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A satire is a work of literature where irony and exaggeration are used in order to highlight a particular failing or social custom that is questionable. In this play, Goldsmith is clearly holding up the way that society viewed women not as independent humans in their own right but only in terms of what they could bring to the state of marriage. In Goldsmith's day, marriage was seen not as a matter of emotions but a financial matter where men would hope for economic gain through their wife. This is satirised in the way that Mrs Hardcastle tries to get Constance to marry her son, Tony, not because of Constance's character or beauty, but because of the jewels she will inherit and which she has charge of until Constance comes of age. Note how this is commented on in Act I scene 1 by Kate to Constance:
A fortune like yours is no small temptation. Besides, as she has the sole management of it, I'm not surprised to see her unwilling to let it go out of the family.
This play therefore is a satire in the way that Goldsmith highlights the way in which marriages were made not based on emotions or feelings, but on economic motives alone. Mrs Hardcastle's attempts to marry her son off to Constance, even though neither can stand the other, is a hilarious and exaggarated example of this failing in society.
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