The late 18th century London literary scene seems to have been quite a time for satire, light and witty repartee, and not a whole lot else. Sheridan is famous for his plays satirizing the upper classes. In this play, gossip gets completely out of control.
We have two brothers: one known to be a rake in debt, and the other with a reputation for high character. Their wealthy uncle comes back from years abroad and decides to test them to see whether their reputations match their real characters. Naturally, "one has all the goodness, and the other has all the appearance of it."
LADY TEAZLE. So--so--then I perceive your Prescription is that I must sin in my own Defence--and part with my virtue to preserve my Reputation.--
SURFACE. Exactly so upon my credit Ma'am.
LADY TEAZLE. Well certainly this is the oddest Doctrine--and the newest Receipt for avoiding calumny.
It's a fun play, and I'd like to see it performed. It's always hard to tell the characters apart when you're reading it.
I seem to be on a drama kick lately, so I'm going to read another play next. I've also got a couple of very long books in progress.