In "An Essay on the Theatre; or, A Comparison Between Laughing and Sentimental Comedy," Goldsmith distinguishes between "hard" and "soft" comedy. Instead of the “Weeping Sentimental Comedy" which gratified audience sympathies at injustice suffered by innocent worthies, Goldsmith's 1773 essay advocated the "laughing comedy," which offered a "natural portrait of Human Folly and Frailty." She Stoops to Conquer opens with a prologue by actor and impresario David Garrick declaiming on the state of the theatre and sentimental comedy. Mr. Woodward, who speaks the monologue, weeps, saying, "Would you know the reason why I'm crying?/The Comic Muse, long sick, is now a-dying!" In She Stoops to Conquer and his earlier play The Good-Natur'd Man, Goldsmith sought to rescue that muse. His writing, according to Louis Kronenberger in an introduction to the 1964 Heritage Press edition of the play, led "an assault on the sentimental comedy that had held the boards for upwards of fifty years.'' No mere iconoclast, Goldsmith does more than critique the past. In fact, according to Oscar James Campbell in his introduction to Chief Plays of Goldsmith and Sheridan: The School for Scandal, She Stoops to Conquer, The Rivals, She Stoops to Conquer is "a virtual School for Comedy." Goldsmith's play incorporates and transforms elements of both the earlier Restoration Comedy of Manners and contemporary Sentimental Comedy and "opened the door'' to a new kind of...
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