“The School for Scandal” is named after the play of the same name by Richard Sheridan. A visual poem, “The School for Scandal” is in the shape of a viper or a snake. It reflects one of the major themes in the play, that gossip and the search for scandal leads to nothing but wickedness.
In this poem, the act of gossiping or scandalizing is personified as the speaker. The speaker describes himself with many powerful images of what he feels a scandal is like, such as the “scaly and green” skin, a “jealous eye” and a “tongue forked like a snake.” These images reflect both the disgust that I, as the poet, have for those who seek to scandalize others, and the actual results of gossip itself. The speaker is eventually portrayed as a snakelike villain, calling upon the motif of the snake as the vile enemy of man.
There are also other imagery, such as the death of plants. A plant, especially a tree and a sapling, are symbols of life, growth and fertility. As a result of the actions of this “snake”, the willow is seen to be “dead” and hollow, and the sapling is pulled up and destroyed. These show the destruction of gossip and spreading libel.
The image itself can be seen as portraying the ladies in the play who try to scandalize others. They are seen as vipers, and their breath and bite are venomous. There is a lot of sinuosity in the body of the snake, just like the ability of talk and gossip to wind around and around, twisting and turning through many different forms, entwining all that it touches. Thus, the poem ends on top of the snake’s head, for that’s where most of the damage can be done (through its fangs.) The last phrase is “wilted soul”, describing the state of a human who has been destroyed by scandal. It also describes the soul of those who pursue scandal.
“The School for Scandal” shows all of the evil that is inherent in libel. Since scandal and gossip can lead only to wickedness and a wilting of the soul, it is best to crush the snake before it does any damage.
- Bobby Ren