Introduction to She Stoops to Conquer

She Stoops to Conquer is a play by Oliver Goldsmith, first performed in 1773. It was met with popular acclaim for its comedic plot and memorable characters. The play is a notable departure from the popular eighteenth-century trend of sentimental comedies, which often focused on the struggles of archetypal characters to overcome moral or personal hardships. Instead, She Stoops to Conquer was referred to by Goldsmith as a laughing comedy, designed to elicit merriment and amusement from audiences by mocking the flaws of its characters. 

Goldsmith employs a number of common comedic elements in his play, including deception and the concealment of identity. The play’s heroine, Kate Hardcastle, plays the part of a barmaid in order to suss out the true nature of her suitor. This plot device serves two primary purposes: first, it allows Goldsmith to develop the comedic aspects of the play by building dramatic irony and allowing audiences to feel as though they are in on the joke; second, it creates room for social commentary, as one of the play’s primary themes revolves around class distinctions and the disparity between the expected manners of the upper classes and how people truly behave. It is this irreverent blend of comedy and social criticism that has allowed She Stoops to Conquer to remain relevant—and widely enjoyed—even centuries after its initial debut.

A Brief Biography of Oliver Goldsmith

Oliver Goldsmith (1728–1774) was an Irish writer who contributed to the English literary scene of the eighteenth century. He was raised in the town of Lissoy and was the son of a rector. Although Goldsmith showed great intelligence from a young age, he failed to channel his talents in a professional direction during his time at Trinity College, Dublin. After graduating, he studied some medicine and then moved to London, where he gave up medicine and took up work as an editor and writer for magazines. He connected with the literary circle known as “The Club,” and, encouraged by Samuel Johnson, increasingly turned his talents towards literary writing. Goldsmith produced an influential body of work in the remaining years of his life.

Goldsmith is notable for creating important works in several literary genres. He composed novels, such as The Vicar of Wakefield (1766); plays, such as She Stoops to Conquer (1773); and poetry, such as The Traveller (1764) and The Deserted Village (1770). His work challenged the prevailing literary trend of sentimentalism and documented the loss of traditional rural culture.

Frequently Asked Questions about She Stoops to Conquer

She Stoops to Conquer

In this comic play, the title character, Charles Marlow, is conflicted about his role as a gentleman, with its constant pressure to perform and meet rigid standards of both manners and masculinity....

Latest answer posted October 11, 2021, 11:46 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

She Stoops to Conquer

Tony Lumpkin is the good-for-nothing son of Dorothy Hardcastle. Tony has an independent income from his father, which allows him to be idle all the time. Instead of working, Tony uses his time to...

Latest answer posted October 12, 2021, 12:07 pm (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

Oliver Goldsmith's play She Stoops to Conquer may have first been called Mistakes of a Night because the play centers around one night in the lives of its characters and that night is indeed filled...

Latest answer posted October 12, 2021, 3:52 pm (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

When She Stoops to Conquer was written in the late eighteenth century, sentimental comedies were popular. These comedies featured simple morality and earnest, if one-dimensional, characters. Oliver...

Latest answer posted October 13, 2021, 11:19 am (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

In Oliver Goldsmith’s play She Stoops to Conquer, Kate Hardcastle is the most important character because she is the one who “stoops to conquer.” Kate is an upper-class lady, and her father wants...

Latest answer posted October 13, 2021, 11:25 am (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

Mrs. Hardcastle's main complaint against her husband is that he almost never takes the family into town to "rub off the rust a little." Mrs. Hardcastle is a fashionable and sociable woman, obsessed...

Latest answer posted October 13, 2021, 11:37 am (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

To understand what kind of comedy She Stoops to Conquer is, we first need to understand the two definitions of comedy. For most of us today, a comic work is one that is humorous. If we see a movie...

Latest answer posted October 13, 2021, 11:44 am (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

In Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer, Tony Lumpkin is the son of Mrs. Hardcastle by her first marriage. Tony is quite a mischievous fellow, and he has few, if any, social pretensions. He...

Latest answer posted October 13, 2021, 1:48 pm (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

From the first scene of the play, the Hardcastles are shown in conflict over the question of their preferences. Mrs. Hardcastle loves the city. She enjoys going into town and meeting with people....

Latest answer posted October 14, 2021, 11:21 am (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

Tony Lumpkin serenades his fellow drinkers at the Three Pigeons pub with a song he wrote called "The Three Pigeons." A pigeon in slang, then and now, is one who is easily deceived, a fool. One...

Latest answer posted October 14, 2021, 11:54 am (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

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...

Latest answer posted October 14, 2021, 11:56 am (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

At the end of Oliver Goldsmith’s play She Stoops to Conquer, it is decided that Kate Hardcastle will marry Charles Marlow. Kate Hardcastle is an upper-class woman. Her father wants her to marry a...

Latest answer posted October 14, 2021, 12:35 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

She Stoops to Conquer

Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer has often been labeled as an anti-sentimental comedy. It is a somewhat satirical response to the sentimental comedy of the era that focuses on the moral...

Latest answer posted October 14, 2021, 3:19 pm (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

Kate Hardcastle is the daughter of wealthy landowner Richard Hardcastle. She is a beautiful, intelligent, witty, and resourceful lead character in the play. When her father mentions Charles Marlow,...

Latest answer posted October 12, 2021, 11:34 am (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

People often attribute the origins of the title She Stoops to Conquer to a work by Aphra Behn that was written in the mid-seventeenth century, but an examination of this text reveals no use of the...

Latest answer posted October 11, 2021, 7:41 pm (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

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...

Latest answer posted October 12, 2021, 11:50 am (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

The main theme of Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer is identity, particularly misrepresented and mistaken identity. Let's look at some examples. At the beginning of the play, Marlow and...

Latest answer posted October 11, 2021, 1:45 pm (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

If She Stoops to Conquer features any kind of moral lesson, then it is that it is important to be genuine in relationships. Much of the story revolves around the gulf between appearance and...

Latest answer posted October 11, 2021, 1:10 pm (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

She Stoops to Conquer is a comedy of errors that begins with Mr. Hardcastle informing his daughter Kate that Marlow is coming by to visit and that he hopes that the two will marry. Kate is...

Latest answer posted October 11, 2021, 11:45 am (UTC)

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She Stoops to Conquer

The majority of She Stoops to Conquer is set in the Hardcastle house, a manor located in the English countryside. From the dialogue, it is apparent that the Hardcastle home is not terribly lavish....

Latest answer posted October 12, 2021, 11:23 am (UTC)

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Summary