A comedy by R. B. Sheridan, produced 1777.
In this play, Sheridan's masterpiece, the author contrasts two brothers: Joseph Surface, the sanctimonious hypocrite, and Charles, the good‐natured, reckless spendthrift. Charles is in love with Maria, the ward of Sir Peter Teazle, and his love is returned; Joseph is courting the same girl for her fortune, while at the same time dallying with Lady Teazle. Sir Peter, an old man who has married his young wife six months previously, is made wretched by her frivolity and the fashionable society she inhabits. This includes the scandal‐mongers Sir Benjamin Backbite, Crabtree, Lady Sneerwell, and Mrs Candour. Sir Oliver Surface, the rich uncle of Joseph and Charles, returns unexpectedly from India, and decides to test the characters of his nephews before revealing his identify. He visits Charles in the guise of a money‐lender, Mr Premium, and Charles cheerfully sells him the family portraits—but refuses to sell the portrait of Sir Oliver himself and thus unwittingly wins the old man's heart. Meanwhile Joseph receives a visit from Lady Teazle and attempts to seduce her. The sudden arrival of Sir Peter obliges Lady Teazle to hide behind a screen. The arrival of Charles sends Sir Peter in turn to hide. The conversation between Charles and Joseph proves to Sir Peter that his suspicions of Charles were unfounded. When Charles flings down the screen he reveals Lady Teazle. Sir Oliver then enters in the character of a needy relative, begging for assistance. Joseph refuses, giving as his reason the avarice of his uncle, Sir Oliver, and his character now stands fully revealed. Charles is united to Maria, and Sir Peter and Lady Teazle are happily reconciled.
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Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751—1816) playwright and politician