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Goldsmith and Sheridan

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COPYRIGHT, 1926, BY
HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY, INC.

PRINTED IN THE U.S. A. BY

QUINN & BODEN COMPANY, INC.

RAHWAY, N. J.

Q-13-27
19057

INTRODUCTION

I

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The three plays reprinted in this volume, Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer and Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The Rivats and The School for Scandal are the only English comedies written between those of Shakespeare and, let us say, those of Shaw which have held the stage consistently since their first appearance. Their continuous popularity is not difficult to understand. In each there are many characters who provide the heartiest sort of amusement. Though they are laughed at, the high-spirited delight which they take in their own absurdities is contagious. The action in all three plays seems to be merely the surplus vitality of these figures. The situations are thus of the delightful sort which spring from vivid contrasts of character. Furthermore, at their first appearance these comedies were given a boisterous welcome, echoes of which seem to be caught at each revival.

They burst in upon a stage which regarded them as rude insults to its cherished proprieties. Sentimental comedy, which at the time set the standards of excellence, was a species of drama almost completely devoid of laughter. It was named comedy only because it had a so-called happy ending. Its authors depended for their effects upon the power of fine sentiments to elevate the mind and upon the pathos of touching situations to start tears of tenderness and pity. Characters created to perform these services maintained their elevation of tone at the expense of honest human fact. The plays now seem a mixture of strained loftiness and easy tears.

The entire dramatic type was founded on the belief that man is innately good and that he can be softened into virtue through tears which are made to flow from contemplation of

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