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A Comparative Study of Congreve's "The Way of the World" and Sheridan's "The School for Scandal"

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|A Comparative Study of Congreve’s THE WAY OF THE WORLD and Sheridan’s THE SCHOOL FOR |

Submitted by: Name:Aishwarya Bhardwaj Roll no.:5869 Restoration Comedy is genre of drama ,better known as the Comedy of Manners, as it deals with the externals of life in upper class society, interested in the fashions of time, its manners, its speech, its interests. The scenes are set in the parlours, coffee houses, streets and gardens of London. The characters are chiefly the people of fashion. The theme mostly is love intrigue developed with clever dialogue. Social conventions are accepted, at least the conventions of courtly life and aristocratic society, but they are sometimes played with and made to appear ridiculous. Wit and clever dialogue, in which indecent thought come before everything. William Congreve, an English playwright brought to perfection what is commonly termed the Artificial Comedy or the Comedy of manners. The Way of the World is the supreme example of the genre.

Comedy of Manners is a genre same as Restoration Comedy but it differs in one aspect only that is of immoral and licentious behavior which is absent in the Comedy of Manners. Richard Sheridan, an English dramatist also wrote comedy of manners and his drama The School for Scandal is a famous example of this genre.

A close reading of both The Way of the World(1700) and The School for Scandal (1777) reveals that both comparable in terms of the plot, setting, scenes as they are many similarities as discussed further.

The social code of the age is based on the worldliness and materialism and it is reflected in both the plays. In The Way of the World, Mr. Fainall marries Mrs. Fainall for the sake of money to spend on his mistress, Mrs. Marwood . Even Mirabell cannot forgo Millamant's fortune of six thousand pounds in spite of his love for her. Something similar happens in The School for Scandal ,Joseph wants to marry Maria just for the sake of money and Joseph Surface presents to be kind and generous in front of his uncle Sir Olliver just for acquiring fortune from him.

In both the plays most of all the characters portrayed are Aristocrats. Their mannerism and affectations are displayed and satirized in both The Way of the World and The School for Scandal and their luxurious life is showcased.

Both the plays also share a prominent similarity of Scandal Mongering. In The Way of the World in the Act I itself it is revealed that Lady Wishfort organizes Cabal Nights regularly in which all the people gossip and critize specific people.And in The School For Scandal the scandal mongering is the central idea around which the whole plot is weaved.

In both the plays there are Symbolic Names that is name of all the characters reveal something about their nature. For example in Congreve's play the names like Lady Wishfort wishes for many things which are beyond her reach and thus her name. Millamant has many admirers hence her name is so. Mr. Fainall pretends to be very different from what he really is so his name is Fainall-feign(pretend). Mrs Marwood has harmful intentions hence her name. Similarly in Sheridan’s play also the names are symbolic like Lady Teazle is fond of teasing others, Charles’s name sounds like childlike and he is childlike by nature. Mr. Premium is a Jewish moneylender hence his name is related to money matters.Mr. Snake has habit of scandal mongering about people hence his name is so.

“Marriage” is central issue in both the plays, in The Way of the World , Mirabell wants to marry Millamant, Lady Wishfort desires to marry Sir Rowland and Lady Wishfort wants Millamant to marry her rustic nephew. In The School for Scandal ,Charles and Maria wish to marry each other, Lady Teazle wishes to marry Charles, Joseph desires to marry Maria and Sir Benjamin Backbite also wants to marry Maria.The topic of matrimony is of great importance plays in both the plays as all the intrigues are planned primarily for the sake of marrying the person of choice.

Marital discord is also a similar feature of both Congreve’s and Sheridan’s play. In The Way of the World, the marriage of Mr. Fainall and Mrs. Fainall is unsuccessful as it lacks mutual love, respect and trust. While in In The School for Scandal, the domestic life of Mr. Peter and Lady Teazle is unhappy because of the extravagance of Lady Teazle.

In both the plays deviation from the conventional love can be seen. In Congreve's play Millamant appears to be in love with Mirabell but she also enjoys and desires the attention of other men. Also Mirabell appears to be deeply in love with Millamant but he is also interested in huge fortune Millamant would bring along if she marries with the consent of her aunt. Mr. Fainall and Mrs. Marwood have a very shallow relationship which has no sincerity and love. And in Sheriden's play something similar is found Maria is in love with Charles but she does not leave the gossip circles where Charles is not respected and frequently criticised. Hence her love is not as same that of the conventional heroines. Joseph also appears to be in love with Maria but in reality he wants to marry her only for the sake of rich dowry.

Another similarity is the intrigues. Intrigues are important both the plays. In Congreve's play Mirabell plans an intrigue against Lady Wishfort by presenting his servent as a rich suitor for Lady Wishfort. So that later he can blackmail her for giving consent for Millamant's marriage with him. Also Mr. Fainall plots along with Mrs. Marwood against Lady Wishfort for the sake of materialistic gains. In Sheriden's play Lady Sneerwell and Joseph join hands to hinder the marriage of Charles and Maria as they are interested in marrying Charles and Maria respectively.

In both the plays the male protagonists play pretend to be in love with elderly or already married ladies for their personal gain. In Congreve’s play Mirabell pretends to be romantically interested in Lady Wishfort and in Sheridan’s play Joseph does the same with Lady Teazle. But in both the plays the ladies come to know the truth in time and are saved from the humiliation.

Another striking aspect of both the plays is the presence of a rich relative who is likely to pass on the fortune to one of the central characters. In The Way of the World, Millamant has a rich aunt Lady Wishfort who is likely to bestow on her a huge fortune. Similarly in The School for Scandal, Uncle Oliver is filthy rich and is likely to give fortune to one of his nephews, either Charles or Joseph.

Disguise is also a common feature in both the plays,as in
The Way of the World,, a servant disguises as a rich suitor, Sir Rowland,for Lady Wishfort and manages to fool her. In The School for Scandal, Sir Oliver disguises as a Jewish moneylender,Mr. Premium and is able to fool both his nephews,Charles and Joseph.In both plays the disguises are successful as nobody is able to recognize the disuised and the desired aim is achieved.

It can be successfully concluded from all the above discussed aspects that Congreve’s THE WAY OF THE WORLD and Sheridan’s THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL are similar in many aspects .

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