And it is no help. I can't remember which one is Lady Teazle and which one is Lady Sneerwell, and do the brother have to have the same last name? Even Sheridan's super-duper-obvious expositioning, while meant to be helpful of course, only seems to make matters murkier:
Snake. Here are two young men, to whom Sir Peter has acted as a kind of guardian since their father’s death; the eldest possessing the most amiable character, and universally well spoken of—the youngest, the most dissipated and extravagant young fellow in the kingdom, without friends or character; the former an avowed admirer of your ladyship, and apparently your favourite; the latter attached to Maria, Sir Peter’s ward, and confessedly beloved by her.I don't even think it would help if they spelled "favorite" right. Of course, when you have actors doing this material, it makes it easier -- they've spent all that rehearsal time figuring out who is who, what each of them were like as a child, etc.
The spoonful of sugar, I guess, to all this pipe is the funny names -- the gossip is named "Mrs. Candour," and she gets gems to say like this:
To-day, Mrs. Clackitt assured me, Mr. and Mrs. Honeymoon were at last become mere man and wife, like the rest of their acquaintance. She likewise hinted that a certain widow, in the next street, had got rid of her dropsy and recovered her shape in a most surprising manner. And at the same time Miss Tattle, who was by, affirmed that Lord Buffalo had discovered his lady at a house of no extraordinary fame; and that Sir Harry Bouquet and Tom Saunter were to measure swords on a similar provocation.Aarrgh. I take back what I said the other day about my love of old-timey obvious jokes. Well, I take back 70% of it, anyway.