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
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?
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!