Explain the theme of hypocrisy in the character of Marlow in She Stoops to Conquer.

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The character of Marlow in this comedy is a fascinating one due to his crippling shyness and inability to communicate with women of his own class and station, but he shows himself more than able to communicate with women of a lower class. He says himself that this is the result of his constant movement whilst growing up. He has exchanged very few words with women of his own class, but has spent most of his life in various inns, and so is quite at ease talking to women who are lower in station than him.

It would be unfair, however, to call him a hypocrite. Marlow, apart from the disparity of his behaviour between Kate as a gentlewoman and Kate in her disguise as a servant, is not intentionally hypocritical in the same way that characters such as Mrs. Hardcastle are. In fact, Kate effectively manages to "tame" Marlow somewhat, making him realise that his love for her is based not just on lust and his greater station in life but on regard and respect. Note what he says to her in Act V:

I will stay, even contrary to your wishes; and though you should persist to shun me, I will make my respectful assiduities atone for the levity of my past conduct.

There is nothing hypocritical about Marlow in this speech as he declares his love for Kate, whom he believes to be a serving woman, and thereby dares his father's censure and displeasure. In short, Marlow is fooled and deceived by Kate, but through this he is allowed to be redeemed as a character, and both Kate and the audience feel that he is a much better individual by the end of the play than he was at the beginning. There is no element of hypocrisy in his character.

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She Stoops to Conquer

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