealous of Charles. She... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
...worst part, she says, is that she is perfectly innocent and deserves none of it. Joseph says that the only solution to the problem—that is, of Sir Peter suspecting Lady Teazle... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Just as Joseph reaches to take Lady Teazle’s hand, the servant walks in to tell him that Sir... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Sir Peter tells Joseph he believes that Charles and Lady Teazle are lovers. Joseph expresses disbelief, and Sir Peter... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
Sir Peter says to Joseph that he wishes to make sure that he gives Lady Teazle no cause to be... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Sir Peter begins to talk about Joseph’s hope to marry Maria. Joseph tries to stop Sir Peter, saying that he does not... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
A servant enters and announces that Charles has come to see Joseph. Joseph orders the servant to tell Charles he is out, but Sir Peter says he... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Charles enters. He says he had heard Sir Peter was with Joseph, and asks where he has gone. Joseph says Sir Peter avoided him because he believes... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Charles says he is surprised that Joseph would think that he and Lady Teazle are having an affair, because Charles believed that... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
The servant enters and tells Joseph that someone has come to see him. Joseph tries to persuade Charles and Sir Peter... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Charles and Sir Peter exclaim in surprise. Charles asks Joseph, Sir Peter, and Lady Teazle what is going on, but no one answers him. Charles... (full context)
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The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
After an awkward silence, Joseph stammers that he can explain everything. Sir Peter tells him to do so. Joseph gives... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
Joseph objects, but Lady Teazle goes on. She says that, although she cannot expect Sir Peter... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
In Joseph’s library, “Mr. Stanley” has arrived to visit Joseph, and Joseph complains to himself that he... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
Joseph enters and makes exaggeratedly polite excuses for keeping Mr. Stanley waiting. Mr. Stanley says he... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
Joseph goes on to say how much money he has given to help his brother with... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
Rowley then enters and gives Joseph a note saying that Sir Oliver has arrived in London. Joseph asks his servant to... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
...to talk over the scandal. Sir Benjamin believes that Sir Peter discovered Lady Teazle with Joseph Surface, but Mrs. Candour insists that the affair was with Charles. Lady Sneerwell arrives and... (full context)
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
...emerges that Crabtree, like Mrs. Candour, believes that Lady Teazle was found with Charles, not Joseph. They all argue, and Crabtree gives an extremely detailed account of what happened and how... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
...Peter’s. He and Sir Oliver tell Sir Peter that they have seen both Charles and Joseph, and Sir Oliver agrees with Sir Peter’s assessment: Joseph is “a man of sentiment” and... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Sir Oliver says that he must now go to Joseph’s, where he will tell the Surface brothers his true identity. Rowley and Sir Peter promise... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
In Joseph’s library, Lady Sneerwell is criticizing Joseph for spoiling their plot. She believes that Sir Peter... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
There is a knock at the door. Joseph says it must be his uncle, Sir Oliver, and tells Lady Sneerwell to wait in... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
Sir Oliver enters and, recognizing him as “Mr. Stanley,” Joseph tells him he must leave immediately. “Mr. Stanley” says that he has heard that Sir... (full context)
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
...is glad that he arrived in time to save Sir Oliver from being knocked down. Joseph and Charles realize Sir Oliver’s identity and are stunned. Sir Oliver says that he has... (full context)
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The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
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Sir Oliver then begins to give his impression of Charles, but Joseph interrupts him, saying he wishes to explain himself. Sir Oliver will not listen to Joseph’s... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
...Charles exclaim in confusion, but Maria says that Charles and Lady Sneerwell know the truth. Joseph then opens the door to allow Lady Sneerwell to enter. She says that Charles has... (full context)
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
...with Charles, and that she wants nothing more to do with the group of gossipmongers. Joseph says he is shocked and appalled to hear that Lady Sneerwell paid Snake to trick... (full context)