Importance of the Auction Scene in The School for Scandal by R.B.Sheridan

In R.B.Sheridan’s “School For Scandal” the auction scene is the most interesting scene ever blossomed in the garden of Sheridan’s dramatic field. This scene is known as the auction scenę in which Charles sells away the portraits of his ancestors by auction one by one. Its importance lies in the light it throws on the character of Charles. The trifling price against which the portraits are sold, and the manner in which each portrait is knocked down after Sir Oliver agrees to the price speak of the light-heartedness of Charles shows his contempt for his ancestors. But when he refuses sternly to part away with the picture of his uncle and to sell it agaínst any great price, and wants Sir Oliver to keep these portraits in a good room and to send a gentle conveyance for carrying them, we find that he still cherishes respect for his ancestors whose portraits he has to sell under financial stringency. Again, when Sir Oliver Surface, Moses, and Careless go away, and Charles is left alone, he bows down ceremoniously to the portraits and addresses himself as their most obedient and very grateful servant.

This scene also speaks of Charles’s sympathy for his distressed relative, Stanley, who has applied to him for financial help. He intends to give part of the money he is out to borrow to Stanley. Even Careless’s warning that Charles should not squander away the money obtained by the auction on the family portraits in paying off the debt of an old relative (i. e. Stanley) can not dissuade him from rendering this help to Stanley. Charles may be an extravagant and dissipated youth but his heart still overflows with the milk of human kindness.

The scene provides to the audience much fun which lies in the manner the portraits are appraised and ultimately knocked down. The fun reaches the climax when Mr. Premium who is Sir Oliver Surface in disguise, expresses his eagerness to purchase his own picture against any price what so ever. We feel highly amused when Sir Oliver in reply to Careless’s careless observation, “What, that ill-looking little fellow over the settee ?” describes himself as not so ill-looking as Careless thinks.

Also read: Character of Snake in “School for Scandal”