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.)
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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...
(The entire section is 1090 words.)
Mr. Woodward, a contemporary comic actor, walks on stage weeping at the death of comedy. His last hope is that Goldsmith's play will make him laugh and revive the comic arts. (This prologue was written by the era's foremost actor and producer, David Garrick).
Act I, Scene i
Mr. Hardcastle has selected for his daughter's husband someone neither have met, the son of his old friend, Sir Charles Marlow. Kate fears she will not like him because her father described him as handsome but reserved.
Act I, Scene ii
At the Three Pigeons Tavem, Hardcastle's stepson, Tony Lumpkin, sings with his drinking buddies. The landlord interrupts, saying that two London gentlemen have lost their way. As a joke, Tony tells the men, Marlow and Hastings, that they remain far from their destination, Hardcastle's house. Then, Tony directs them lo his stepfather's house, describing it as an inn, run by an eccentric innkeeper who fancies himself a gentleman.
Act II, Scene i
Hardcastle expects a visit from his prospective son-in-law, Marlow, and explains to the servants how they are to behave. Because the Hardcastles seldom see company, their servants are farmhands and become confused when Hardcastle explains their duties.
Marlow explains to Hastings that while he can be affable and boisterous with serving women and barmaids, he remains painfully shy among proper ladies.
(The entire section is 1509 words.)