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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Why does Tony misdirect Marlow and Hastings?

Tony misdirects Marlow and Hastings as a way of playing a prank on his stepfather, Mr. Hardcastle.

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Tony's prank serves to emphasize one of the play's central themes, which is the superficiality of the values of the upper class.

Tony misdirects Tony and Marlow as a way of playing a prank on his stepfather. Mr. Hardcastle, Tony's stepfather, is a harsh critic of Tony, who will soon inherit a fortune that will make him independent. Marlow is the son of a friend of Mr. Hardcastle and is a suitor of Kate Hardcastle, Tony's half-sister. Hastings is Marlow's friend.

In act 1, scene 2, Hastings and Marlow arrive at the alehouse looking for directions to Hardcastle's estate, but Tony intercepts them and tells them that they have lost their way and will never reach the house that night. He then gives them a set of directions to an "inn" where they can spend the night, but the inn in question is actually the Hardcastle estate itself!

Tony's prank is meant to both undermine Hardcastle's ambitions for Kate and expose Hardcastle's pomposity. Tony tells Marlow and Hastings that the "landlord" of the inn "wants to be thought a gentleman," so, when the two men arrive at Hardcastle's house, they treat him with some condescension. Their mistaking Hardcastle for an innkeeper is in keeping with the opening of the second act, in which Hardcastle is trying to instruct farmhands on the business of being house servants.

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