Illustration of Kate Hardcastle in high society attire on the left, and dressed as a barmaid on the right

She Stoops to Conquer

by Oliver Goldsmith

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Who stoops to conquer?

Kate stoops to conquer. She stoops to a lower social class in order to find out more about Marlow.

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In Oliver Goldsmith’s play She Stoops to Conquer, Kate Hardcastle is the one who “stoops to conquer.” Recall how she pretends to be a maid even though she is an upper-class lady. In doing this, she is “stooping” (lowering herself) to a lower social class.

Kate bends down to a lower social class because she wants to “conquer” Charles Marlow. Marlow is the son of one of her father's rich friends, and her father wants her to marry him. Kate, however, has come to understand that Marlow is essentially incapable of speaking to women of his own social class. He is shy and dismissive with them, and she knows that she will not find out who he really is if she approaches him directly as her genuine self.

Marlow is, however, capable of speaking to women of a lower social class, even quite vulgarly at times. So Kate disguises herself in an effort to find out more about who Charles is and try and make him fall in love with her. Ultimately, her efforts show that she is a good, strong match for Marlow because she is determined to understand him and see him for himself.

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