Sheridan, Richard Brinsley

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Sheridan, Richard Brinsley,

1751–1816, English dramatist and politician, b. Dublin. His father, Thomas Sheridan, was an actor and teacher of elocution and his mother, Frances Sheridan, published two novels and a successful play. Sheridan was educated by tutors and at Harrow. After his elopement in 1773 with Elizabeth, daughter of the composer Thomas Linley, Sheridan began writing for the theater and in 1776 became part owner and director of the Drury Lane Theatre. His masterpieces are The Rivals (1775) and The School for Scandal (1777), comedies of manners that blend the brilliant wit of the Restoration with 18th-century sensibility. Both plays affectionately satirize fashionable society with its materialism, gossip, and hypocrisy. Although each ridicules sentimentalism, neither is itself entirely free of that attribute. The Critic (1779) was a dramatic burlesque modeled on The Rehearsal by the 2d duke of Buckingham. Sheridan's other works include the comic opera The Duenna (1775) and A Trip to Scarborough (1777), an adaptation of The Relapse by Vanbrugh. Entering Parliament in 1780, he allied himself with the Whigs and became one of the most brilliant orators of his time. He played a prominent part in the impeachment of Warren Hastings and with Charles James Fox defended the French Revolution. During the course of his political career he was secretary of the treasury (1783), treasurer of the navy (1806), and member of the Privy Council (1806). A close friend of the prince regent, he was a leader of London society. The burning in 1809 of the new Drury Lane Theatre virtually ruined Sheridan financially. He was arrested and imprisoned for debt in 1813. After his death, he was given a splendid funeral by his wealthy former friends.


See his plays ed. by C. Price (2 vol., 1973); his letters ed. by C. Price (3 vol., 1966); biographies by W. Sichel (1909), M. Bingham (1972), and F. O'Toole (1998); M. S. Auburn, Sheridan's Comedies (1977); J. Loftis, Sheridan and the Drama of Georgian England (1977).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sheridan, Richard Brinsley


Born Oct. 30, 1751, in Dublin; died July 7, 1816, in London. Anglo-Irish dramatist, theatrical and public figure.

Sheridan was educated in the law. From 1780 to 1812 he was a member of Parliament and the leader of the radical wing of the Whigs. From 1776 to 1809 he was the manager of the Drury Lane Theatre. In his comedy The Rivals (1775), Sheridan followed the example of O. Goldsmith in opposing sentimentality and obvious edification. His The School for Scandal (staged 1777, published 1780) is a satirical comedy of manners in which Sheridan called in question the Enlightenment thesis of moral reason, which he saw as compromised by bourgeois reality. The traditions of English Restoration comedy, as seen in the plays of W. Congreve and G. Farquhar, were enriched in Sheridan’s works by the influence of the novels of H. Fielding and other representatives of the Enlightenment. Sheridan also wrote the comedies A Trip to Scarborough (1777) and The Critic (1779) and the tragedy Pizarro (1799, an adaptation of A. F. F. von Kotzebue’s drama Die Spanier in Peru).


The Plays and Poems, vols. 1–3. New York, 1962.
The Letters, vols. 1–3. Oxford, 1966.
The Speeches, vols. 1–3. New York, 1969.
In Russian translation:
Dramaticheskie proizvedeniia. Moscow, 1956.


Istoriia angtiiskoi literatury, vol. 1, fasc. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1945.
Marshova, N. R. B. Sheridan. Leningrad-Moscow, 1960.
Gibbs, L. Sheridan. London [1947].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.