What is the significance of Tony Lumpkin's song in Act 1, Scene 2 of She Stoops to Conquer?
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The song that Tony Lumpkin sings in Act I scene 2, which he entitles "The Three Pigeons," is one that is based around praising alcohol and the positive impact that it has on humans. Tony picks two particular groups of people, scholars and preachers, and argues that alcohol offers far more and would actually improve both of these professions if they could be persuaded to drink. Tony argues that "Good liquor, I stoutly maintain / Gives genius a better discerning." He then goes on to suggests that preachers who argue that it is evil to drink would actually be more successful if they partook of alcohol themselves:
I'll wager the rascals a crown,
They always preach best with a skinful.
The song therefore acts as a praise of the public house where Tony is at the moment of singing, and this is something that is greatly appreciated by his audience, who then go on to establish Tony's character as something of a wastrel. The song, and the way that it satirically challenges assumptions about teachers and preachers, is typical of the character of Tony Lumpkin, who could be viewed as a force of chaos in the play. It is he, of course, who plays a trick on Marlow and Hastings and sends them off to his step-father's house saying that it is an inn. He is the author of much of the confusion and mistaken identity, and therefore it is only fitting that Goldsmith uses this song to introduce the audience to his character in order to foreshadow the kind of trickery and mischevious deceit he practices in the drama.
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