The first thing I said to myself when I handed in the last exam book for my last class for my bachelor's degree was, "Oh, at last, I get to read whatever I want!" And so, except for the years I spent getting my master's degree, and all the reading I've done for work, and all the reading I feel I must do to even begin to stay current in the spec-fic field (a losing battle at best, but at least an enjoyable one), I have done exactly that.
Problem is, no matter how voraciously one reads, there are always too many books out there, taunting one, like large, pulpy mosquitoes. (Ew.) Every now and again I manage to give one a good swat. Today's swat took care of Richard Sheridan's famous play The School for Scandal. (Here's the text; here's a study guide,and here's the Wikipedia article.) I've never seen it performed, but apparently, even though it was written pretty much contemporaneously with the American Revolution, it's still reliably popular whenever and wherever it's produced.
One of the many gaps in my education sort of bad for a playwright is that I don't know a whole lot about the history of English-language drama. Which was why I chose Scandal as my reading material today. It's a quick read, although until I got used to it, I found the language rather bombastic and a bit too verbose for my taste. It's also surprisingly funny. Some of the wisecracks fall a bit flat to the 21st-century reader, but most are still chuckle-inducing. The plot is thin it's just a comedy of manners, after all, and nobody expects any different. But there's enough going on (character arcs and so on) that it's not just a stand-up routine of a bunch of wisecracks strung together. And I love a good redemption story (but I won't tell you who gets redeemed, because that would be spoiling).
One thing I found fascinating was how much closer Scandal is to 20th-century drama (a gap of 200 years) than it is to Shakespeare (a gap of slightly less than 200 years). In other words, Shakespeare was either the first or the last of his kind, and change picked up the pace (oo, I was going to say "dramatically," then changed my mind) markedly after his death. Did Shakespeare hasten the advent of "modernity," or did he hold back the flood just those few years longer? Or was social and artistic change in England something that happened due to other factors, would have happened anyway, maybe wasn't as profound as we'd all like to think? (After all, how much has human nature changed in several thousand years? Bible stories have characters with flaws and dreams that everyone recognizes in themselves today. Or ought to, perhaps.)
Note: Samuel Barber wrote a wicked cool fabulous orchestral piece he called "Overture to The School for Scandal." I can't seem to find any actual ballet, opera, or what have you to which it was an actual overture; perhaps he just called it that because it sounded neato. But you should try and find it and listen to it. It is, as I mentioned, wicked cool fabulous.