Discuss how the theme of class consciousness is tackled in She Stoops to Conquer.

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The issue of class consciousness is rather a troubling one, as the play treats Marlow's problem as a cause for great merriment and humour. He himself acknowledges that his upbringing has made him unable to relate to women of his own social standing through his lack of confidence. However, it is clear that he feels no such compunction when he meets working class women, and the play infers that he has had various relationships with such women. Thus, when he first meets Kate dressed as a gentlewoman, he is hardly able to look at her, yet when he meets Kate in clothes that suggest she is a maid, his approach towards her is completely different:

Suppose I should call for a taste, just by way of trial, of the nectar of your lips; perhaps I might be disappointed in that, too.

Marlow is so different that he even goes as far as to try and kiss her, and clearly would have his way with her if Kate had let him. He then goes on to almost boast at the names that various women have given him over the years. Whilst his massive change in behaviour is hilarious on the one hand, on the other hand the humour must not conceal the rather disturbing implication behind his actions: serving women were seen as "easy prey" by gentlemen like Marlow, and, in fact, rape and abuse was common at the time. Class is clearly an important issue in this play, there is continual recognition of class consciousness {definition: awareness of belonging to a particular social rank or grade (Collins Dictionary)}, yet such behaviour or attitudes are never challenged. This remains a rather troubling issue for the audience, since when Kate's disguise is revealed, attitudes towards working class women are forgotten and discussed no more: class consciousness does not permit discussion.

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She Stoops to Conquer

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