The School for Scandal


Richard Sheridan

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Themes and Colors
Concealment and Exposure Theme Icon
Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty Theme Icon
The Man of Sentiment Theme Icon
Family Honor and Money Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The School for Scandal, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Concealment and Exposure

The School for Scandal explores how people hide and are exposed, both literally and figuratively. As characters’ true natures are unmasked, hypocrites are seen for who they really are, while mistaken impressions and unearned reputations are corrected. Some characters, like Maria, behave morally and have a reputation for goodness, while others, like Lady Sneerwell, behave immorally and have a reputation for wickedness. But most of the other characters conceal who they really are…

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Rumors, Wit, and Cruelty

The School for Scandal focuses on a group of wealthy Londoners who entertain themselves and torment one another by spreading rumors. The play hints at how serious a ruined reputation can be, both for men and for women, and therefore how unkind it is to spread rumors, yet it also does not seek to teach a serious lesson against spreading rumors.

In the 1770s, when pre-marital sex was considered an unforgiveable offense for women, and…

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The Man of Sentiment

The School for Scandal is part of the eighteenth-century tradition of sentimentalism, but also a satire of sentimentalism’s drawbacks. In the 1770s, when the play was written, society approved of the idea of the “Man of Sentiment,” whose conduct guided by moral sentiments and emotions, instead of cool, calm reasoning. To be charitable, loyal, and loving to a fault were admirable qualities, and the eloquent recitation of sentiments was admired as morally edifying. In this…

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Family Honor and Money

The School for Scandal explores the role money played in a family’s reputation for the wealthy members of late eighteenth-century British high society. Flashy displays of wealth boosted the stature of a family, and huge sums of money could be procured on loan with reference to a family name. The play examines the way this free-spending lifestyle impacts relationships between the older and younger generation and between men and women.

The ability to borrow seemingly…

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