Comparison Of The School For Scandal And Lord Chesterfield’s Letters To His Son

This essay compares the letters of Lord Chesterfield to his son with The School for Scandal. The comparison provides an interesting look at society over 200 years old, and what they expected. Brinsley utilizes satire and recognizes issues in society. Brinsley’s play is a satirical comedy that uses satire to ridicule the characters. The genre of the play is a comedy with manners, which has contradictions between character expectations and reality. Chesterfield’s letters are a fascinating comparison. They provide a glimpse into the expectations and behavior of people in positions of authority. Chesterfield’s and Brinsley’s differences as authors allow for a variety of viewpoints. Brinsley is a satirist who aims to entertain, while Chesterfield provides a list with strict guidelines that he believes those in need of them should know. The two are clearly different: the play is used to reflect on an individual’s life and the letters are sent to inform the recipient of the society’s expectations and the way to live in it. Sheridan’s play is written in a way that accurately reflects the upper-class lifestyle and society, which is fundamentally true. The play was created with the intention of raising questions about the gossips and slanders that were at the core of the society. Sheridan used characters to illustrate the negative effects of gossip, lies and slander. She wanted the audience to be aware of their own shortcomings. The gossip spread quickly and could destroy the character of an individual in seconds. Sheridan’s writing is a combination of satirical and humorous lampooning. By satirizing a form of comedy that allows for the delivery of the correct message, Sheridan can ridicule characters in an witty, derogatory, and snide manner. Conversations Between Sir Benjamin Backbite And Crabtree Mr. Surface I was not trying to hurt (…) you, as any man ever has been’. Brinsley uses a deliberate lampoon to ridicule the two characters and their actions. Backbite refers to a man who he initially said had no intention of causing upset in an insulting tone, even though he claimed to have done so with good intentions. ‘Ha, ha, ha! It’s hard for them not to finish a topic they aren’t completely done with. Lady Sneerwell enjoys humiliating those she targets. The individual is reduced to a’subject’ and their humanity is lost. Sheridan uses this portrait to demonstrate how people’s opinions can become distorted, with the intention to harm others just to entertain them. Sheridan, like Brinsley, describes the society’s influence in great detail and with a lot of understanding. Sheridan’s aim is to educate readers on society’s problems, whereas Chesterfield starts to make a guide on how to comply with the standards of society. They are of importance. Chesterfield is seen as a representative of the society and their expectations, and this can be seen in his writing. The language gives the impression that it is imperative for readers to follow instructions. Chesterfield’s and Lady Sneerwell’s opinions are similar. They both express their views on society’s expectations. Sneerwell also has the same standards of manners that Chesterfield does. Both are of the opinion that how an individual is presented can influence their perception. An individual who doesn’t have good manners will be viewed as unworthy, and thus deserving of humiliation. Sheridan recognizes the importance and the politeness in the public’s perception of an individual. Through the use of humor, the satirical writer tries to change the perceptions of the characters and their decisions. The characters of the play live in a world dominated by false manners. Mrs Candour’s false manors are satirized. Brindley’s last name is Candour. Candour represents innocence, purity and integrity. Mrs Candour is a gossip that can spread slander at a rapid rate, removing any respectability possessed by someone in her position. “But, Lord, would you expect me to report such things?” No, no: tale-bearers ‘. Irony in Mrs Candour, who is supposed to be against gossip but enjoys spreading it. Sheridan is deliberately creating a paradox in order for the audience to see how unstable upper-class standards were during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Candour doesn’t admit her own actions, but she does little to prevent slander from ruining someone’s reputation. These women may claim that they have no desire to gossip and are polite, but in reality their actions encourage the spread of gossip. Sheridan’s play encourages reflection on false nature and manners. Ladies Candour, Sneerwell and other characters are portrayed as being rude and unpolite. Sheridan has a talent for borrowing from the sentimental comic tradition which continues in literature. He uses satire to adapt the humor mode, but he doesn’t always use the traditional Horation style of satire. Horace’s satire is funny and witty. It allows ridicule of the stupid aspects of human nature in order to bring enjoyment to the audience. Sheridan was more interested in the domestic side of society than the politics that are usually discussed. Sheridan wanted to remove the admiration of people who would normally respect men for their folly. The satirical style of Juvenalian writing was used to adopt a certain mode of satire. This included certain attacks on certain characters’ behavior and certain speeches. The satirical style is used to convey a message of realism to an audience without being authentic. In his letters to son, Lord Chesterfield demonstrates how important manners are to society and that impoliteness is a major factor in destroying a person’s reputation. Chesterfield uses a satirical tone, but he also adds the aspect of a person’s appearance to the social politeness. Chesterfield also recognizes the importance of manners in Sheridan’s work as a way to express an individual’s social status. Chesterfield however goes further and says that “frequent loud laughter” is indicative of folly (…). There is no other form of ill-bredness or illiberalism than audible laughter. Chesterfield has similarities to characters in The School for Scandal. Chesterfield has similar opinions to The School of Scandal characters. Chesterfield acknowledges society’s ability to judge manners. Sheridan & Chesterfield are both aware of the importance that society attaches to manners. Chesterfield, when reading his other letters to Chesterfield’s son, starts to see manners in a more intellectual sense. He even says that grammar and good manners are essential for a successful person. Orthography is essential to a person with a literary background. Richard Brinsley Sheridan replicates the social climate of 18th-century London through satire. Both texts have the same sneering tone, but the genres and messages are different. The one uses it to make an ironic point, the other to teach and try to prevent malice. Sheridan uses characters such as Lady Sneerwell, Sir Benjamin Backbite and others to reveal the malice of those in high society who enjoy gossiping and slandering other people. As early as the first scene, it is clear that gossip has the ability to cause destruction. The members of the group are not adhering to the expected standard of good manners. The characters are entangled in the business of others and manipulate the situation into a scandal which can ruin a person’s reputation. Sheridan intended to use humor to teach the individual. By combining comedy and slander, the audience can enjoy the contradiction. Lord Chesterfield’s viewpoint is different from Sheridan’s because he does not observe society, but is actually a part. Chesterfield believes that by adding a layer of politeness to the individual’s physical presentation, they can create a more accurate portrayal of society. Chesterfield’s distinct voice is a reflection of the society he lives in. The texts allow for exploration of society by presenting a distinct voice. Overall, both texts shared similarities and differences. Their different perspectives helped them to better understand each other. Richard Brinsley Sheridan. The School for Scandal. Michael Cordner. Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford, 2008. P. 219, “Satire Terms”, Nku.Edu. 2017, =””>. [accessed 29 Dec 2016]. Chesterfield Philip Dormer Stanhope. The Dear Boy Letters of Lord Chesterfield to his Son. (London: Bantam, 1989) p100


  • camdynelliott

    Camdyn Elliott is a 35-year-old educational blogger and school teacher. She has been writing about education for nearly a decade, and her work has been featured on sites like The Huffington Post and The New York Times. Camdyn is the founder of the education blog Education Week, and she is also the author of the book "How to Teach Like a Pro: A Guide to Effective Teaching Methods for College and Career Students."

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