The School for Scandal centers around the gossip and scandal, usually concerning sexual intrigue, which dominated the wealthy social circles of eighteenth-century England. One of the best known “comedy of manners” plays, Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s plot presents a scathing look of the conceits and questionable morality of the upper classes. The aptly named Lady Sneerwell sets herself the target of ruining the lives and reputations of others for her own gain. She has set her cap at a young, rebellious man named Charles Surface. However, Charles is in love with Sir Peter Teazle’s ward Maria, as is his scheming brother Joseph. Maria is faithful to Charles, but Lady Sneerwell and Joseph plot to ruin their relationship by creating rumors of Charles’ infidelity. This complicated relationship plot is thickened when Sir Peter Teazle’s young wife, Lady Teazle, wonders whether to embark on an affair with Joseph Scarface to relieve the frustration and petty arguments she must deal with in her new marriage.
Hearing the rumors of his nephew’s questionable behavior, Sir Oliver Surface comes to town to determine whether he is right to believe that Joseph is the honorable, deserving brother, whilst Charles has fallen into social ruin. Disguised as a money-lender, Sir Oliver does find that Charles has lavish tendencies that are pushing the family further into debt, but he realizes that his nephew is honorable, loyal and kind despite his faults. Meanwhile Joseph reveals his true nature when he refuses to help Sir Oliver, who has disguised himself as a family relation in need of financial help and support. Sir Oliver reveals his plot to his nephews and, when Lady Teazle is revealed hiding in the chambers of Joseph Surface, the group realize that the rumor about Charles’ bad behavior were orchestrated by the malicious Lady Sneerwell.