Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
She Stoops to Conquer: Or, The Mistakes of a Night was an immediate success for Goldsmith, his last literary triumph. The opening night audience at Covent Garden on March 15, 1773, roared its continued approval. Five days following the premiere, every copy of the published version of the play was sold. Yet the circumstances surrounding the production of the play were marked by enormous difficulty for Goldsmith because the theater manager anticipated certain failure. Goldsmith finished writing the comedy in September, 1771. He took it to George Colman, manager of the Covent Garden, who repeatedly postponed producing it. It was only through the firm intervention of Samuel Johnson that Colman reluctantly agreed to stage it. (Goldsmith inscribed the published work to Johnson.) The script was much revised and altered during the weeks of rehearsal. Several of the leading actors refused to appear in it and were replaced. The play’s approval was such a complete success that Colman was severely criticized for his delay.
Looking back, it is difficult to comprehend Colman’s reluctance to stage the comedy. She Stoops to Conquer was Goldsmith’s second play. (Five years earlier at Covent Garden, Colman produced Goldsmith’s first effort, The Good-Natured Man, also well received by the public.) The problem stemmed from the fact that Goldsmith’s views on comedy were different from prevailing taste. He had taken aim at the whole genre....
(The entire section is 536 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of She Stoops to Conquer Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Tony Lumpkin, son of Mrs. Hardcastle from a previous marriage, is a drinker and a prankster. Indeed, his pranks lead to confusions, mistaken identities, and false assumptions. His mother indulges him and hopes that her ward, Constance Neville, will marry him. Mr. Hardcastle has little patience with his son.
Mr. Hardcastle makes his daughter, Kate, wear the clothes of a country girl, at least part of each day, hoping that doing so will make her overcome her wish to be a lady of importance. Thinking as well that she should marry, Mr. Hardcastle has asked his closest friend, Sir Charles Marlow, to send his son from London to meet Kate, who is pleased by her father’s description of the young man in all features except one: She does not like that he is shy and retiring.
On the trip from London, the young Marlow has the company of his dear friend, Hastings, who has hopes of marrying Miss Neville. She is delighted that Hastings is coming, and she reveals to Kate that she knows the young Marlow. She describes him as being very shy with fashionable young ladies but quite a different character with young women of a lower class.
En route to the Hardcastle home, Hastings and Marlow lose their way and arrive at an alehouse, where Tony is carousing with friends. Recognizing the two men, Tony decides to play a trick on his stepfather. He tells Hastings and Marlow that they have gone way off course and that it would be wise to stop at an inn a short distance up the road. The inn is actually Mr. Hardcastle’s home. Knowing nothing of Hastings and Marlow’s misconception, Hardcastle treats them as guests, while they, in turn, treat him as an innkeeper. Each party thinks the other extremely rude. Hardcastle certainly sees no modesty in Marlow’s brash behavior.
Hastings finally meets Constance, who quickly recognizes Tony’s hand in the mischief, but they choose to keep the secret to themselves. Hastings explains to Marlow that the two young ladies had arrived at the inn after a long journey from the Hardcastle home. Then he takes Tony aside and expresses his desire to marry Constance, an arrangement quite satisfactory to the rascal Tony who has no wish to marry her himself. He promises to help the lovers and even to try to secure Constance’s jewelry, presently in Mrs. Hardcastle’s keeping. The bargain having been made, Tony goes to his mother’s room, steals the gems, and gives them to Hastings. He then whispers to his mother that she should tell Constance they had been lost. Thinking it a capital plan for keeping Constance in her control, Mrs. Hardcastle complies with Tony’s suggestion, only to discover later that the gems...
(The entire section is 1090 words.)