In 1825 one of Sheridan’s biographers, Thomas Moore (1779-1852) referred to two manuscripts titled ‘Sir Peter Teazle’ and ‘The Slanderers’: he suggested that these were two separate plays and that The School for Scandal was formed by their fusion. He went on to claim that the flaws he perceived in the plot and characterisation of Sheridan’s comedy were due to this conflation. The amalgam of the two plots, he said, gave the comedy ‘that excessive opulence of wit, with which, as some critics think, the dialogue is overloaded’. However, the most recent editor of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s works, Professor Cecil Price, has expressed doubts that ‘The Slanderers’ and ‘Sir Peter Teazle’ were intended by the author to be separate plays; instead, he views the two sets of manuscripts as drafts for parts of a unified work. Whichever view is adopted, the manuscripts enable us to see that from his initial thoughts about the play Sheridan certainly developed two themes. One is concerned with the domestic life of the Teazles, a familiar enough eithteenth-century plot. The other revolves around a body of gossips engaged in malicious slander. A further motif was later developed: the comparison of the two brothers Surface, including the moral trial which their uncle, Sir Oliver, makes of them.
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